Tag Archives: Charente river

Niort, Deux Sèvres, Saturday 22nd August 2015

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Original Dragon sculpture in central Niort

Original Dragon sculpture in central Niort

Bourdeilles (Dordogne Department) was absolutely lovely: a little medieval town with an impressive château dating back to the 14th century still preserving its medieval gardens, growing all kinds of medicinal herbs and other edible plants like rhubarb, courgettes, etc and with access to some spooky caves which we entered to accompany a couple of little girls who asked me very kindly and sweetly if I could go in with them. Luckily, they had a torch on their phone and we were able to see into the depths of these ‘caverns’. I was surprised to see that there were blankets in the ground in a couple of them, so it looks like they are still being used!

Medieval Bourdeilles on the river Dronne

Medieval Bourdeilles on the river Dronne

View of river and town from bridge

View of river and town from bridge

Enigmatic rock carvings on Château walls

Enigmatic rock carvings on Château walls

Enjoying the views in Bourdeilles

Enjoying the views in Bourdeilles, looking down on Medieval Gardens

Medieval Gardens at Bourdeilles Château

Medieval Gardens at Bourdeilles Château

About to enter caves in Medieval Gardens

About to enter caves in Medieval Gardens.  Do you dare?

Exploring the caves using a mobile phone light!

Exploring the spooky caves using a mobile phone light!

Bourdeilles from a bit further up the river in afternoon light

Bourdeilles from a bit further up the river in afternoon light

We stayed at the motorhome aire by the Municipal swimming pool, right by the river Dronne, with easy access to the town over the quaint ancient bridge and with lovely views of the château and town. Nobody came round to collect the 4.50 daily fee, maybe because we were not exactly in the official aire, which was a few metres away on grass or because it was Sunday. Either way, we spent the night for free at this most charming of places in the Périgord.

Motorhome aire seen from bridge expanding river Dronne

Motorhome aire seen from bridge expanding river Dronne

View of Bourdeilles from motorhome aire

View of Bourdeilles from motorhome aire

On Monday, we drove to the Municipal campsite of La Fontaine du Pre St Jean at Dompierre-sur-Charente, near Cognac, as we really like it there, and we booked for 5 days, which came to a grand total of ₤54.70!  We usually enjoy this site for its peace and quiet, easy access to the river for swimming, fishing for Adonis, the Bac crossing the river and long walks along the Charente for Beano, but this year the usual tranquillity of the place was shattered by a group of young teenagers and children who came to the picnic area by river just outside the camping in the early afternoon and stayed till the evening, being rather too loud for our liking and accompanied by a dog that would not stop barking. This certainly was the case on our last night, Friday, when the rowdy group arrived at around 2.30 pm, waking us up from our siesta, and they were still there 5 hours later, with an almost constant bark from the wretched dog. We felt annoyed about this, as we were paying customers and they weren’t, and they really spoilt it for everyone, so much so that we were actually glad to leave in the morning. Shame!

The peaceful Municipal Camping of La Fontaine du Pre St Jean at Dompierre-sur-Charente

The peaceful Municipal Camping of La Fontaine du Pre St Jean at Dompierre-sur-Charente

The picnic area by the Charente river outside campsite

The picnic area by the Charente river outside campsite

The 'bac' providing a river crossing service during the summer months

The ‘bac’ providing a river crossing service during the summer months

I couldn't resist this happy sunflower by the river Charente

I couldn’t resist this happy sunflower by the river Charente

After our shopping in Leclerc this morning, we carried on north on the free A10 to Niort and were very glad to find a couple of available pitches at this wonderful motorhome aire, attractively separated by old stone walls and hedges for privacy and so near the city centre over the bridges: a real bargain for ₤7.50 a night, to include electricity and water. The fee is collected by guardian in the evening.

Our pitch at Motorhome aire at Niort, with hedges and stone walls separating parking bays

Our pitch at Motorhome aire at Niort, with hedges and stone walls separating parking bays

I really enjoyed my walk with Beano in the park along the river Sèvre Niortaise by the aire while Adonis cycled 5km out of town to get some fishing bait. It is a very attractive leisure area for families with a well equipped children’s playground, fitness course and pony rides.

