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What to see and do in Cognac and close by

Once described by 16th century French monarch Henri IV as 鈥榯he most beautiful river in the kingdom鈥, the Charente meanders leisurely through some of the most picturesque countryside in western France before merging seamlessly with the Atlantic near Rochefort.

Along the way, this tranquil waterway passes through heritage towns and quiet villages, each one tempting the visitor to stop, slow down a gear and just soak up the atmosphere of sunflowers, orchards and historic stones, not to mention some of the world鈥檚 most famous vineyards. This is Cognac country, where AOC vineyards split into six areas or crus produce iconic brand names prized by connoisseurs.

Where to say in Cognac

And at the heart of this idyllic landscape stands , a luxury farmhouse g卯te rated four-star by the Office de Tourisme Charente. Sleeping 8 guests in 4 bedrooms, this character property is located in the quiet Charentais village of Louzignac, just minutes from the market towns of Rouillac and Matha, and just 20 minutes from Cognac. The perfect base for an authentic French holiday that can be as active or passive as you please.

Dating from the 1840s, No.22 Cognac is set in its own secluded garden enclosed by stone walls and with exclusive use of a heated outdoor pool. A sunny terrace and barbecue area are perfect for casual evenings at home, whilst celebrity chef Jean-Yves Corvez runs a restaurant nearby 鈥 La Table du Chef Corvez – which is perfect for those evenings when you fancy a culinary treat.

Farmhouse owners Paul and Carolyn Saunders make sure that guests have everything they need to enjoy their holiday, starting with a hamper of local produce and cooking essentials on arrival. There are pool towels and robes, garden furniture, and a wealth of information on what to see and do in the area from vineyard visits to markets, cultural sites to restaurants and leisure facilities.

What to see and do in Cognac

The choice is not what to do, but what to do first. Big local must-do is Cognac itself, just a short drive from your holiday farmhouse. Big name brands here include Martell and Remy Martin and cellar tours and other experiences can be booked ahead on line. But if you have no particular brand loyalty, maybe head to Baron Otard in the Ch芒teau de Cognac castle for a slug of history with your tipple. Renaissance king Fran莽ois 1 was born here in 1494 and Richard the Lionheart stayed at the castle when he came to bless the wedding of his illegitimate son Philip of Cognac. Take a tour of the Cognac museum and discovery centre too and perhaps a tranquil river cruise. Also on the Charente and less than half an hour from No.22 Cognac is Jarnac, headquarters of Courvoisier and Hine.

What to do near Cognac

Drive north for half an hour from No.22 Cognac and you come to St-Jean-d鈥橝ngely, where the towers of the unfinished Royal Abbey can be seen from miles around. Wander the lanes of the old town with their narrow alleys and medieval houses, and visit on Wednesday and Saturday mornings to stock up on fresh local produce at the market. A real feast for the senses.

Back on the banks of the Charente, just south No.22 Cognac, three other towns are a must-do for anyone who loves history, heritage, and a hefty dose of local lifestyle. Just 40 minutes to the east lies 础苍驳辞耻濒锚尘别, internationally known as the capital of France鈥檚 thriving BD industry. BD? That鈥檚 the acronym for Bande Dessin茅e or comic strip, a hugely popular French art form that is celebrated in a riverside museum. Explore the elegant streets of the hilltop upper town, follow the street art trail, and check out the treasures of Saint-Pierre Cathedral.

Follow the Charente west from Cognac and you come to Saintes, a market town since Roman times that still boasts an amphitheatre dating from around 50AD during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Discover the town鈥檚 beautiful churches, great shops and 鈥 of course 鈥 another excellent market.

From Saintes, the Charente turns north towards Rochefort, a stylish town that has plenty to occupy visitors for a packed day out. An hour鈥檚 drive from No.22, this once sleepy village was transformed in the 1660s to the Royal Dockyards for 鈥楽un King鈥 Louis XIV. Visit the Corderie Royale or Royal Rope Factory, a 鈥榁ersailles-style鈥 building where long ropes were produced for rigging war ships. Discover the story behind the replica 18th century frigate Hermione 鈥 maybe even see her in dock 鈥 and take a trip down Memory Lane at the Mus茅e des Commerces d鈥橝utrefois.聽 And if you can鈥檛 resist a garden, stroll through the public gardens of exotic plants brought back by expedition ships, as well as France鈥檚 national begonia conservatory. First landed in Rochefort by plant hunters seeking new specimens, the species was named after Monsieur B茅gon, local superintendent for the king.

Whether you fancy a busy day out or a low-key outing closer to base, guests at No.22 will find information and inspiration in the comprehensive guide prepared by Paul and Carolyn, and available on their website. Family-friendly destinations include the holiday resort of Royan, just over an hour away; boat trips along the river; and close-up encounters with gorgeous Poitou donkeys. Much larger than your average donkey, these adorable animals are always chocolate brown in colour with huge ears and thick woolly coats.

And if you can鈥檛 resist a theme park, this area has two of the best, both of them unique. Get up early for the 2-hour drive to Puy du Fou, a history park with lavish live shows involving everything from Roman gladiators to marauding Vikings, musketeers to birds of prey.

Or head to Futuroscope near Poitiers, around 90 minutes away by car, for an award-winning mix of multimedia, cinematography and audio-visual techniques. Expect outdoor thrill rides, 3D and 4D shows, and activities to suit visitors of all ages.

Then come back to for a swim in your private pool, an 补辫茅谤辞 on the garden terrace, and a convivial meal whilst you talk over today and make a plan for tomorrow. A holiday destination that should tick everyone鈥檚 boxes.

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