France is a country that is as proud of its history as it is of embracing modernity. You can view the latest fashions on the catwalks or see traditional costumes being worn at cultural celebrations. You can enjoy fine dining in world class restaurants, or follow age old traditions, such as joining locals on the beach to collect shellfish at low tide. Luxury yachts sit adjacent to traditional fishing vessels in the harbours and modern architecture can be seen in the same towns as churches and châteaux that are hundreds of years old.
If you are looking for a world famous town in Western France that has a rich historic past, then Cognac will make a good day out. Positioned between La Rochelle and Bordeaux, in the Poitou Charente region, Cognac is surrounded by agricultural countryside. As you near the town, the grazing cattle and crops are replaced by rows of vineyards.
Cognac was originally an important town for the trade of salt, but its best known export is the grape based brandy named after the town. Cognac was initially produced over 300 years ago as a medicinal drink to prevent scurvy. Once double distilled, it was more compact and easier to store and transport than wine. The drink gained popularity around the world and brought economic prosperity to the town.
Cognac’s old town is full of medieval timber framed buildings that used to house the distillery workers. You can see some great examples along the Rue Grande. There are a number of guided tourist routes around the city including ‘Parcours du Roy’ which takes visitors to key areas of the salt and brandy trade including the blackened warehouses down by the River Charente.
For something completely different, the ‘Savoir-fare et des Hommes’ is a route around the studios of local artists and makers that live in the town. These routes, along with a number of others, are marked with signposts and include information on each key point of the tour.
At the Tourist Information Centre you can get information on trips to local vineyards where you can taste and buy Cognac direct from the producers. You can also buy tickets for a river trip on a Gabarre, a traditional flat bottomed boat. These vessel were widely used to transport salt and Cognac, but now provide tourists with great views of the town.
Cognac is a two hour drive south from our Les Conches campsite. It makes for an interesting day out, but could also be a good place to stop and stretch your legs on route to our Biscarrosse campsite, which is also approximately two hours away.
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