The excitement and anticipation prior to visiting a new, never before experienced destination is one of the great joys of travelling. This ‘joy of travel’ is always the same for me whether enjoying an independent or sponsored trip.
Whilst all destinations offer something special and different, some destinations genuinely exceed any expectations, for me the region of Poitou-Charentes falls into this category.
It is a region overflowing with Gallic sophistication, simplicity and beauty, cities, towns and villages alike have many lovely and historic buildings and homes. Wandering through their streets is often like travelling back in time as they seem to hark back to a bygone era.
In the cities many grand buildings line the well kept streets, while the smaller villages can be breathtakingly quaint filled with small often immaculate white-washed cottages. Every home seems to have pastel coloured wooden shutters and flowers such as hollyhocks climbing their walls. They are often dominated by grand churches with immense steeples that seem to reach the very sky.
There is a great deal to see, the cities of La Rochelle with its picturesque harbour and historic Rochefort are obvious attractions. Much of the region is built on reclaimed marshland and a boat trip in the wetlands of the Marais Poitevin ‘Green Venice’ is an idyllic way to spend an afternoon or even a day.
I’lè de Ré however is for me the ‘jewel in the crown’ ideal for bicycle touring it is dotted with countless picture postcard villages and its ‘capital’ built around its harbour is probably the prettiest of them all. Lighthouses, small windmills, local produce markets, long dramatic beaches swept continuously by Atlantic winds, boutique hotels, and small, chic restaurants all add to the charm.
It is not all high-end travel however the island also has over thirty campsites for those on a slightly tighter budget. Leave the car at home, pack a tent and grab the bikes, a mini adventure is almost guaranteed.
It probably sounds as if I am gushing about this place and it cannot possibly be that perfect, was there anything wrong at all? It feels more luxury than budget travel destination, those looking for budget options will need to do plenty of research and be very selective in their choices if they wish to remain ‘travel thrifty’.
The food is almost too good and it requires a great deal of walking around many small towns to work off all those extra calories consumed. Probably a good thing then that it always seems hard to resist just taking one more peek around yet one more corner in every town and village, there always appears to be something worthy of this curiosity.
The weather was occasionally unpredictable during the stay there, but then it is almost autumn.
There is no need to take my word for it though; I am going to let the pictures tell the full story. Just browse the images and see if they do not seem to shout out ‘must visit’ destination to you too!
This was a trip organised by the Poitou-Charentes Tourism Board and my thanks to them for letting me visit their lovely region of France.