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Poitou-Charentes

Poitou-Charentes is a largely unspoilt and very peaceful region, midway on the Western coast of France. Bustling resorts and sandy beaches are spread out on the Atlantic coastline. The region includes several islands like the Ile de Re and Ile de’Oleron, both popular for oyster fishing. Admirers of architecture would have plenty to explore here, as Poitou-Charentes has a rich abundance of historical monuments and coastal fortifications. Poitiers played a crucial role in the conflicts involving Western Christianity and the Muslims. In 732, Charles Martel’s troops defeated Arab invaders, and thus which prevented further invasions by Arab and North African rulers. With the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to King Louis VII in 1137, Poitou Charentes was brought under the French crown. The divorce that followed and the subsequent marriage with an English king, brought the region to the English. In 1224 Poitou again joined the French crown. Poitou-Charentes played a significant role in the Wars of Religion. Calvin’s Reformation Doctrine succeeded in converting the people of La Rochelle and Poitiers. The Edict of Nantes, which granted worship freedom to Protestants in 1598, was withdrawn in 1685, leading to mass emigration from the region.

La Rochelle, also located in Poitou-Charentes, is one of the most attractive towns of France. The picturesque old harbor has two towers at its entrance – the Nicholas Tower and the Tower of Chain You can observe the boats enter or leave the port through the two towers. The arcaded streets and the houses made of locally available light stones provide for quite a unique combination. The impressive La Rochelle aquarium is housed in a modern glass building and located on the harbor. With 70 different sections, the aquarium has over 12,000 marine animals and 20 species of sharks, which are truly the highlight of the visit. The natural history museum here exhibits collections associated with the 19th century French explorers. The well-preserved first giraffe of France, which was presented in 1826 to Charles X is seen here. There is also an unidentified and ambiguous beast Himantolophus Reinhardtu which has been a source of inspiration for several alien portrayal.

Ile de Re is a 30 km long island, which is a popular tourist attraction. The island has sandy beaches on its Southwest side and salt and oyster beds on its Northeast coast. It can be reached by crossing a toll bridge at the Northwest of La Rochelle. Saint Martin de Re is an attractive harbor town on the island with many of its buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The town is also known for its fortifications, located along the sea line and in its interior as well. The fortifications are about 2 meters thick and 8 meters high, extending for about 12 km. The island of Ile de’Oleronis is a notable summer destination and is accessible from the mainland by a 3-km bridge. The Saumonards forest and the Saint Trojan forest provide an opportunity to escape from the crowds.

Cognac is a popular town known for its brandy produced in the region. The Cognac Old Town has several 15th to 18th century houses and several brandy maturing warehouses, located along its narrow cobbled streets. There are several museums in Cognac, including the Arts and History Museum, The St. Gobain Glass Works Museum and a museum on the arts of Cognac. Angouleme town in the Charente region has large boulevards surrounding a rocky promontory. The Saint Peter Cathedral which is about 900 years old has 70 carvings portraying the story of Ascension. The cathedral has undergone major alterations, however. An international comic festival is held every January in the town, which is probably why cartoon style paintings can be seen all across town.

The administrative capital Poitiers is another medieval city with a long history. The Saint Pierre Cathedral has an enormous 18th century organ, while the Saint Jean Baptistery of the 4th century is France’s oldest Christian monument. There is also a baptism pool and elegant 12th century frescoes inside.