About the Region
This house is on the Charente and Dordogne borders, with the Charente to the north and east, and the Dordogne to the south and west.
The Charente is probably best known for Cognac which takes its name from the town surrounded by the vineyards which have been producing this amber liquid since the 18th Century. Names like Martell arrived from Jersey and Hennessy from Ireland. The historic town of Cognac is entered via a 15th Century gateway with towers. The impressive Chateau de Valois where Francois 1st was born in 1494 still bears traces of the British prisoners who were incarcerated there towards the end of the 18th Century.
Scattered throughout the Charente are almost 400 Romanesque churches. Often modest and surrounded by fields, there are equally some impressive edifices as well as over 160 listed monuments including Châteaux ranging from the Gallo Roman period to the 19th century.
From April to November it is possible to visit cognac producers. Cognac is distilled from white wine and matured in oak casks for years to obtain its distinctive flavour. The area also produces the aperitif 'Pineau de Charente', said to have been developed to use up the surplus Cognac grapes, since the production is strictly controlled. This mixture of Charente grape juice and local cognac can be white, red or rosé. Besides these temptations, the region grows the delicious Charentais Melons and the ubiquitous snail known in the Charente as ‘cagouilles' while elsewhere they may be called ‘lumas’.
The pretty medieval town of Confolens, with its half-timbered buildings is set on the banks of the River Vienne. Many of the roofs are black as a result of the fungus living on the Cognac casks. The Charente is a green and lush department which owes its vegetation to the Atlantic influence, and yet benefits from a sunny and temperate climate. The Charente River is navigable from Angouleme to Rochefort and offers boating enthusiasts 147 km's of waterways, without the need of a license, whilst 1,600 km's of rivers, lakes and ponds provide a vast choice for the fishing fraternity, whether they seek trout or carp.
Angoulême, the main town of the department has impressive ramparts with panoramic views of the town and the Charente Valley. Amongst the many buildings of architectural interest is the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, an exceptional example of a Romanesque cathedral. The west façade is famous for the carvings of seventy-five biblical figures illustrating the Ascension and the Last Judgement. Many old houses date from the 16 and 18th centuries and only two towers remain on the town hall, once the castle of the count. There are five museums, one of which is the only one of its kind in France engaged in the promotion of comics and there is an annual comic exhibition.
The immediate locality is a triangle formed by the villages of Aubeterre and Chalais in the southern Charente and St Aulaye in the Dordogne, all close to the Perigord region. The area is characterised by rolling hills and frequent patches of woodland. Many of the restaurants and bars are open throughout the year.
Aubeterre sits high up above a bend in the river Dronne. Its charming narrow streets wind through white stone houses and ancient buildings. Built in the shape of an amphitheatre this former stronghold is now classified as one of France's prettiest villages.
St Aulaye is located on the banks of the Dronne, the border between the Dordogne and the Charente, and Chalais is located on the river Tude which joins the Dronne.
Places Of Interest
The Monolithic Church
The most outstanding and impressive monument in Aubeterre is the underground church of St Jean, known as the monolithic church, located on the cliff which overhangs the Dronne. Carved entirely out of the rock, the main nave reaches a height of 20 m. Eighty sarcophagus's were found there in 1958.
It is open every day (including Sundays and Bank Holidays), from 9.30 am to midday and 2.00 pm to 6.00 pm.
Museums and Art
Aubeterre is a hive of activity for artists and artisans. Their pots, paintings, woodwork, leather and glass objects come to life in their workshop-boutique, only a few steps away from antique and bric-a-brac shops. You will also see the puppet's house, the museum of butterflies and African arts.
St Jacques Church
The church of St Jacques , partially destroyed in may 1562 during the religion's wars and rebuilt during the 17th century, is one of Aubeterre's richest features. Located at the top of the village, the church is an historical jewel. Its incredible 12th century Romanesque façade is decorated with finely sculpted arches. The design is Spanish-Moorish influenced and the stone carvings date back to the St Jacques de Compostella pilgrimages.
Things To Do
At both St Aulaye and Aubeterre, fine sandy beaches are maintained along the banks of the river Dronne, in shady spots, close to campsites and snack-bars, where you can swim and fish safely. St Aulaye has lifeguards on duty during the summer.
Canoes can be hired during spring and summer from Aubeterre and Parcoul. You can arrange to either canoe down-river and be collected, or taken up-river and canoe back to the hire shop. There are several other places with canoes for hire along the river Dronne, with mostly calm and safe water.
The Sea and Other Water-sports
There are extensive sandy beaches both to the north-west and to the south-west. These are all an easy car journey away and the size of the towns vary from small to large. There are many large lakes with safe swimming and some with sailing or canoe rentals. Most of these have food and drink facilities on-site and for most, the entry is free.
Vineyards and Wine Tasting
There are many local vineyards making Pineau (a local speciality) and these can be found along any main road. Often they allow visits and tasting. St Emillion and Bordeaux are within easy car journeys and there wine tasting is essential. Many of the wine estates offer tasting without appointment, so you can arrive, drink a bit and not be pressurised if it's not to your taste.
Cycling and Walking
Many off-road cycle and walking routes are marked out, ranging from 5km to 30km. For walkers and joggers, the minimal traffic and many unused country roads make this a perfect area for the more active.
Mountain bikes are available for daily or weekly hire. If you are a runner or walker, you can hire a bike GPS so you know the speed and distance you've traveled and don't get lost!
Details coming soon!
There is both lake and river fishing. For river fishing a licence is required. However, many private lakes offer day permits with large carp being the preference of the dedicated.
If your children get bored, there are two crazy golf courses. One is at Brossac Lake, where there is safe swimming, snack bar, and water skiing.