France: the unknown ‘La Nouvelle Aquitaine’

The La Nouvelle Aquitaine region is located in the southwest of France and known for its Pineau de Charente, Cognac and melon Charentais. In 2016, Aquitaine, Limousin and Poitou-Charentes were merged into one. The region around Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion, with its beautiful extensive vineyards and numerous Chateaux, is probably known to many wine lovers. But several villages and towns in the region are worth a visit.

Angouleme

Angoulème, with its remparts, towers over the landscape on top of a rock. The stately city watches over the Charente and its surroundings. Lovers of art and history will find something to their liking here. After all, Angoulème is the French capital of comic strips and the Salon de la Bande Dessinée takes place here at the end of January. There are plenty of restaurants and terraces here and when you stroll between the alleys, you will notice the mansions with painted walls. You imagine yourself in a Lucky Luke or Tintin story. By the way, Hergé has his own street and a statue here. Those who fancy this can visit the paper museum ‘Le Nil’. In the center you can stroll through the shopping street and take a look at the indoor shopping center ‘Champ de Mars’. On warm summer days it is pleasant to spend time at the lake ‘La Grande Prairie’ in Yrieix, where water sports enthusiasts can indulge themselves. And don’t forget: Angoulème is known for its annual ‘Circuit des Remparts’, a vintage street race with old cars. As you can see, there is something for everyone here.

Aubeterre-sur-Dronne

The cozy Aubeterre belongs to ‘Les plus beaux villages de France’ and is located on the road to Santiago de Compostela. The most imposing building in the village is the 12th century ‘Saint-Jean Church’. The monolithic church is carved out of a rock and attracts many curious pilgrims. Several alleys depart from ‘Place Ludovic Trarieux’, leading to artisan shops with ceramics, jewelry, accessories and antiques. In the upper town is the Romanesque church ‘Eglise Saint-Jacques’ with its bell tower. The ‘Ancien Couvent des Minimes’ now serves as a retirement home and the chapel of the old monastery can be visited. The tall houses with their wooden balconies overlook the river at the back. When you descend the streets, you come to the Dronne where you can kayak, swim or enjoy a homemade picnic. In short: all the ingredients are here to relax.

Ribérac

Located just on the border with the Dordogne, Ribérac is well known among tourists. The weekly market on Friday morning attracts many people from the surrounding area. You can find all kinds of regional products such as foie gras, truffle from the Perigord and confit de canard. It can be quite busy, but don’t let that discourage you. There is a southern atmosphere and for a moment you feel like you are in Provence.

Montmoreau-Saint Cybard

You can also relax in the smaller villages such as Montmoreau, located among the sunflower fields. The eye-catchers are the castle and the 12th century Romanesque church. You can spend the night at B&B ‘Les Mirandes’, for example, which is located on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route. There is still an authentic large wooden cross on their property that symbolizes hospitality.

Villebois-Lavalette

Villebois is located on a hill and when you enter you immediately arrive at the ‘Place des Halles’. Here you will find the beautiful 17th century covered market, where you can relax on a cozy terrace. The ‘Grand Rue’ leads to the 19th century ‘Eglise Saint-Romain’. The 10th century castle with its seven round towers can also be visited. From the fortresses you have a panoramic view over the endless grain fields. To visit the castle, it is best to inquire at the tourist office in Villebois itself. Adventurers can enjoy a drink in ‘Café de la Réunion’. Nearby, in Magnac-Lavalette, you will find the ‘Chateau de la Mercerie’. The facade is surprising, which is almost a copy of Versailles.

Brantome

Brantôme is located on the Dronne and is called the Venice of the Perigord. The old center is surrounded by water and you can stroll through the narrow streets. The biggest sights are the abbey and ‘Le jardin des moines’. This town is included in the guide of ‘Les plus beaux detours’ and is highly recommended!

Sarlat

Sarlat is known as the pearl of the Perigord-Nord and is located in the center of the Dordogne region. On Wednesdays and Saturdays you can visit the weekly market, with its wide range of regional products, located on the ‘Place du Marché-aux-Oies’. The image of the goose on the square is a reminder of the former goose market. The ‘Eglise Ste-Marie’ was partly demolished in the 19th century and has also been converted into a market hall. A little further on you can visit the ‘Maison de la Boétie’, the birthplace of the French writer Etienne de la Boétie. The ‘Fontaine Ste-Marie’ is located in a cool cave and offers some refreshment in the summer. In the ‘Rue des Consuls’, the typical mansions refer to the architectural style between the 14th and 17th centuries. Tip: visit Sarlat in the low season to avoid the crowds.

The climate

La nouvelle Aquitaine has 30% more hours of sunshine than in Belgium and the Netherlands. This creates a pleasant climate.

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