La Rochelle hosts the Grand Pavois boat show

The Grand Pavois boat show

The Grand Pavois boat show in La Rochelle
© Gilles Delacuvellerie

If last weekend Rochefort staged a tribute to a bygone era of sailing with the first sea trials of the Hermione, then this week it’s the turn of boat enthusiasts to get a taste of the modern world of yachts and motorboats in the form of the Grand Pavois boat show at La Rochelle.

The Grand Pavois started as a modestly-sized show in 1973 and has gradually expanded to the point where it attracts more than 100,000 visitors a show. Continue Reading →


Hermione heads out to sea – finally!

Hermione cropped new_rounded_corners
After almost 20 long years of construction, of battles for funding and fears that this day may never come, L’ Hermione, the life-size replica of the frigate that took the Marquis de La Fayette to America in 1780 to fight in the War of Independence against the British, finally sailed out onto the open seas. With her towering masts and huge French flag flying proudly in the breeze, she was a splendid sight as she travelled down the River Charente estuary and into the Atlantic Ocean where she now begins two months of sea trials in preparation for the four week voyage to America planned for 2015.

More than 50,000 people gathered in Rochefort and along the River Charente to see her sail out today, Sunday, September 7. She left the commercial port of the famous naval town at 4pm, firing her canon in salute to those that had come to wish her well as she sailed down the river estuary.

Along with the celebratory mood that was also a feeling of relief that she had made it out today – organisers had planned for L’Hermione to depart her mooring at the Arsenal at Rochefort on Saturday afternoon. However, they hadn’t counted on the gates of the dock in which she was berthed had silted up with mud. It took 90 minutes to clear and by then the tide had turned and so it wasn’t until 12 hours later, at 4.45am, that was able to be towed out to the commercial port. There she was moored until the final stage of her journey to the ocean.

Watch the 4.45am launch here

Read more about the building of the Hermione

Main photograph courtesy of


What’s on in September 2014

Hermione-shipyard-Rochefort-Poitou-Charentes-France-Atlantic-Coast_largeIt’s a jam-packed month with something for everyone!

September 5 – 7
A three-day cultural extravaganza dedicated to street theatre, it is completely free. All over the town – on the streets, in town squares or even on a small section of pavement – artists transform public spaces into stages with theatre, dance, circus acts, concerts, puppet shows. See program…

September 5 – 7
MONTGOLFIADE, Thouars, Deux-Sèvres
Hot-ait balloons take to the skies plus a vide grenier, market and more. Find out more…

September 7
LE MARAIS EN FETE, Port Mauze-sur-le-Mignon, Deux-Sèvres
Around the theme, Circus in the Marais, there are shows, a walk, market, concerts, and exhibitions including one on photography of the Marais. From 11am. More info…

September 6&7
FÊTE DES PLANTES, Grosbot, Charente
In its fifth year, more than 20 nursery owners will be selling their plants. It’s on at the Parc colonial de Charras, Lieu dit, Grosbot, from 10am – 7pm. Entry is free.

September 7
FÊTE DES CHAMPS, Bernac, Charente
In its 25th anniversary, see old tractors, cultivators, harvesters and other farm machinery. Music from a folkloric band plus other entertainment. It’s on at Route de Montjean , Bernac, from 9am – 6pm.

September 7
FETE DU CHENAL DE LA CAYENNE, Marenne, Charente-Maritime
From 11am at the Port de la Cayenne, rides on oyster boats, bouncy castles for the children plus other entertainment, markets, local craftsmen and of course, oysters.

September 7
HERMIONE’S FIRST SEA VOYAGE, Rochefort, Charente-Maritime (pictured above left)
After more than 20 years, the recreation of the famous sailing ship heads out to sea for her first sea trial. She sets off at 3.30pm from Rochefort, taking three hours to reach l’île d’Aix via the Corderie Royale, Echillais, Soubise, Port-des-Barques et Fouras. To support her on her voyage, a human chain will be formed, and people are asked to wear blue and yellow, the colours of the frigate. More info…

September 7
FETES DES BATTAGES, Availles-en-Châtellerault, Vienne
Old farm machinery, demonstrations of traditional crafts, local farmers’ market with demonstrations of jam-making and other products. More info…

September 8 – 21
As part of an artists’ residency, six sculptors from around the world each have 12 days to create, in public, a sculpture on a set theme; this year it is freedom. Exhibitions, sales and a stone-carving workshop also feature in this festival. More info…

September 12 – 14
L’IMPRÉVU FESTIVAL, Montembouef, Charente
This unusual festival is for fans of the offbeat and different. For the past 10 years in the village of Montemboeuf, established artists and artists with mental disabilities have come together for a rich and innovative programme of events. One hundred artists, both disabled and not, stage a variety of performances including choir concerts, theatre, musical acts, dance, and exhibitions… All done in a spirit of cheekiness and fun.

