The Charente-Maritime did not disappoint.
An alluring landscape of long, sandy beaches, salt marshes, rolling hills, vineyards and forests punctuated with stunning, Romanesque architecture and quaint villages made for a delightful three day visit.
The little chambres d'hôtes that I found last minute on the Internet was a mere five minutes from the most charming little seaside town, Saint-Palais-sur-Mer. We spent both evenings here, soaking up the sun, breathing in the salt air and enjoying a glass of Pineau de Charentes while watching the residents stroll by with their dogs.
Beach Burger, on the main street, made us laugh and we almost tried it one night, but ended up at a little restaurant with a view of the sea, eating delicious little steamed mussels instead. (I think that was a wise decision.)
Cognac was just an hour away so we drove over to visit our favorite producer, Roullet-Fransac. They were as warm and welcoming as the last time we visited and invited the dogs in to join us. They have a very comfortable tasting room with big couches and wing back chairs. After several tastes of cognac and Pineau, it is a difficult place to leave!
They also make several liqueurs using cognac, the Pomegranate was my favorite. Served chilled, it tastes a bit like a cosmopolitan.
We meandered around, visiting Saintes, Pons, Jonzac, Royan, Marennes and driving up the Gironde estuary to Saint-Georges-de-Didonne. We put a lot of miles on our little car and the dogs were incredibly well behaved. They were welcomed into every café and restaurant we stopped at and offered nice, big bowls of water.
The Charente-Maritime is an enchanting region with natural beauty, impressive sights, wonderful food and drink and delightful, friendly people. We're definitely going back.