There are so many things to do in the Region that you may not fit them all into your holiday and so here are just a few of them for you to include in your itinerary.
Angoulême’s painted walls
Tours of the town include the murs peints, various walls painted in street-art cartoon style, a feature of Angoulême and related to its association with the bande dessinée, the comic strip. A statue has been erected to Hergé, creator of The Adventures of Tintin. Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême is the world’s largest comic strip and cartoon festival. Held at the end of January each year, for four days it takes over the pretty hill-top town of Angoulême in the Charente – almost every shop window boasts a cut-out character, comic album or poster on display, and huge tents are erected throughout the town. Almost a quarter of a million visitors from around the world attend each year.
The four départements of Charente, Charente-Maritime. Deux-Sèvres and Vienne boast some of the finest fishing in Europe and the chance to catch huge silure catfish over 100lb, carp over 601b and zander and pike way over 20lb. You don’t have to look far for somewhere to cast a line. The deep and powerful river Charente, which provides the region’s name and was called ‘the most beautiful stream in the kingdom’ by Cognac-born François I, is well stocked throughout its length, as are the two dozen tributaries. The river Vienne, wide, shallow and abounding with lean, hard-fighting wild carp, is another of the region’s fishing gems as it sweeps through the east before leaving the département that bears its name and rushing to join the Loire. To the north there’s the river Sèvre, which divides to form the Sèvre-Niortaise and Sèvre-Nantaise waterway duo, which give the Deux-Sèvres department its name and provide great all-round sport, particularly for bream.
For the serious antique hunter or for those just looking for some shabby, old, used-and-abused item for next to nothing there are many one-off brocantes and vide-greniers organised most weekends right across Poitou-Charentes, as well as numerous regular weekly and monthly flea markets. It is a fascinating way to acquire things for home or just to see the vast array of things on offer. There will always be a bargain to be had, especially for those prepared to haggle a price.
The turbulent history of Poitou, fought over for centuries, has left a rich cultural and architectural heritage. Roman influence in the area is seen in the amphitheatre and great arch at Saintes and the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela of the Middle Ages has created an impressive legacy of Romanesque churches in the region.
Poitiers has hosted many battles over the years: the Battle of Poitiers of 732, where Frankish and Burgundian armies led by Charles Martel beat the Muslim forces led by Abd al-Rahman, the governor of Cordoba in Spain, considered by some historians to mark the end of 23 years of Arab expansion into the west and therefore preserving Christianity; the campaigns of The Hundred Years’ War and the Wars or Religion. Visit the Palais de Justice, the 12th-century great hall of the palace of Henry II and Richard the Lionheart, where judicial proceedings were conducted against Joan of Arc before her execution in Rouen.
Centre Aquatic Abyssea
A bowling and swimming complex in the Vienne, between Poitiers and Limoges. The pool has a giant toboggan while adults will appreciate the spa complex. There is also a 20m deep well for underwater diving and an 8 lane bowling alley.
Shopping in Poitiers and Angoulême
Both the old towns of Poitiers and Angoulême are great places to walk around and browse the shops. There are large streets meandering through the towns with small lanes leading off hiding a treasure trove of restaurants, beautiful clothing boutiques, patisseries, specialist chocolate makes, all manner of shops. In Angoulême there is a large Galerie Lafayette, and a newly completed underground shopping centre, Champs de Mars.
Poitiers has recently finished a huge refurbishment programme, the area around the Hotel de Ville has been repaved, re-planted and in the weeks leading up to Christmas hosts a lovely Christmas market, with individual chalets selling gifts, food, and clothing, a large carousel and a simple cafe/restaurant which features vin chaud on it’s menu, perfect for a chilly day!
In Melle there is a charming cafe/bistro which is open for lunch Monday to Friday, and also Friday evenings for food. They regularly host music nights, with a range of music playing. For more info