The Poitou-Charentes region of France
The Poitou-Charentes region is to the extreme west of central France. Its borders include the region of Pays-de-la-Loire to the northwest, the region of Centre to the north, Limousin to the east, Aquitaine to the south and southeast and the Atlantic Ocean’s Bay of Biscay to the west. The departments of the region of Poitou-Charentes include Deux-Serves, Vienne, Charente and Cherente-Maritime. Poitou-Charente’s capital is the city of Poitiers.
A range of mountains known as the Massif Central run through the southeast of the Poitou-Charentes region like the Massif Armoricain, which reaches into the northwestern part of the region. The population in these areas is centered in villages that are encircled by open fields along with scattered farms and a spread out rural population. The land in between the two Massifs is low level country that carries the Clain and Vienne rivers. The plains on the coastline of the Poitou-Charentes are relatively level.
Poitou-Charentes is interspersed with a number of notable towns like Niort, which is the town where the woman who secretly married King Louis XIV was born. Angouleme is built on a high flatland above the Charente River and an embankment that was built for defensive purposes surrounds it. Chatellerault is a city that was the home of the famous philosopher Descartes as well as the location of a 10th century castle. Thermal springs are the boasts of Rochefort while the monuments in Saintes date back to the Roman occupation of its city. Cognac is where King Francois I was born and where the highly valued distilled brandy is produced.
The control over the region of Poitou-Charentes has switched hands between the French and the English a number of times over the years. France’s Eleanor of Aquitaine’s dowry included Aquitaine and other lands. When she married Henry II of England, he received the appreciable dowry including Aquitaine. Phillip Augustus and Louis VIII took the land back during the first part of the 13th century and it was ruled by Louis IX’s brother as the Count of Poitiers from 1241. The region of Poitou-Charentes was united with the French Crown during the 1270’s.
After the French were defeated by the English at the Battle of Poitiers in the 1350’s, the treaties of Calais and Bretigny surrendered the region back to the English. In 1423, the area was taken back by France again under the rule of Charles V. The French and the English continued to engage in conflict over the years with the region remaining under French rule.
The economy of the Poitou-Charentes region is reliant on agriculture and the production of crops like corn, wheat and cattle. The industries of the region manufacture chemicals, machinery and process dairy products.
The gastronomy of the Poitou-Charentes is heavily based in seafood. Specialties of the region include escargots made in wine, mussels marinated in white wine or cooked in heavy cream sauce and fish soup with white wine. Other regional specialties include Poitou-Charentes butter, Poitou lamb and Chabichou. The Poitou-Charentes region is also well known for its production of Cognac. This very special beverage is a purified liquid produced by condensation from a vapor during distilling and can fall into a number of different categories of value depending on the amount of time the Cognac has spent maturing in oak cylindrical containers.
Natural landscapes and outstanding architecture alone made the Poitou-Charentes region worth visiting, but the region offers visitors so much more. From its extensive history visible throughout the land to the local cuisine, the Poitou-Charentes region provides something new in each unique location within its borderlines.