The department of Charente epitomises traditional rural France. Occitan dialects can still be heard in the fairs and markets frequented by local farmers and craftsmen.
Charente is an area of natural beauty and lush with vegetation, due mainly to its temperate climate.
Traditionally, the rest of France considers the Charentais character to be laidback and visitors here can certainly find time for lots of leisurely pursuits.
The whole area is laced with rivers and streams that feed into the picturesque River Charente. Taking a relaxing boat trip, it’s hard to imagine this was once a busy waterway bringing armaments from Angouleme to the naval shipyards of La Rochelle.
Each stunning valley in the department of Charente has its own character. The Vienne is popular with anglers and watersports enthusiasts, the Issoire boasts mountains, and the Tardoire valley has vineyards and exciting deep gorges.
Make time to visit the ancient village of Aubeterre perched on white cliffs above the River Dronne and the little river port of Jarnac - birth and resting place of France’s late president, Francois Miterrand.
There’s plenty too in Charente for those who enjoy the cultural experience: Chateau de la Rochefoucauld, the Chateau de Rochebrune at Etagnac and the ancient Cistercian Abbey of Fontaine Vive.
The cathedral city of Angouleme, once famous for papermaking, now has a centre – Centre National de la Bande Dessinee - showing the development of French print and film cartoons.
Historic Confolens with its riverside restaurants is a great place to try a dish of snails – ‘les petits gris’ – so popular with the Charentais. Afterwards, a measure of the world famous double distilled brandy known as Cognac could be in order for the faint hearted. A visit to Charente’s town of the same name is a must to sample and discover the history of its most celebrated product.