The south of the Charente offers beautiful rolling countryside, a wonderful sunny climate and an opportunity to see southwest France at its best.
The quiet lanes are ideal for touring by car, bicycle or on foot to explore the countryside, historic villages and towns, chateaux, the lakes and the authentic local character such as markets, good restaurants, vineyards and cognac distilleries.
Chez Sarrazin provides an excellent base to explore the many attractions of the Charente, Charente Maritime, Gironde and Dordogne Departements.
It is a short distance from the village of Brossac with its old stone houses set around the 12th century church where there is a good range of facilities including: 3 restaurants; a mini supermarket; a bakery; a pharmacy; bank; post office; and a butcher. There are tennis and bocce courts available to hire as well. A tourist office is located in the post office.
The pretty and busy town of Chalais, dominated by its 16th century chateau, is located 10 minutes drive away and has many shops and supermarkets as well as a colourful and lively market on Monday mornings. There are concerts and exhibitions in the castle and its gardens during the year. Similarly, the larger town of Barbezieux, about 20 minutes to the north, also has an imposing chateaux and is surrounded by ancient streets with restaurants, bars and shops.
Also within easy reach is Aubeterre-sur-Dronne which boasts an exceptional cultural heritage which, combined with its beautiful natural surroundings and the famous French “art de vivre”, makes it the perfect place to visit. Officially listed as one of The Most Beautiful Villages in France it has welcomed tourists, visitors and pilgrims on their way to Spain for over 1000 years. Visitors today can enjoy meandering through the narrow streets, popping in to admire the many specialist shops (including a leather worker, potters, and antique shops) and then settling down in the village square at one of the cafés or restaurants, comfortably shaded by ancient lime trees.
Also within easy reach are: Royan on the Atlantic coast; Bordeaux, the historic and cosmopolitan city; St Emilion and Cognac, known worldwide for their famous wine and cognac; Villebois La Valette; Périgueux; Brantome; Bourdeilles; Bergerac; Riberac with its famous weekly market; Poitiers with the famous Futuroscope and the Vallée des Singes monkey park; and Angoulême, the walled capital of the Charente with shopping boulevards and historic buildings.
Wines, Food and Restaurants
The southwest of France is known for its Cognac, Pineau (cognac and grape juice) and great wines. The Cognac region consists of six vineyard growing areas, called ‘Crus’: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires. Chez Sarrazin is situated in the Bons Bois area about 40 minutes south of the town of Cognac. The grapes used for Cognac brandy must always come from this French region which totals about 79,000 hectares of vineyards. The Cognac wine region is the second largest in France after the wine region of Bordeaux. Chez Sarrazin sits on the northern edge of the Bordeaux wine region and all of the great chateaux of the area are within easy reach.
From a food perspective, local products include melons, raspberries, (goat) cheese, walnuts, hazelnuts and walnut oil. The mild, sunny climate guarantees abundant crops of fruits and vegetables. Magret de canard, duck confit, duck pâté, rillettes, foie gras and Chalais veal are all specialties of the region.
There is one restaurant in the centre of Brossac (2 kms) and 2 at Etang Vallier (3 kms). Restaurant Poirier at Bardenac (5 minute drive) is highly recommended and serves a traditional plat de jour at luncheon (5 courses including wine) for about 13 Euros a person. Numerous cafes and bars are also available in Chalais (10 minute drive) which also boasts a top-end restaurant in its 16th century chateau. Elsewhere in the area, we have about 15 Michelin-starred restaurants within an hour's drive including the first Michelin-starred vegan restaurant!
For hiking and bike enthusiasts, paths are marked so it is easy to explore the beautiful surrounding countryside by bike or on foot. For those who would like to take advantage of the many beautiful cycle routes in the area but are unable to bring your own bicycles, there are local companies who hire bikes for durations of 3 or more days (for example see www.bikehiredirect.com). For enthusiasts of faster vehicles, the motor racing track at circuit de Haute Saintonge is 15 minutes away and offers everything from Go-Karting to F3 racing. Don't forget the annual Circuit des Remparts classic racing car event held around the town of Angouleme each September.
You can fish and swim at Lake (Etang) Vallier which is about 3 kms from Chez Sarrazin. The lake also has an artificial sandy beach, a wire-pulled water skiing facility and there is a dedicated safe swimming area which is supervised during the summer months. Horse riding is also available nearby.
Other possibilities for nature swimming are at Aubeterre (the river), St. Aulaye (the river with a water slide) and Le Paradou near Parcoul (a lake with a water slide). There are large indoor leisure/adventure pools at Jonzac (with a beach!) and at Angouleme, both about 40 minutes away.
Visits are highly popular to the many castles/chateaux, churches, museums and art/pottery studios in the area. And don't forget a visit to the numerous mills, farms and wineries and distilleries where they will give you a guided tour and sell local produce made using traditional methods.
The area has numerous forests, parks and gardens to be visited.
Finally, for those interested in wartime history, there are numerous historical sites to visit mainly along the coast but also at Oradour-sur-Glane where in June 1944 the Gestapo murdered all of the inhabitants and raized the village; it is about 1 hour 40 minutes away but a moving experience nevertheless.
Chez Sarrazin is about an hour and a half's drive to the Gironde estuary where outstanding sandy beaches are plentiful, particularly around Royan. Also, the Arcachon Basin is about the same distance and a day trip to the Dune de Pyla, Europe's highest sand dune, is probably a must. More locally, there are a number of recreational lakes and rivers with artificial sandy beaches.
In addition to Etang Vallier, carp fishing is available at Etang Arnaud (a 10 minute drive away). Please see http://www.etang-arnaud.com/index.html
- Aubeterre, Manoir de Longeveau - 9-hole - 25mins
- Angouleme - 18-hole - 40mins
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