Ile d'Aix: walking to a lunchtime appointment
Ile d'Aix: walking to a lunchtime appointment

There really is a lot to see. You would not think so from a guidebook that covers the whole region, like the Michelin Poitou-Vendée-Charentes. I recommend the Hachette Vacances Guide to Poitou-Charentes (in English). It's more informative and more fun to use.

Within 20 minutes' drive of Rouillac are some ancient and medieval monuments, small towns and places to relax by the river. Further afield are the towns of Cognac, Angoulême, Saintes, Surgères and La Rochelle. Estimate 75-90 minutes to get to the nearest seaside resorts and islands, of which Ile de Ré is the poshest and busiest (toll bridge). Going south towards Dordogne, you have the lovely town of Brantôme and an enormous monolithic church with Mithraic remains at Aubeterre-sur-Dronne.

MAIN PICTURE ABOVE: Out of high season, Aix is a delightful place for a day trip. You can stay at the Hôtel Napoléon (the building shown on the right) or pitch camp inside one of the forts. But you have to carry everything with you (no cars allowed). There are also one or two B&Bs. Good beaches and quiet: a big contrast to the bigger islands. Take the ferry 'Pierre Loti' from the tip of Fouras peninsula (see below).

Click on the small images below to enlarge.

Dolmen at Garde Epée
Hardly Brittany, but the best dolmen site is at Garde Epée, near Bourg-Charente. Nearby is a Renaissance castle which you can't, unfortunately, visit. Who is the lucky owner? There's an important ruined church a kilometre away at Châtres. Another dolmen of note is at Saint-Fort-sur-le-Né, with two more on a minor road near Tusson.
Paradise of Saint-Catherine
The pets' cemetery (paradise) at Saint-Catherine (near Les Bouchauds) barely needs further comment! Quite a pleasant spot to be laid to rest, even if you are not a cat.
Swimming at Vibrac
When it is really hot, it's very tempting to jump into the river, and there are a number of places where it is safe to do so, such as next to the campsite at Jarnac. You could cycle or walk to quieter Vibrac where you can also get a cold drink or a meal at Les Ombrages.
Cemetery at Ligné
There is a wonderful 13th-century knights' cemetery at Ligné, near the protected village of Tusson. In particular, look at the carvings on some of the tombs.
Saint-Amant-de-Boixe near Montignac is the biggest church in Charente after Saint-Pierre in Angoulême. It retains some wall paintings, wooden stairs and other antique features. See also the neighbouring abbey buildings.
Tumulus in the Forêt de Boixe
If you go East from Saint-Amant you will drive through the ancient forest of Boixe and find a sign for the dolmen. Not to be confused with the fallen 'sacrificial stone', this tumulus is a neolithic necropolis (bring a torch). It bears comparison with Maes Howe in Orkney and others in France.
Saint-Jean d'Angély It's only about 30 minutes to Saint-Jean d'Angély, an attractive town with interesting monuments such as the huge abbey and some ancient houses. Several good restaurants and shops.
Panorama of Saintes
It takes slightly longer to get to Saintes, but it is well worth the trip. Top-quality Roman and Romanesque remains, good museums, and good shops, a market and restaurants. A lovely town with a hint of sophistication.
Canal at Coulon
The marais is a different world from the seaside towns and agricultural panoramas of Charente-Maritime. If you are travelling to or from Saint-Malo, stop at Coulon or La Garette by the canal for lunch. Sunday morning food market at Coulon.
Beach at Fouras
The nearest seaside resort (with some of the cleanest beaches) is Fouras, about 75 minutes from Rouillac, from which you can take a ferry to the Ile d'Aix, passing Fort Boyard, of TV fame. If heading west, Rochefort and Surgères are also worth a visit.
Brouage from the ramparts Another interesting seaside stop is the fortified town of Brouage. Busy in summer but peaceful out of season. Good cafés, and very good birdwatching nearby on the marshes.
Fishing platforms at Ile Madame

Ile Madame is even less well-known than Aix. Access only at low tide by causeway. You can walk or drive over. Superb views of the coast, Fouras, and other islands, with a popular if isolated restaurant. Don't get stranded - almost nobody lives here.

Harbour at La Rochelle
OK, La Rochelle is over an hour away, but you must make time to go. Enjoy a boat trip to one of the islands or just window-shop in 'Paris-by-the-Sea'. Quite a contrast to the rest of the region with its 'cosmopolitan ambience'.

Copyright © 2001-2016 Colin Wight