A Guide To The Poitou Charentes Region in France
Poitou Charentes is made up of four departments, Vienne, Deux Sevres, Charente and Charente Maritime. The regional capital is Poitiers, which is also the departmental capital of the Vienne. Other departmental capitals are La Rochelle (Charente Maritime), Angouleme (Charente), and Niort (Deux Sevres). The region is bordered to the north by Pays de la Loire, to the west by Indre (Centre) and Haute Vienne (Limousin), and to the south by Aquitaine. The region takes in the islands of Re, Oleron, Aix and Madame on the Atlantic coast, and includes much of the north side of the Gironde Estuary. The land area of Poitou Charentes is around 25% larger than Wales in the UK, but only has around 57% of the population there. The region is ranked 15th out of 22 regions of France in terms of population size.
The region is traversed north to south by the key arterial routes, the A10 Motorway (toll road), and the RN10 (part motorway). The A10 connects Poitiers to Paris in the north and east, and to Bordeaux in the south west. The RN10 links Poitiers with Tours to the north and with Angouleme and Bordeaux in the south. Other key routes include the RN141 (Cognac - Angouleme - Limoges), the A83 (toll road) linking Niort with Nantes to the north, the N11 linking Niort with La Rochelle and the A837 that links the A10 and La Rochelle.
The TGV services a number of towns throughout the region, namely Chatellerault, Futuroscope, Poitiers, Ruffec, Angouleme, St Maixent, Niort, La Rochelle and Surgeres. These services link the various places with Paris (Montparnasse and Charles de Gaulle), Bordeaux and stations at Lille and Brussels.
Poitou Charentes has three commercial airports, all of which offer budget flights to the UK. Poitiers Biard offers a small number of destinations, and has reduced services in winter, whilst the recently re-named Angouleme-Cognac airport (formerly Brie-Champniers) also offers a limited number of UK destinations. La Rochelle is probably the most developed airport, with many services with a variety of airlines to the UK and other destinations. The extremities of the region have options outside, such as Tours, Nantes, Limoges, Bordeaux and Bergerac airports.
The western Atlantic coastline around La Rochelle and down to Royan is quoted by many sources as rivaling the Cote d'Azur on the Mediterranean for hours of sunshine per year. Whilst this zone which covers most of the Charente Maritime (and a chunk of southern Deux Sevres) is the sunniest part of the Atlantic coast, it is still some way behind Montpellier (the least sunny part of the Med). Nevertheless, this part of the world benefits from a micro-climate driven by the Gulf-Stream, and offers temperate conditions throughout the year. Naturally, the coast is more temperate in winter and it is also a few degrees cooler in summer than inland areas of the region. The wettest areas of the region are towards the north east of Charente, the western side of Deux Sevres, and the southerly parts of Charente Maritime. The driest area is to the north of Vienne and Deux Sevres.
Much of the Poitou Charentes region will be unknown to many. Outside of the well known coastal resorts and towns of Charente Maritime, the other three regions will be regarded by many as places you perhaps pass through on the way to somewhere else. However, in recent years many foreigners (predominantly British) have discovered what the wider region has to offer, and have either bought second homes here or have moved to the region permanently.
If you are thinking of moving to France, Poitou Charentes has such a spectrum of different attractions that you'll be hard-pressed to find anything like it in France. Vibrant and historic cities, rolling unspoilt countryside, excellent transport links, spectacular beaches, a sunny and warm climate, low crime rates, friendly people and best of all, the price of property here still offers real value for money.
If you are thinking of visiting here, you have the choice of surfing and family friendly beaches on the warm and sunny coast, the vine-covered hills of the countryside in the south, the Marais Poitevin (Green Venice) in the north west, the historic towns and villages sprinkled across the whole region, and the picturesque rivers and lakes ideal for outdoor activities. The region is well equipped with camping sites, holiday parks, hotels and gites, and the range of family attractions is impressive and diverse.
Poitou Charentes is the home to the world renowned Marennes-Oleron Oysters, with their distinctive green tinged colour and nutty flavour, and to the Bouchot Mussels of the Anse de l'Aiguillon bay. It also produces the world famous Chabichou (goats cheese), Echire Butter, Parthenay Apples, Macaroons of Montmorillon, Pineau Charentes, as well as Cognac arguably the World's favourite tipple. Famous recipes include the Tourtau Fromage (goats cheese pastry), Farci Poitevin (stuffed cabbage), Le Gateau Broye (butter biscuit), and the unusual cold soup/drink Mijet.
Outside the big cities and towns, the economy is driven by agriculture, with sheep and cattle breeding, cereals and grains, and viticulture (and supporting trades and services). Poitiers has a varied manufacturing and services economy, whilst Niort is regarded as the Insurance Capital of France. La Rochelle is focussed on tourism but has major manufacturing in the shape of ALSTOM, builders of railway stock and metro trains, including the TGV. Angouleme has replaced the one time key industry of paper production with electrical manufacturing and engineering.
Population: 1,722,000 (2007)
President (Conseil Generale): Segolene Royal (Socialist)
Area: 25,810 km2
Unemployment Rate: 7.5% (INSEE 2006)
Crime: 44.2 per 1000 (5th safest of 22 regions)
Key Attractions: Futuroscope (theme park)
Economy: Tourism, Agriculture, Commerce, Auto-motive
Richard Stewart is the Editor of [http://www.guide2poitoucharentes.com] Guide2Poitou Charentes is the essential English language guide to the Poitou Charentes region of South West France. Guide2PoitouCharentes features property for sale, property for rent, holiday accommodation - gites, campsites, hotels, classifieds, events and what's on in Poitou Charentes, regional news and much more. Guide2Poitou Charentes is perfect for residents of Poitou Charentes, property hunters, holiday makers and anyone who loves this beautiful part of France.
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