Eco-friendly activities in Charentes
A genuinely unspoilt coastline
Slow down. Take time to look around you. Re-energize. Eco-friendly activities are just the ticket to give your holidays an added dimension and to awaken your senses! The Charentes’ combination of natural beauty and cultural gems will delight anyone in search of the things that really give life meaning!
Islands dot the coast of the Charente-Maritime like so many precious stones. The islands of Oléron, Ré and Aix offer guaranteed peace and quiet, as well as a quality of light that will take your breath away. Likewise, the forest of the Arvert peninsula, along with the entire ‘Wild Coast’ that extends as far as Royan, are places of sensory delight – get a lungful of that amazing scent of maritime pine and fresh sea air – it’s the smell of freedom!
However, the ‘Wild Coast’ also has its dangers, especially in the shape of rip currents. Keep to beaches that are patrolled by lifeguards. This phenomenon also means that this coast is only suitable for more experienced surfers…
If we stay on the coast, we can find plenty of delightful places off the beaten track, ideal for those who love an adventure. A trip to l’île Madame comes into this category.
The ‘Wild Coast’ is also a fragile environment, so exercise restraint and prudence in specific places such as the pointe du Chay at Angoulins-sur-Mer. The limestone cliffs of this promontory are highly friable. It’s possible to fish here, as long as you respect the rules in place. Either take the standard approach from ground level or climb up into a ‘carrelet’, a fishing hut on stilts. One such hut is used as an educational tool, teaching people how to fish using a traditional square lift net. Nature reserves like those based around the marais d’Yves and marais de Moëze coastal wetlands, ecomuseums like the Cité de l’Huître oyster museum at Marennes and l’Asinerie du baudet du Poitou, Dampierre-sur-Boutonne (the Poitou Donkey Centre) are just some examples of the wide range of natural attractions and nature reserves to be found in Charente-Maritime, which is also home to a part of the marais Poitevin inter-regional nature reserve.
To chillax or to get active?
The Atlantic coast with its long sandy beaches is a great place for lazing around – and there’s nothing wrong with that! If you’re a smoker, don’t forget your beach ashtray and do remember that smoking is prohibited in the high season on some beaches in the La Rochelle and Royan areas (as of 31st May 2019). Whether you’re a smoker or not, one useful activity you could get involved in is a cigarette butt and general beach litter pick-up:
Taking it nice and easy
Forests, miles upon miles of footpaths, cycle paths and bridleways…not to mention boat trips along the River Charente – in Charentes there are multiple ways of getting around the countryside – you’re sure to find one to your taste!
What about a spin on a bicycle? A trip could take a few hours or extend into days if you feel like it (and if your calves are up to it): The Charentes region is the proud home to no fewer than five long-distance cycle routes. You’re spoilt for choice, between the Vélodyssée®, (a 150 km section runs along the Charentes coastline), the Scandibérique®, (from Trondheim, Norway, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain via the Charentes region; the Flow Vélo® route between the Dordogne (Thiviers) and the Atlantic (île d’Aix) passing through the valley of the River Charente; the last section of the Vélo Francette®, a 600 km route running from Ouistreham to La Rochelle; and lastly, the Canal des deux mers route, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, which begins at the Gironde Estuary.
Maybe you feel like you’re living life at full throttle for most of the year. This summer you can pick up the pace in a different, more relaxing way, by trying your hand at horse-riding. Discover a variety of landscapes from atop your sure-footed steed. For those wanting to use their own legs, there are numerous hiking trails – an excellent way of exploring the region!
Taking to the water is another relaxing form of transportation, whether it’s on the open sea or on the river, including the River Charente. Canoeing, kayaking or a trip on a scow – time just seems to stand still when you take these travel options… The village of Saint-Simon is the centre of a river boat tradition that’s hundreds of years old and the ideal place to explore the life of the River Charente and this wonderfully unspoilt natural environment.
A journey into the past and activities firmly rooted in the present
Churches, cathedrals, abbeys, city walls, châteaux, citadels – the Charentes boasts an incredible built heritage, offering a wonderful opportunity to slowly savour the arts and historic fabric and architecture of the region. Visiting historic buildings is one way of helping to protect them. What’s more, these places are often full of great surprises.
Getting back to the simple things in life is a way of recharging one’s batteries, for instance, by learning how to make fire at the Paléosite de Saint-Césaire just like the Neanderthals would have done, or picking up tips about the farming life from the experts – the farmers themselves…
Peace and quiet, the natural world and a readiness to enjoy the good things in life – that’s eco-friendly, sustainable holidays for you…the stuff of memories that will last a life-time!