The area surrounding La Maison du Petit Jacques offers something for everyone, from gastronome to history buff.
Roman ruins, fresh food markets, the Atlantic coast and the city of Cognac are all within a 15-minute to 1-hour drive from us.
Below are some ideas for exploring the area.
Saint Jean d'Angély
(15km, 15 minutes by car)
Saint Jean d’Angély, a charming and historic town of 8,000 inhabitants, offers one of the best markets in the area for locally grown fresh fruit, vegetables meat, fish, cheese and local wine.
One of the stopping points on the route of Saint Jacques de Compostelle, it is also the home of a UNESCO heritage site, the Royal Abbey, originally built in the 9th century to house the skull of St. John the Baptist. The abbey’s towers provide a wonderful view of the town for those who aren’t afraid of heights!
A leisure area by the town’s lake offers a perfect spot for walks and picnics and features a small skate park. During the summer, canoes, kayaks and paddle boats are available for rental.
(25 km, 30 mins by car)
Saintes is a wonderful place to spend a day shopping, eating, sightseeing and relaxing. Once the Roman capital of the region, it is now the second largest city in the Charente-Maritime. Several Roman ruins remain, including the amphitheater built in 40-50 A.D. and the Arch of Germanicus, built in 18-19 A.D.
The Church of Saint-Eutrope, founded in 1081, was one of the key stops along the route of St Jacques de Compostelle. A UNESCO Heritage site, it has both Romanesque and Gothic architecture and houses one of the largest crypt vaults in Europe.
Saintes has a beautiful old town center with boutiques, restaurants and bars as well as a modern commercial center with larger stores such as Maisons du Monde and Galleries Lafayette.
A fresh fruit and vegetable market is held every day of the week except Monday in a different location in town.
Both children and adults will enjoy the Public Garden, which boasts a playground, skate park, farm animal pen, café and plenty of spots for picnics.
Each year in mid-July, the Festival de Saintes offers 30 classical music concerts organized around the city.
(25 km, 30 mins by car)
Lovers of cognac and those who are interested in learning more about this famous brandy should not miss a visit to the town of Cognac.
The large producers — Hennessy, Martell, Rémy Martin and Courvoisier (the latter is located in nearby Jarnac) –account for more than 80% of worldwide sales. For a fee, all offer tours and tastings which can be booked via their websites.
Those looking to taste cognac from smaller producers will find no shortage of distilleries in the countryside between our Maison and the town of Cognac.
In addition to the large cognac houses, Cognac’s ‘old town’ features medieval buildings dating back to the 12th century. The modern area of Cognac is bustling with shops, cafés, a covered market and a public garden.
The Fête du Cognac, a three-day food, wine and cognac festival, takes place in July, as does the Cognac Blues Passions festival, a week-long series of concerts with blues, jazz, soul, pop and rock musicians from around the world.
Rochefort, Royan and La Rochelle
(55 – 85 km,
60-75 mins by car)
Rochefort is a naval town located on the Charente estuary, 16km (10 miles) from the coast. Attractions include the National Marine Museum, The Museum of Naval Aviation, and the Hermione, a replica of the frigate that carried General Lafayette to fight in the American Revolution against the British in 1779. Made from 400,000 individual pieces of wood and taking 17 years to complete, in 2015 it retraced General Lafayette’s journey to America before returning to Rochefort.
The Charente estuary has multiple marked hiking and cycling trails. The area is also the largest oyster cultivation area in all of Europe. More than 100 oyster farms can be found on either side of the Charente river. Bon appétit!
Royan’s sandy beaches and quiet bay make it an ideal seaside town. Up until the 1940s, it was a favorite of artists and authors, including Picasso and Zola. During WWII, the town was heavily bombed by Allied forces. Fortunately, many of the Belle Epoque villas from the 1800s remained undamaged, and they line the beautiful walking and cycling path across from the main beach, La Grande Conche.
Besides the stunning ocean views, one of the first sites visitors will notice is the silhouette of the brutalist cathedral, Notre Dame de Royan, built entirely of raw concrete in the 1950s.
La Rochelle is the capital of the Charente-Maritime and was one of France’s greatest port cities from the 14th – 17th centuries. Known as La Ville Blanche for its beautiful limestone buildings, the city boasts fine examples of medieval and Renaissance architecture.
Visitors should not miss the Vieux Port, whether to dine at its seafood restaurants, admire the picturesque views, or catch a boat to the neighboring islands. La Rochelle has no shortage of attractions, from museums to the Parc Charruyer to outdoor shopping arcades to the aquarium.