and its historic buildings, the people's way of life and their activities
which vary from village to village are just some of the components
of the inexhaustible beauty of one of the most visited departments
in France. The town of Saintes, a bridgehead on the Charente, is the
historic capital of the Gallo-Roman area of the Santones tribe, of
the medieval province and its diocese. It remains an architectural
gem. The important buildings stand out, weaving a subtle urban tapestry.
In the surrounding
area, as far as the Rochefort marshes and the Saintonge valley, each
village has its Romanesque church. One arrives naturally at Saintes,
the heart of the province, before exploring the surrounding area.
All the principal roads have crossed here since time immemorial.
Charente is there, following its indolent route; its gentle, soft
landscape has its surprises. Little fields and great prairies, vines
and woods, streams and little rivers, but also chalk cliffs and floodplains
and even some deep sided little valleys form the patchwork.
Art is ever present, but in the middle of this Roman anthology there
are two churches we suggest are worth visiting as they offer an unexpected
alternative. The first is Fléac-on-the-Seugne which allies
late Mediaeval Gothic architecture with the first flamboyant signs
of the Renaissance. From Pons to Archiac the vine is queen and the
countryside is dominated by the production of the grape, destined
to become one of the most famous brandies in the world.