Discover the well kept secret of the chic Parisian set


When most people think of places in France, Paris, Provence and Normandy often spring to mind. Rather like in foodie terms it's nearly always croissants and cheese!

But I want to let you into a well kept secret of the chic Parisian set, an area that for decades has been their fashionable summer playground - the Charente Maritime - not least because of its special microclimate, it catches the Gulf Stream and boasts the second highest number of sunshine hours after the mediterranean region.

This sun-drenched corner of the southwest, famed for oysters, cognac and beaches frequently voted among the best in the country is also becoming a firm favourite for lucky people in the know and it is welcoming foreigners and foreign tourists, those seeking authenticity and real French charm.

It's a wonderfully diverse department with everything from the über chic Île de Ré, to adorable little oyster ports where you can stop by the side of the road and sip a glass of wine with a dozen oysters in what is essentially no more than a little wooden shack.

By contrast on the Île de Ré laid back luxury is the very essence of this idyllic little island where 50 miles of cycle paths criss-cross amongst vineyards, pine forests, sand dunes and oyster beds. With mile after mile of broad sandy beaches, it's a very fashionable holiday destination among chic Parisians that is now known as the French Hamptons.


This is the department where we swap the lavender fields of the south for the bright yellow sunflowers which dominate the landscape in the summer.

There are dense forest-backed surfing beaches on the Atlantic coast and stunning harbour towns and endless vineyards alongside the vast Gironde Estuary as you head down towards Bordeaux.

It is perfect cycling country with numerous little fishing villages where you can wander down to the dock and enjoy a coffee watching the boats bobbing up and down in the harbour. Or head slightly inland and you'll come across scores of pretty hamlets, hollyhock lined streets, cows grazing beside rivers and stunning chateaux.

In the autumn there is the grape harvest followed by short mild winters and before you know it, it's February, the daffodils and mimosa are on full show and the blossom season is starting. Winter is mercifully short and spring always comes early here!


For the city lover there are plenty of not to be missed places. The department's capital in the north, La Rochelle, is beautiful with an incredibly rich heritage. You can simply wander the ancient streets and walk amongst the arches. You can while away a few hours at a pavement café people watching, shop 'til you drop with all the big names or visit many of the wonderful museums.

The second biggest city in the department and one of the historically most important in south-west France is Saintes which dates back over 2000 years. This is where you'll find the wonderfully preserved Roman amphitheatre. Being able to walk down into the centre and stand where Gauls and Romans once stood in 40-50 A.D. leaves me speechless always and gives me slight goosebumps at the same time. Sitting on the banks of the River Charente, it's a beautiful city to wander around, with numerous restaurants, Galleries Lafayette department store, small boutiques, daily produce market and two stunning cathedrals, there's plenty waiting to be discovered!

The department is also easily accesible too with a great road network. There are fast train links from Paris, an international airport at La Rochelle linking many European cities and the much larger International airport in Bordeaux, a little over an hour to the south.

In short it's still a bit of a hidden gem with a slightly Mediterranean feel thanks to the architecture, the vineyards, the plant-life and the microclimate and I love it.

To witness this glorious region for yourself we invite you to stay in our guest cottage or join our week long guided tour this September, email us for full details. Or if you want to make this region a more permanent part of your own lifestyle and are ready to purchase property then we'd love to help you.

 We're always here to chat.  email :