PLACES TO VISIT
Charente-Maritime enjoys an optimal geographical location with a stunning coastline, charming islands and rich, verdant countryside, particularly the lush, hilly landscapes of the Saintonge winegrowing area.
The region is also rich in history: an area much coveted throughout the years by both France and England, as well as by Catholics and Protestants. It was fought over, but it was also a showcase for each side to demonstrate their prowess. The region’s rich architectural heritage began in Roman times, continued with the building of the Romanesque churches in the Middle Ages, followed by the construction of Rochefort-sur-Mer in the Classical period under Louis XIV and, more recently, the reconstruction of Royan, a showcase for 1950’s modernist architecture.
Charente-Maritime has a strong conservation policy; fauna, especially birds, and flora are strictly protected in this department. Green tourism is important here. You will find a list of places below that we at La Tillaie recommend to our guests. This list will allow you to plan an itinerary of about a week alternating between sea and countryside and mixing history and nature. Of course, there are many other places to visit. You will find them on the “infiniment-charentes.com” site under the heading “visit”.
A small town with a rich past and many sites to visit. Built by the Romans, it then became an important city in the Middle Ages and under the Ancient Regime. It is, therefore, endowed with many ancient monuments (Arch of Germanicus, Arena) but is especially known for its Romanesque architecture.
– The old town, its picturesque streets, and the cathedral.
– The crypt and basilica of Saint Eutrope.
– L’Abbaye aux Dames – Cité Musicale (musical centre) – don’t miss the musical carousel.
L’Estuaire de la Gironde
From Le Fâ to Saint Palais-sur-Mer, you will find a succession of villages and viewpoints, each one more beautiful than the last.
– Le Fâ: archaeological museum on the site of the Gallo-Roman port of Saintes.
– Mortagne-sur-Gironde and Talmont-sur-Gironde: rated amongst the most beautiful villages in France.
– Royan: UNESCO World Heritage Site. 1950’s architecture. If you visit only one place, don’t miss Royan Cathedral.
– Saint-Palais-sur-Mer: Second Empire villas / the douaniers footpath / the beach
The city “Arsenal” was built under Louis XIV on marshes at the mouth of the Charente River on Colbert’s orders following the rise of the Royal Navy. An American-style military town built a century before the first American cities.
Must See: – The town centre: Place Colbert and the surrounding streets.- The Arsenal – La Corderie Royale (The Royal Ropery) – L’Hermione (a replica 18th-century frigate).- The Military Medical School.- Le musée des commerces d’autrefois (a museum of old-fashioned shops).
From Saint Palais-sur-Mer to Ronce-les-Bains.
North of Saint Palais, the Arvert peninsula is a natural area nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gironde estuary. Its diverse landscapes make it a destination of choice for nature lovers: its beaches (Pointe Espagnole), its large sandy dunes and pine forests and its oyster-farming villages will not disappoint.
To enjoy an unforgettable panorama of the peninsula and the Côte de Beauté, climb to the top of the Coubre lighthouse. A little out of the way, but well worth the detour, the village of Mornac-sur-Seudre, ranked amongst the most beautiful villages in France, is worth visiting.
Similarly, the small seaside resort of Ronce-les-Bains is also worth a stop.
"Stone and Water" villages
Villages endowed with a common heritage where two elements meet: stone, in the remarkable buildings, and water since they are crossed by the Charente river.
Must See: – Saint-Savinien / Port d’Envaux / Taillebourg / Crazannes.- Les Lapidiales at Port d’Envaux: a sculpture park on the site of the old stone quarry of Crazannes.- Le Château de la Roche-Courbon à Saint-Porchaire.
The Island of Aix and Fouras
Spend the day on the island of Aix; the wildest and most “Mediterranean” of our islands. On the outward journey, the boat will take you on a tour of Fort Boyard. On the island, you will find a pretty little fortified village and forest trails that will lead you to beaches lined with pine trees, all without needing a car. On the way back, we recommend taking a stroll in Fouras (don’t pronounce the “s”), a charming seaside resort.
The two Towers, the old port, the arcaded streets, the covered market, the old town… everything is pretty in La Rochelle. You should also visit the district of Le Gabut in front of the old port where you will find the aquarium, one of the most beautiful in Europe. There is a very large market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Attention, restaurants on the Cours des Dames (old port) are generally tourist traps and should be avoided. Instead, head for the restaurants around the market square and the adjacent streets.
On the road to La Rochelle, you will find the very pretty seaside town of Chatelaillon-Plage: a large bay with a magnificent beach (time your visit to coincide with high tide because the beach is muddy at low tide).
If you are a bird lover, amateur or professional ornithologist, make a stop at the Baie d’Yves,ornithological reserve.
The Island of Oléron
On entering the island, take “la route des huitres” and then follow for the Chassiron lighthouse. You can stop at the Château d’Oléron (the citadel), Boyardville, La Brée-les-Bains, and Saint-Denis; all charming little villages. If you’re feeling brave, climb the 222 steps of the lighthouse. Go back to Chaucre and make a stop at La Cotinière and then at Saint-Trojan where you will find the superb and immense Gatseau beach. You can get there by taking the little train from Saint-Trojan. You can also swim there at low tide.
I’m intentionally giving you just enough information to whet your appetite to allow you the joy of discovering the island by yourselves.
Of course, you will be able to taste as many oysters as you want.
If you need a day to recover your strength or would simply like to add an extra stop on to a visit to Rochefort, Brouage is a good choice.
Rising out of the marsh, halfway between the Ile d’Oléron and Rochefort, Brouage is a fortified village classified as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France”. Founded in the 14th century by Jacques de Ponge, this former European salt capital was also a prison town during the French Revolution. You will enjoy strolling through the charming streets of Brouage, discovering beautiful houses with typical Charentaise architecture. During your visit, don’t miss the Porte Royale, the food market and the Saint-Pierre church. A stroll along the ramparts will allow you to discover the bastions and fortifications of the town, while enjoying superb views of the village and the marshland.