Charente-Maritime: Saintes & Royan

Travelling a little further south of La Rochelle and still in the department of Charente-Maritime, there is the town of Saintes.

Galo-Roman Amphitheatre

There you can visit the Gallo-Roman Amphitheatre or make a visit to the “Abbaye aux Dames”, which has been converted into a “Cité Musicale” where “initiatory or heroic journeys” are narrated through music. Another nice activity to do in the surroundings is hiking. At the end of this article you will find a link with some ideas.

One village that left me open-mouthed is Saint Savinien, as it has a lot of charisma with its little houses on the banks of the river and surrounded by nature.

Saint Savinien

Two nearby sites are the “Château de la Roche Courbon” and the village of Saint Porchaire.

Before heading further south, I would also recommend a quick visit to the “Château de Crazannes”.

The next stop is Royan: a seaside resort with Belle Époque houses and other houses with architecture from the 50’s (what is known as post-war or modernist). You can walk along the Boulevard Frédéric-Garnier and see the “Villas de la Belle Époque” that surrounds the Concha beach. At the end of this article you will find another link in French about these houses.

Cabanes à Carrelet

If you walk along the promenade, you will see typical fishermen’s houses called “Cabanes à Carrelet”, which have become a symbol of the region. You can also enjoy sunsets on the beach and surfers taking advantage of the last waves of the day.

Sunset in Royan

The 64 m high “Faro de la Coubre” will not leave you indifferent, it was built in 1904 and can be reached by bike from a path or by car. It can only be visited during one period of the year (check opening hours before visiting). I didn’t have time to go up, but the views from the top are promising and it is considered a “Historical Monument”.

Lighthouse of la Coubre

History of Saintes and Royan

The “Amphitheater of Saintes” is one of the oldest built in Gaul in AD 40-50.

It held some 15,000 spectators, as Saintes was at the height of its splendour as the capital of ancient Aquitaine. Inside the amphitheatre there are two gates: one for the living and the other for the dead, which makes one imagine the violent gladiatorial performances that took place there.

Hiking in the area around Saintes

Coming back to Royan, I would like to tell you about this city & the period of ‘Belle Époque’ (period between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century). There is even an association that brings together those who are passionate about Royan from 1879-1914 (I leave you another link at the end of the article).

At that time, France was undergoing the most important cultural and technical changes in its history: the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1889, the appearance of the Lumière Cinematograph and the creation of the Law on the Separation of Church and State. The Belle Époque ended in 1914, the year in which the First World War broke out.

Royan Beach

During this time, Royan became a modern town, which attracted personalities from the world of culture or from the Parisian or Bordeaux bourgeoisie. At the beginning of the Second World War, it was already an internationally renowned seaside resort, with celebrities such as Picasso, the Russian playwright Sacha Guitry and the photographer and writer Lartigue walked along the beaches of Royan.

Gastronomy of Charente Maritime

  1. In this area you will find “Le Bassin de Marennes” which is the oyster capital of Europe. Between Saintes and Royan you can stop in “Le Gua” to eat local oysters, for example in the local “Huitres Demoustier”. There are other products of the region like the snails “Cagouilles à la charentaise”, the “Manslois” which is a typical cheese, or the caviar which is eaten with cognac, etc. I leave you another link at the end of the article which speaks in French about these specialities …and more!
Seafood in Charente Maritime

2.In Royan there is a huge variety of seafood restaurants, such as the local mussels “moule de bouchot” or a type of shrimp called “crevette impériale des marais”.

3.The restaurant of the “Relais du Bois Saint Georges” in Saintes and its gastronomic cuisine at a good price.

Relais du Bois Saint Georges

Other addresses

  1. Le “Relais du Bois Saint Georges” in Saintes, I was lucky enough to stay in this charming hotel, surrounded by swans and enjoy its indoor swimming pool.

2.The Church of St. Eutrope and its chapel in Saintes.

3.The “Hotel Cordouan de Thalassotherapie” offers the possibility to enjoy the Spa and a good restaurant near the beach. If you stay in one of its rooms, asks for one views to the sea and walk around the back of the hotel to look out over the Atlantic Ocean.

Useful links:

  1. Hiking:
  2. Villas Belle Époque :
  3. Asociation Belle Époque in Royan:
  4. Gastronomy of Charente :

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