Niort seen from park

Quaint Niort 

After Beano’s walk and Adonis’s cycle ride, we walked into town just to look around and cool down with a beer at one of the many bars at the Esplanade du Jardin de la Brèche.

The Esplanade du Jardin de la Brèche in N

The Esplanade du Jardin de la Brèche in Niort

Niort really is a very charming city, with a mixture of old and new and even the shabby-looking old houses only seem to add to the overall charm of the place, with a great feeling of space and laid-back attitude. Les Halles de Niort Market near the Donjon (or Château de Niort) are open every day except Mondays, offering all kinds of specialities of the region and are worth a visit. We didn’t go inside the Donjon this time, as it was getting late, but it is something I would like to do on our next visit.

The Donjon de Niort

The Donjon de Niort

We also discovered on our way back to the aire an Indian restaurant and thought it would be a good idea to try it, but then Adonis read a good review of another one, The Taj Mahal, also very close to the aire, and we decided to go there instead, but, although the starters were very good (a selection of Samosas, Onion Bhajis, prawn puri, etc) the main courses did not quite hit the mark and they were definitely not a patch on what we are used to at home in England. Nevertheless, it was still a good evening out and the service was courteous and efficient and the prices reasonable.

Shabby façades in Niort only add to the charm of the city

Shabby façades in Niort only add to the charm of the city

Water mill near the motorhome aire

Water mill near the motorhome aire

Tomorrow, we are heading north to Parthenay, only 45 minutes away!

A visit to Cognac, Saturday 18th August 2012

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The Hennessy Distilleries river crossing boat

 

After 3 very relaxing days in Dompierre-sur-Charente, enjoying the sun and the necessary refreshing swims in the river, we thought it would be a good idea to soak up a bit of culture and go and discover what this region is world famous for: Cognac.

 

A very old barrel of Cognac

 

We set off after breakfast this morning to put air in the tyres and stock up on beer and made it to Cognac just after 10 am.  We’d decided to visit the Hennessy cellars after reading in the guide book that it included a trip on a boat across the river and a short film.  Finding parking was extremely easy just about everywhere, but we chose a totally empty car park just up the road from Hennessy under the shade of a large tree, as it was already very hot even that early in the morning.

Hennessy Headquarters

We bought tickets for the English tour at 11.30 am, which included a glass of Cognac, and the price of the ticket was according to the type of Cognac you wanted to try. We settled for the €9 entry, which included the V.S. (Very Special Cognac).

While we waited for the tour, as we had a whole hour to spare, we gently strolled up to the old part of the town and had a coffee and a bitter lemon (€6 in total, which I thought was a bit pricey) by the statue and Hotel of Franҫois I.

A quiet street in Cognac

The town was very lovely with an open street market and we wandered around making time to go back for the start of the tour.

The tour itself started promptly at 11.30 am and it was taken by a very friendly and jolly French young lady who spoke perfect English.  We learned how Richard Hennessy, an Irishman who had come over to fight alongside Louis XV, laid the foundations of his company on Rue de la Richonne, which would in time become the greatest Cognac producer in the world.  We also learned about the four different wine-growing areas selected by Hennessy to produce his Cognac: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois, special for their chalky soil, which gives the right flavour to this wonderful drink.

 

Our very friendly guide

The tour took us through the whole process, from the bare vineyards in the winter, the first leaves in May, the harvest in September, the production of Eau-de-Vie by a double distillation of the selected wines, the blendings of the Eaux-de-Vie, the making of the French oak barrels by the Master Cooper, the storage of the barrels in the ageing warehouses and the evaporation of the eaux-de-vie from the barrels, known as Angels’ share, which gives life to the fungus growing on the warehouse walls, giving it a black appearance.

The creation of Hennessy Cognacs has been entrusted to the same family of Master blender over seven generations – the Fillioux family.

The distilleries

Finally, we were taken across the river again back to the Hennessy Visitors’ Centre and saw all the various types of Cognac in their special pretty bottles, from the pear-shaped XO and Paradis to the more humble V.S.  We were given the promised glass of V.S. and finally settled for a bottle of VSOP (Very Special Old Pale) for €25.95.  Needless to say we were extremely pleased with the subtle flavours of our chosen Cognac, that can be drunk neat, with ice or other mixers, but I think we are looking forward to enjoying our bottle in the winter sat in front of our log fire when the winter blues set in and we’ll need something to cheer us up.  We will then remember our most enjoyable visit today and think about the sun, the heat, the grapes and the marvellous Charente river and climate.

The making of the barrels

 

 

Some old barrels

 

 

 

The Cellars

 

 

 

Traditional equipment

 

 

Our trip across the Charente

 

 

Cognac

 

 

A bit of Hennessy history

 

Tasting the Cognac in the visitors’ centre

 

 

The whole Hennessy Cognac collection

 

 

Some eaux-de- vie ready to be mixed

 

 

Dompierre-su-Charente, Charente Maritime, Thursday 16th August 2012

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Spacious Campsite at Dompierre-sur-Charente

This little village by the Charente river has a special place in our hearts and we seem to drift here almost unconsciously.  We wild camped by the usual fishing spot for Adonis last night, but we have now moved into the adjacent campsite to make use of the showers, the washing facilities and electricity.

It’s been very hot and the place is very lively on the river bank, with both campers and day trippers, especially by the ‘bac’, the river crossing barge to Rouffiac, almost like a snap-shot from the past and so nice to see it in operation being manually worked by staff and customers alike!

Wild camping at Dompierre-sur-Charente

We arrived yesterday afternoon after a bit of a dramatic trip on the A10, where our right back tyre burst, just 11km south of our exit at J36.  The funny thing is that it was the first day of rain we’d seen since we crossed from Germany into France back on 22nd July and we had to stand on the hard shoulder under an umbrella until our road rescue arrived, thankfully only 20 minutes!  The mechanic tried to change the tyre there and then, but the spare tyre was not fully inflated and he took us to his garage at Soubran, off J37 to get it up to road-worthy standards.  This all happened just before midday and we finally made it here for 3pm, so we had a very late lunch!  The burst tyre also managed to damage the skirt panel and completely obliterated the mud-guard, so we were lucky we didn’t get hurt.  It certainly made me scream when it burst, but luckily Adonis was driving and he had the van under control.

Le Bac at Dompierre-sur-Charente

After all that excitement and adrenaline flowing, we just chilled by the river bank fishing and reading and I finished ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo’ e-book, which I enjoyed enormously.  I will download the other 2 in the future too and I hope they’ll be just as good.

This morning we drove into Saintes to buy 2 new back tyres, just to be sure, as we don’t want any more nasty surprises.  The front ones were replaced earlier on in the year, so we should be all right for a while.

Tomorrow we are planning to do as little as possible and on Saturday we’d like to visit Cognac and by some of the famous liquor, which will be very comforting in the winter months.

After that, we’ll be heading for V.I.P Pêche (Ayron) near Poitiers again, as I’d like to see it in the summer, after having seen those gorgeous autumn colours last October.

Fishing on the Charente

 

 

 

Dompierre-sur-Charente

Sireuil, Saturday 23rd April 2011

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Sireuil aire and lake

We’ve found another lovely overnight stay bay the Charente river, just 10 km west of Angoulême, on the D699.  Our original plan was to stop at Nersac, but the aire there was by a block of flats and we didn’t like it very much, so we more or less followed the river until we found a suitable place.  This is just by the pleasure boats stop and it’s provided with picnic tables and bins and the grass is cut short and well maintained.

Adonis is trying to fish again, but so far nothing has been landed.

The aire last night was very quiet and welcome after the night before at campsite in Léon.  We slept well and were up just after 8 am, had breakfast and were ready to go by 9.15. 

We drove all morning with usual quick stop for daily baguette and cake and arrived in Nersac for 12.30, but finally stopped for lunch just after 1 pm.

 

 

 

We are again between farmland and the river and it couldn’t be more charming and peaceful.  tomorrow we’ll be heading for a France Passion site just north of Poitiers, so it should be an easy morning’s drive.

Sireuil aire

 

I’ve almost finished sewing puppy soft toy, but need some cotton for filling before I can finally stitch it all up.

I am going to read some more:  Just Dickens and me now!

Sigh at Sireuil aire and lake