For the past four months Our Global Adventure has taken us housesitting and exploring in the Poitou-Charente region of central Western France. A short drive in any direction off of the motorway will take visitors through lots and lots of pretty towns and villages (in fact we advise you to stay off the motorway, it’s so boring!). So, here is our pick of the best for postcard photos, picnics and meandering.
We visited Loches on a very cold, foggy day in December, but fell in love instantly. Loches is the type of small town where you just have to park the car and wander on foot. Narrow walkways wind their way up the hill to the ruin of a medieval castle, past pretty shops, cafes and houses. On Saturday mornings the town also boasts an excellent market, perfect for gathering picnic supplies.
Saumur is quite a large town with an impressive arrangement of streets and squares spread below the château on the hill above. It’s a town with lots of grand buildings, wide streets and meeting places. It’s a great spot for a bit of shopping or a lunch in one of the many cafes or restaurants. If it’s a warm day, sit outside and enjoy watching the world go by.
Home to the fantastic Chinon Fortress, where Joan of Arc met King Charles and told him of her visions, and where Richard the Lionheart was born, Chinon also has a great medieval town to explore. Again, park the car, (it’s free up the top near the castle) and then explore on foot along the cobble stones.
La Roche Possay
This small spa town is famous for the skin healing properties in it’s water. There is a tap in the main street where you can freely fill bottles and a spa clinic for a little pampering. Wander under the arch along the medieval streets or just watch the old men playing Pétanque in the town square whilst enjoying a treat from the patisserie, this is a good little stop for a break from the car.
This gorgeous little town has definitely been a highlight in our sightseeing. It really is pretty as a picture, with stunning postcard views in every direction. On a cold afternoon we enjoyed stopping for a coffee break at café No. 15 before wandering up the hill to the castle ruin.
This is a gorgeous market town (Saturday mornings in the centre) definitely worth a stop on any itinerary. Chauvigny has managed to retain all of it’s old world charm whilst still servicing the locals with a buzzing commercial centre. We loved visiting here and had a lovely picnic beside the river.
There’s no need to set aside a whole day to visit Richelieu, it is the sort of town that you visit on the way somewhere else. But, we consider it worth a mention in our list of prettiest towns and villages because Richelieu is a town that was built completely to plan to be ‘perfect’. Cardinal Richelieu wanted a perfect town right on the doorstep to his family’s country estate, so he was given permission from the king to plan and build a small market town around a central square. The result is stunning. Sadly the Richelieu Château is no longer standing in the parkland, it was taken in the revolution and then dismantled and sold stone by stone, but the gardens are none the less pretty for a visit.
We really had no idea what to expect from this region of France, having only ever explored France’s North, South and East previously, but we have had the most wonderful four months on Our Global Adventure here. There has been plenty to keep us occupied housesitting and helping out around a Château, and our days out have been a leisurely experience with lots of ‘oohs and aaahs’ and pinch worthy ‘we really are in France’ moments.