Poitou-Charentes is a region in central western France, and is believed to be the place of origin of many of the Acadian and Cajun populations of North America. Poitiers is the chief city of the region, and the economy depends largely on farming of wheat, cattle, and corn. Industry in Poitou-Charentes is based on machinery and chemical production.
The marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II in 1152 brought Poitou under English control, but the area was reunited with the French crown in 1416. The area takes in part of France’s Atlantic coastal plain, undulating hills farther inland, and the foothills of the Massif Central. Southern Poitou-Charentes is home to the many vineyards that provide grapes used in Cognac production as well as the aperitif wine Pineau des Charentes. The region is mostly rural, with the largest city, Poitiers, having fewer than 100,000 citizens.
Though there are seaside tourist attractions in the coastal parts of the region, much of the coastline is home to oyster beds. Parts of the coast lie at or even slightly below sea level, so the area is prone to flooding during major Atlantic storms. You can get to Poitou-Charentes by TGV from the Gare Montparnasse in Paris or the Gare d’Austerlitz. The A10, the main motorway that runs from Paris to western and southwestern France also crosses the region. There is an airport at La Rochelle, and airports just outside the region in Bordeaux and Limoges. Poitiers, Chauvigny, and Cognac are three towns you’ll want to visit in Poitou-Charentes.
Poitiers is most famous for its churches, which include Baptistère Saint-Jean, which is reputedly the oldest (or second oldest) Christian place of worship in France. It dates from the fourth century. Notre-Dame la Grande, a famous Romanesque church, is also located here, and the streets of Poitiers are home to the remains of much historical architecture from this period. You’ll also want to see the 12th century Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, and the 11th century Eglise Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand, as well as the underground chapel Hypogée des Dunes and the Jardin des Plantes de Poitiers, a botanical garden. A totally different attraction, in the form of the Futuroscope theme park, is also located near Poitiers.
Chauvigny is a small town with five castles and a Romanesque church making up the medieval quarter of town. Chauvigny is built on a rocky spur next to the Vienne river, about 32km east of Poitiers by train. The unusual bone cavern of Jioux, with its entrance fortified by stone blocks, is located near Chauvigny as well.
Cognac is located in Poitou-Charentes, and there you can visit the famous cognac houses. Located on the Charente between the cities of Angouleme and Saintes, Cognac is built with a larger “left bank” area and a smaller right bank area known as Saint Jacques. Located some 400km south of Paris, Cognac is also home to a French Air Force training base. The Old Town region contains many 15th through 18th century buildings along small, cobbled streets. All the Cognac houses have visitor centers. The nearest ones are Hennessey, Martell, Camus, Remy Martin, and Otard. Courvoisier is made in Jarnac, some 15 km east of Cognac.
Quiet and historic, Poitou-Charentes is a region that gives the visitor a unique glimpse of earlier times, French agriculture, and of course, its famed double-distilled spirit Cognac.