September 13 & 14
MEDIEVAL WEEKEND, St Germain de Seudre, Charente-Maritime
Archery, sword fights, the making of chainmail coats and other medieval crafts plus a farmners market at the park within the Domain du Seudre. From Saturday at 2pm, and between 10am-6pm on Sunday. Admission: €5

September 13 – 15
Chamber music festival with concerts performed by international artists. Music by a variety of composers. More info…

Le Grand Pavois
La Rochelle, September 17 – 22, 2014
Europe’s largest in-water boat show with more than 100,000 visitors and 700 boats (with more than 300 in the water). The 100,000 square metre exhibition is split into several themed areas and there is also a packed programme of water-based events.

September 19 – 21
CIRCUIT DES REMPARTS, Angoulême, Charente
First staged back in 1939, the weekend-long events sees classic cars hurtling around the ancient, twisting roads of this pretty hill-top town. The demanding course with its right-angle bends and hairpin turns,hasn’t changed since that first race and it is one of the very few motor races to take place within the walls of a town. The weekend starts on the Friday with the ‘Concours d’Elegance’ – a beauty parade for cars with prizes to the best presented car and driver (last year it was won by a 1948 Delahaye.) Saturday is the day of the Charente International Rally, with some 300 cars driving around the countryside. Take a picnic and watch them pass. Race day is Sunday and best watched from one of the stands but book your ticket early as they do sell out. More info…

September 20 – 28
BARROBJECTIF, 13th festival of photo-reportage, Barro, Charente
The entire village of Barro becomes a giant exhibition hall with more than 1,000 photographs are displayed in the open-air – on walls, in trees, in the streets and squares, in barns and garages, on the water…. During the nine days,enjoy exhibitions by world-class amateurs as well as professional photo-reporters. More info…

September 20 & 21
JOURNEES DU PATRIMOINE,  throughout the region
This annual celebration of the nation’s heritage with a wide variety of sites and monuments open to the public, many which are usually private. Find out what’s happening near you…

September 20 & 21
MEDIEVAL FETE, Château-Larcher, Vienne
On Saturday the enture village goes medieval from 2pm with artisans, street performers, medieval music, exhibitions and more. At 4pm there’s a parade with Gregorian chanting at 6.30pm in the church. Sunday is similar but with an 11am parade as well, plus equestrian shows and a brocante. Entry is free.

September 21
FETE DU FOUR A PAIN, Epannes, Deux-Sèvres
It all kicks off at 6am with a vide grenier; then there’s the farmers and arts and crafts markets, the sale of bread plus enetertainment for children. Entry is free.

September 26 -28, Saintes, Charente-Maritime
Enjoy a taste of the tropics with concerts, children’s activities, entertainment and food – all under the shade of coconut trees. It’s on at the Abbaye aux Dames. More info…

September 28
This choirof young women has performed in Paris, Barcelona and Singapore and now in the abbey at St Amant de Boixe. Enjoy a mix of traditional and contemporary Australian music. It’s on at 4pm for one hour. Entry is free.



Save the kroumir!

kroumirMade with marzipan, praline, sugar and chocolate, the kroumir dates back to 1880 – but after 130 years it’s in peril.

The chocolate was originally created by Jean-Auguste Redon, the son of a confectioner in the riverside town of Confolens, who spent five years fighting a war in Tunisia, in the mountainous region called Kroumirie. On his return home he recalled the flavours of the sweets he had eaten whilst away, and combined them to create the small round chocolates that went on to become a legendary speciality of the Charentaise town.

Over the past 130 years, the secret recipe has been passed down from one pastry-maker to another as the patisserie on the main thoroughfare changed hands – until it was learned by Mathieu Moreau during his apprenticeship. Two years ago the now 24-year-old took over the patisserie, but financial difficulties mean it is now threatened with closure. And if it goes, so does the kroumir.

However, all is not yet lost and Mathieu’s mother, Valerie Moreau, has now stepped into the breach, determined to save both. She has knocked on doors all over the country and now the kroumir can be found in shops outside Confolens. More effectively, the patisserie has also launched a website with an e-shop so the kroumirs can be bought online – €5.60 for 100g, about 9 chocolates (plus p&p).

ephemeraAlso available are other speciality sweets – éphémères which take their name from the éphemera or mayfly, that’s found around the Vienne river; they are a chocolate cream filling coated with fondant icing; and the cake, Galettes aux amandes ‘Macarone’.

Now Valerie and Mathieu are crossing their fingers that taking the kroumir to France – and around the world too – can save it. ‘If the business closes, a piece of Confolentaise heritage goes too,’ she says. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Buy kroumir at: