(** indicates things we have managed to do, and enjoyed).
General Information about what's on in the Region of Poitou Charente (link), and information about what's on in the department of Vienne (link)
** The local town of Montmorillon (link) (30 mins) straddles the Gartempe river, known as the "city of books" hosts the international book fair every June. a kind of Hay-on-Wye-on-Gartempe. It is a delightful Roman town with a colourful Wednesday morning market and good eating places for an evening meal include Le Lucullus in the Hotel de France and Le Roman des Saveurs overlooking the old bridge. There's even a good Chinese restaurant Bonheurs d'Asie. For a lunchtime break try La Commerce.
Around the town you will see 'History Through the Streets' signs which show old photographs taken from the spot where you are standing. They also give information on an aspect of the towns history in French and English. Maps are available at the Office du Tourisme.
** Romagne (30 mins) has a large monkey sanctuary with no cages or artificial barriers, La Vallee des Singes (link). It houses more than 15 species from marmosets to gibbons to gorillas, with over 200 animals living on natural wooded islets. This is actually a very good open air day out for all ages, and a lovely drive there … take a picnic.
** Oradour-sur-Glane (link) . (1 hr) On June 10th 1944, Nazi S.S. troops massacred 642 inhabitants of this farming village without warning or provocation, and then set light to the village suspecting it of harboring Resistance Fighters. It has been left in ruins as a monument; train wires dangle from slanting poles, and 50 year old cars rust on the road. Also, a sobering and highly educational museum free of charge.
Chauvigny (40 mins) is a pretty medieval town situated between us and Poitiers. It is dominated by five châteaux and filled with art and history. The Château des Aigles, in particular is worth a visit with its spectacular Falconry shows (Les Geants du Ciel (link)) in the summer. Powerful birds of prey, elegant storks, colourful parrots and comical kookaburras fly around (and sometimes into) the audience. In the old quarter stands the 12th century Romanesque church of St Pierre, which has some remarkable sculpture. The town has good shopping, a weekly market on Saturdays and a good choice of restaurants, and there are many other churches in the Vienne with some fine examples of Romanesque art, the L'Abbaye UNESCO at St Savin, especially.
** Poitiers (link) (45 mins), is a charming university city and the capital of the Vienne. Built on a high rocky plateau above two rivers, it has lots of shops and restaurants to suit most tastes. It also has a spectacular old Cathedral (Notre Dame) which is well worth a visit to see the remarkable painted interior.
Futuroscope (link), near Poitiers, is probably the biggest tourist attraction in the Vienne, the park of the moving image. It has stunning modern architecture on a grand scale (briefly visible from the motorway North of Poitiers. There are about 20 attractions in the park, ranging from Cyber Avenue, an area dedicated to computer and internet games, up to exciting 3D virtual reality experiences. The 14 'films' on show vary from exciting to interesting and from 3 minutes long to 50 minutes long. Headsets are available for English commentary.
Val de Vienne racing circuit (link) at Le Vigeant (15 mins). Motor racing circuit which hosts numerous different types of race meeting.
** Confolens (30 mins) - sits astride the confluence of the Vienne and Goire rivers and is host to a World Music Festival in August every year (link) … check it out on the web
** Lussac Les Chateaux (20 mins) is a lovely bustling little market town which large supermarket and many smaller shops.
** La Rochelle (link) (2hrs 15mins) ancient fishing port and celebrated for its resistance to Cardinal Richelieu during the XV11 C. La Rochelle is arguably the most interesting and picturesque port on the west coast, but the beaches – though fabulous, can be very busy in the summer, and to make it worth it you need a full day there.
The area boasts the oldest street market in France, Les Herolles (55 mins) , which has been in existence now for over 500 years and takes place monthly.A tiny village which once a month hosts reputedly the biggest street market in France. It's on the 29th unless the 29th is on a Sunday, in which case the market is on the following Monday.
Civray is a market town with a busy twice weekly market. Have a wander around the market and then a drink in one of the various bar/cafes around the square. The town has the river Charente flowing through it with several bridges crossing it. There is an open air public swimming pool in the centre and a beautiful XIIth century church on the square that is worth a visit.
Cognac There are guided tours around the famous Cognac distilleries of Remy Martin and Martell.
Limoges if you are interested in porcelain then it is definitely worth a visit.
Angouleme the departmental capital is a delightful ancient fortified city set upon a craggy outcrop with its old fortifications and ramparts largely intact. The city centre now largely pedestrianised is wonderful to walk around with its many bars and restaurants spilling out on to the little squares and piazzas. A famous world music festival happens here in May/June (link) every year – check it out on the web.