Poitou Charentes

Poitou Charentes, France

Halfway down France's Atlantic coast, Poitou-Charentes is a hidden gem. Aside from the celebrated, rocky beauty of La Rochelle and the wine-soaked area around Bordeaux, the region has much to offer in the way of low-key charm.

Make a trip inland and you quickly find yourself in la France profonde: lost villages peopled by farmers and wine-producers, whose homes are swathed in geraniums. Towns like Angloulême and Saintes give visitors a taste of daily life for rural communities, where agriculture dominates and few concessions are made to tourists.

The more obvious tourist attractions include local folklore festivals, vintage car rallies and medieval ceremonies that bring the past vividly to life - especially throughout the summer. Meanwhile, blues festivals liven up town centres while at the other extreme stands Futuroscope, Poitiers' relentlessly modern technology theme park.

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