Cognac Tourist Attractions
120km/75mi north of Bordeaux is Cognac (pop. 19,525), in which Jean Martell, a native of Jersey, settled in 1715. He was followed by an Irish soldier named Hennessy, Baron Otard and others. The main features of interest in Cognac itself are the picturesque old town, which preserves a number of 17th and 18th C. mansions, the Château des Valois (13th-14th and 16th C.) and the Romanesque/Gothic church of St-Léger. Another attractive possibility is a drive around for example to Merpins, with remains of the Roman town of Condate, Châteauneuf sur Charente with its beautiful Romanesque church or the former river port of Port-Hublé.Information on visits can be obtained from the Office de Tourisme, Place J.-Monnet in the town of Cognac.
Aulnay (pop. 1,500) lies on the old pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela. The magnificent Romanesque church of St-Pierre has a handsome tower and steeple, a richly sculptured west doorway and fine capitals. In the churchyard is a 15th C. cross.
The little town of Brouage (pop. 500), situated in an area of marshland, was built between 1630 and 1640. It is a fine example of a fortified town of the pre-Vauban period, with seven bastions and 13 m/40ft high walls pierced by two gates.
Rochefort (pop. 32,700), 15km/9mi above the mouth of the Charente, was founded by Colbert in 1666 as a naval port and is now recognized as a spa town. The writer Pierre Loti (1850- 1923), a former naval officer, was born in the town, and his birthplace is now a museum displaying the "splendors of foreign lands". The imposing Arsenal, built in 1690, has a monumental entrance, the Porte du Soleil, which dates only from 1830. In Place Colbert are a handsome fountain of 1750, the Town Hall and the church of St- Louis (1672). In the west of the town is the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire de la Ville, in the Hôtel des Cheusses the Musée de la Marine (17th and 18th C. ship models,charts, etc.).
The seaside resort of Royan (pop. 17,210) was almost completely destroyed during World War II but was rebuilt in modern style. It is one of the many popular resorts with beautiful beaches on the "Côte de Beauté", which extends from the Gironde estuary to the Avert peninsula; among the others are St-Georges-de-Didonne, Meschers, St-Palais, Vaux-sur-Mer, La Palmyre and Ronce-les-Bains.The reinforced concrete Cathedral was designed by the architects Gilles and Hébrard and built in 1955-1958. Only the Pontaillac quarter in the west of the town preserves something of the tranquil atmosphere of old Royan.
The river Charente winds its way for 360km/225mi through the old provinces of Angoumois and Saintonge before flowing into the Atlantic. Between Angoulême and Saintes it forms a valley just under 100km/60mi long, lined with interesting towns and churches like Bassac Abbey, the churches of Chaniers, Châteauneuf-sur-Charente and Châtres (all charming Romanesque buildings), the town of Cognac, the Château and dolmen of Garde- Epée, Jarnac and the fine Romanesque church of Trois- Palis.