Marennes beach – for when the tide is out!

Marennes beachIf the children are in the mood for some beach time but the tide is out along the coast, then the beach at Marennes (plage de Marennes) is a good place to head to.

With sand dunes cutting it off from the estuary beyond, it’s unaffected by tides and is wave free, and has great views of both the bridge to Ile d’Oléron and La Tremblade. And although it does not boast long stretches of golden sand, we found that the slightly muddier shade of sand is just as good for making sandcastles. In fact, the sand is cleaned twice a week, with rubbish collected daily. Fresh seawater is pumped in regularly to ensure the water quality stays good.

About 800 metres between its longest points – a good swimmer could swim across, unhindered by boats – the water is shallow for quite some metres from the beach, making it perfect for young children – and it is very much a beach for children although there are quieter areas at the southern end.

The northern end is where it is busiest, and here you’ll find the lifeguard station which is manned during the summer months of June – September. There’s also a café, as well as a children’s playground with trampolines, bouncy castles and other games (it costs €3.50 per child for unlimited time).

Heading south along the beach, cross the road to another café and toilets. Further down is the L’aromate restaurant (tel 05 16 84 97 00) serving traditional French food. There is a fair amount of parking on the road bordering the beach, with more around a bend and by the commune’s swimming pool at the northern end.

As with most beaches, it gets busy from about 3.30pm when many French families come for a relaxed late afternoon time – but not with their dogs, which are not allowed.

Plage de Marennes, avenue William Bertrand (D728E); it is signposted from the main roundabout on the D728. 


Speedy boat trips from La Rochelle on the Haka

Haka boat trip La RochelleIf you enjoy speed and the tang of sea spray in your face when you take to the waves, then look no further than the Haka, a rigid-hulled inflatable boat that plies its trade out of La Rochelle and the Île-de-Ré.

This fast 9.9 metre long craft, made by British firm XS Ribs, is powered by two 250cc Yamaha engines and can reach speeds of up to 50 knots – that’s 90km/h!

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What’s on in August

sanxay-scene_mIt’s high summer and there’s a packed programme of events going on in August. If you’re staying along the coast, look out for sardinades and mouclades, celebratory feasts of sardines and mussels. And with a public holiday on August 15, keep an eye out for firework displays.

There’s also a number of big festivals from the folklorique Festival de Confolens to a festival celebrating sculpting in wood, a book festival and stirring performances of Verdi’s Nabucco opera in the Gallo-Roman theatre of Sanxay (pictured). See our Summer Festival guide for more details.

And here’s our pick of local events…

Guided visits in English of the pretty village of Villebois Lavalette (16320)
Throughout August
Mondays at 3.15pm: chateau. Starts at the chateau, and lasts 1h15
Mondays at 2.30pm: village and chateau. Starts at the tourist office, and lasts 2 hours.
Wednesdays and Fridays at 11am: village and chateau. Starts at the tourist office, and lasts 2 hours.
More information

Falconry displays at the ruined Château de St Germain de Confolens (16500)
Sundays and Mondays at 5pm until August 18.
Tickets: adults €5 and children 3 – 12 years €3.
More information

Torchlight tour, in French, of Montbron (16220)
Discover the village and its history. Starts at 9.30pm from the tourist office.
Tickets cost €2.50; chidlrne under 12 free.
More information

L’Audacieuse at Dampierre sur Boutonne (17470)
August 7 – 10
In memory of the Great War, this show has been choreographed by the celebrated stunt rider, Mario Luraschi. It features 50 equines, including the Poitou donkey, as well as 10 stunt riders and 60 other riders.
More information: the show is part of Sites en Scène.

International showjumping at Chalais (16210)
August 7 – 10
See more than 1000 French and international showjumpers compete in the popular annual festival at la Pree.
More information

Saveurs Nocturnes at Aulnay de Saintonge (17470)
August 8
Enjoy a huge open-air evening feast, with food provided by local producers.

Les Eurochestries at Barbezieux Saint Hilaire (16300)
August 8
At the church Saint Mathias, a series of concerts performed by musicians aged 15 – 15 years of age. This is just one of many concerts throughout the region.
More information

Fête de la mer at La Tremblade (17390)
August 9
From 2pm, all sorts of nautical activies and games, including a parade of decorated boats at the port. Fireworks at 11pm.

Fête du vent at Villefagnan (16240)
August 10, 9am – 8pm
Horse-drawn plough compeitions, exhibition of mid-10th century harvesters, working windmill and more…

Brocante and Regatta at Vieux Chapus, Bourcefranc-le-Chapus (17560)
August 11
Huge brocante and then in the afternoon a parade of boats.

Regatta at St Trojan-les Bains (17411)
August 11
Annual race amongst traditional boats, from those used in the fishing and oyster industries.
They set sail at 4.30pm. At the end of the day, they will parade in the port; this will be followed by a mussels feast and then a concert.

Salt festival at Port des Salines (17370)
August 12
Between 11am- 7pm there are guided visits to the salt marshes of the marais salt, as well as workshops for children. See the salt being harvested and buy it direct. From 7pm enjoy oysters and mussels, the feating followed by fireworks.

Night market with fireworks at Verteuil sur Charente (16510)
August 14, 6pm – 11.45pm
Go shopping for local produce and crafty creations at this lovely village, and then enjoy the fireworks.

Torchlight procession and fireworks at Les Portes en Re (17800)
August 14
Rendezvos at 9.45pm for the torchlight procession through the village. At 10.30pm there are fireworks to music, followed by live music and the sale of lanterns.

Foire des oignons at Thairé (17290)
August 14 & 15
It all starts with an evening meal – expect an onion theme! – and music on the Thursday. The big day is Friday with a vide grenier, artisans’ market, events and music all day.

Fête de l’oie at Courcoury (17100)
August 15
A celebration of the goose, which includes a procession of the birds between 3pm and 4pm. There’s also a food and crafts market, a vide-grenier and music in the afternoon.

Fête de Notre Dame en L’Isle at St Georges d’Oleron (17190)
All day brocante, vide-greneier, boules tournaments, dog obedience shows and donkey rides. Live music in the evening, followed by fireworks.

Festival de Jazz au Phare at the lighthouse at St Clement des Baleines (17590)
August 18 – 20
Jazz concerts at the lighthouse; 7pm – 8.15pm and 11pm – 12.15am. Tickets from the tourist office.

Festival du film de plein air
August 20 – 23 at Le Domaine du Meunier
This charming B&B organises an annual open-air film with food festival. Screenings and meals at 7.30pm.
See the programme

Festival des Lumières at Montmorillon (86500)
A varuiety of artistic events from music, theatre, dance, to circus acts, puppetry and story-telling, all performed in a former monastery hospital. Children’s events in the afternoon are free.
More information

Wine and food fair at Puymoyen
August 23 & 24
Not just food and wine, but also vintage machinery on Saturday, bric-a-brac market on Sunday plus lots of activities for children too.

La Fête du Safran at Champniers, 16430
August 23
Annual festival celebrating this spice which many centuries ago was an important part of the local economy. It starts at 9am with a visit to a saffron field, with lucnh at 12.30pm. There are also stalls selling saffron products.

Festi’Classique at Cognac (16100)
August 30- September 12
Enjoy many different types of music, from classical to flamenco, at a series of historic venues, all of which are connected to the drink, cognac. After each performance a cocktail will be served.
More information