A Postcard from the Charente
Today our postcard comes from the Charente. The Charente is part of the former Poitou-Charente region, now part of the much larger Nouvelle Aquitaine region. It is one of four departments that make up this now popular and extremely attractive region.
The Charente was a well-kept secret until not so very long ago when it became a popular destination for those people seeking a location that was a bit different and off the beaten track. The Charente was relatively late in being discovered, but it’s certainly making up for lost time now.
Charente’s capital Angoulême is not only of historical significance, it’s a pretty place too. That said, it has to put up with stiff competition for ranking when you add Cognac into the equation. Famed by the drink that takes its name, Cognac is a buzzing town that has a good social scene and not surprisingly offers great opportunities for Cognac tastings. The other towns around here that are well worth a visit are Barbezieux, Aubeterre and Confolens. All of that said, it would be a shame to come here and only visit the urban areas, because the countryside in this neck of the woods is simply stunning. One thing that will strike you immediately when you arrive in Charente is the enormity of the Cognac vineyards. It is easy to see that this region produces one of the world-class drinks of modern day.
For our visit, we’ve decided to base ourselves in Angoulême and then take a trip to Cognac for a tasting. Our accommodation in Angoulême is a very standard Mercure Hotel room. We’ve chosen this because we like to know what we’re going to get and with the Mercure group, you know that the quality will be high, the price is good and the accommodation will be clean and modern. While we were there, we learned about the very popular Hotel du Palais, a 3-star hotel with a warm and friendly atmosphere, located in the heart of the old part of the city, close to restaurants cafés etc …
When it came to dining, we plumped for the Agape Restaurant, which has a very unassuming shop front to it but once inside, it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about. It’s only a stone’s throw from the main market and although the à la carte menu can be quite expensive, it boasts really excellent and creative choices. We had taken the opportunity to book a table, which was good because when we arrived at just after 8pm on a Friday evening, the restaurant was already pretty full.
The day after our fine dining experience we headed off to Cognac and participated in a Cognac Tasting Tour. We decided to take the train from Angoulême to Cognac and that way no one had to worry about driving. When we arrived in Cognac, our guide met us and he explained that we’d be able to visit Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell and Rémy Martin, all in the same day. We couldn’t believe our luck. As real fans of Cognac and Armagnac, it was like all our Christmases had come at once! We were treated like kings and queens for the day and needless to say made quite a few purchases on our way!
Although this isn’t a part of France that we were familiar with before we arrived, we’ve truly fallen head over heels in love with it and are now more keen than ever to find out all about this area.