The Valley of Charente

The Charente valley has a place in my heart because it is the region of friends whom I love very much. When I visit the Charente, I feel at home and it is thanks to them (Marie-Thérèse, Alain, Alex, Clément and Dominique).

Besides nature and vineyards, in this area you can discover two remarkable cities such as Cognac and Angoulême.

The Valley of Charente

Angoulême is built on top of a hill, which gives a panoramic view if you visit the viewpoint at the “Place de New York”. Also from the restaurant “l’Alpha” the view is beautiful.

Cathedral and Museum of the City of Angouleme

Walking through the streets you can see some architectural gems such as the “Cathedral and the City Museum”, once a year the “Festival de la BD” takes place and Angouleme becomes the centre of reference for comic strips in France and Europe. There is also the “Musée de la BD” (comic book museum) although I never visited it.

Angouleme’s little streets

“Verteuil sur Charente ” is a small village north of Angoulême that I loved: the castle, the little houses and the picturesque views from the river.

A few kilometres from Verteuil is “Nanteuil en Vallée”, which is recognised as “Petite Cité de Caractère” and has a Monastery. Petite Cité de Caractère” is a recognition that some French villages have thanks to some kind of charm or monument that may interest the visitor.

Nanteuil en Vallée

The city of “Cognac” did not surprise me for its beauty but for its cognac culture; an art that can be appreciated in the golden vineyards that cover the landscape, the artisanal distilleries and the castles such as the famous “Cognac Museum”, as well as the “Cognathèques” (experience described below in the gastronomy section).

Not far from Cognac and in the direction to Saintes, I discovered the medieval village of “Saint Sauvant”, also known as “Petite Cité de Caractère”.

History of Cognac and Angouleme

I love the history around that drink, the “Cognac”, which has become a tradition in the area. Simple distillation arrived in Charente in the 15th century through the Dutch, which allowed the charentais wine to be better preserved during its transport to the Northern Kingdoms, where they called it “brandwijn” …does it reminds you something?This is the origin of the nowdays word “brandy”.

In the 18th century, double distillation appeared, which caused the alembics to be changed and the wine was aged in oak barrels, giving bitrh to the “Cognac” as we know it today.

What is the difference between brandy and cognac?

” Brandy” would generalize a type of drink and “Cognac” would be a type of Brandy that is only produced in the Cognac region in France (a bit like it happens with sparkling white wine and champagne made in the French region of Champagne). The zone was delimited and Cognac becomes a denomination of origin from the beginning of the 20th century.

Changing city and subject…

Why Angoulême has become the Comic Capital of Europe. Apparently it dates back to 1972, the year in which Francis Groux, who worked in the town hall, organized an exhibition around Claude Moliterni (comic writer, director and set designer) and that they called “Dix Millions d’Images”, which made many comic lovers come to the city. The following year another event was organized around literature and it also had a good success around Claude Moliterni. In 1974, several writers, including Moliterni, Francis Groux and Jean Mardikian, decided to finally create the festival.

Did you know that New York City before it was New York was called “New Angoulême”? Apparently a caravel called “La Dauphine” left Le Havre ( Normandy, North France) and arrived in 1524 to the land where New York is settled today, the explorer was called Giovanni da Verrazzano, sent by François I (Count of Angoulême before he became King of France). During all the time until the Dutch arrived and called it “New Amsterdam”, those lands were called “New France” and its city “New Angoulême” to honour François I.

I leave here an article for those who know French or you can look it up on wikipedia as “History of New York City”:


Gastronomy: Cognac everywhere

I already talked about the gastronomy of the Charente at the chapter of “la Rochelle”, so as Cognac is recognized as an ambassador of French gastronomy I would like to talk about my experience about how French they use Cognac in Charente.

At this region, many dishes and cocktails have cognac in their recipes, even desserts . Despite I am not used to take destilled alcohol drinks I had the interesting experience of tasting some pure cognac in a “cognatèque” (as it is something that can only be done here) and I strongly recommend it at Hôtel l’Yeuse.

What is a “cognathèque”? It consists of a library that contains a huge variety of different cognacs and allows you to taste them. It is interesting because the taste varies from one to another depending on the age (some are even 80 years old or more). If it is a “V.S.O.P.”, like the “Braastad” (5 years old) we will appreciate more the alcohol on the palate whereas an “XO” will have a slightly more background taste like the first crude “Cognac de Brillet” (25 years old).

In Angoulême I was fascinated by the “Les Halles” market. It is a building recognised as a “Monument Historique” (another architectural recognition in France) and I was not surprised. It was built by Edouard Warin who was also in charge of the construction of the “Halles Centrales de Paris”. Inside you can find all kinds of local products: cheeses, fruits, preserves, jams… a delight for the senses!

Other addresses

  1. On the outskirts of Cognac you can stroll through the domain of lush vegetation behind the building of the “Hotel L’Yeuse”, I loved this place: you can hear the birds from your room and you can enjoy a great view over the Charentais valley, the restaurant is part of the annual guide of “Les Collectioneurs” (, has an elegant decoration and a welcoming service.
Hotel L’Yeuse

2. The “Chateau de Maumont” is a charming hotel on the outskirts of the city of Angoulême where I was able to attend the wedding of a dear friend.

Chateau de Maumont

3.If we go a little further south we find the “Balade du Lac Bleu”. It is a hiking circuit in Guizengeard that leads to a turquoise blue lake.

Lac Bleu de Guizengeard

4. Other places on my list to visit when I return are the Thermes de Jonzac, Aubeterre sur Dronne… There are many beautiful places to visit in this area!

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