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LOCAL AREA

Chef Boutonne our nearest town, (3km) with its fairytale château and ‘lavoirs’, (ancient washhouses) which bubble with ice cold spring water, has a bustling market with stalls of freshly caught fish and local produce.
The regional speciality, ‘Pineau des Charentes’ a wickedly delicious aperitif is served in pavement cafés in the town square. Fishing permits can be easily obtained for a day’s fishing at Chef Boutonne in the well-stocked lake at the Château de Javarzay. The château and museum are open to the public and are well worth a visit.

Without moving far from home at Melle you will discover no less than three magnificent Romanesque churches - one being UNESCO listed – which, during the Summer months, become venues for the prestigious Festival of Classical Music. Whilst at Melle, take time to visit the Silver Mines and it’s Carolingian garden which date back to Vth century. The Royal Abbey with its formal gardens at Celles sur Belle is an imposing testament to Renaissance architecture and hosts a Baroque Music festival in late August. Again, on a musical note, Operas of outstanding quality are staged en ‘plein air’ in August in the Roman amphitheatre at Sanxay. This whole area is peppered with exquisite little XIth & XIIth century churches, Medieval heritage, pre-historic remains and Roman settlements. Of particular interest is the ‘Tumulus de Bougon’, one of the oldest Neolithic burial grounds in Europe.

Niort, our nearest large town and capital of the Deux-Sèvres Department is just 45 mins from Mandegault. Steeped in history and dating back to the middle ages, Niort’s fortressed Castle Keep, the ‘Donjon’, overlooking the ‘Sèvre Niortaise’ river is an imposing testament of the Plantagenet kings. Make time to visit the Renaissance ‘Pilori’ as well and don’t miss the market, a cornucopia of fresh local produce, baskets of fresh walnuts, goat’s cheeses, regional specialities and freshly caught fish from the île d’Oléron.

 

FURTHER AFIELD

Further afield, although mostly under an hour’s drive, there’s boating through the leafy waterways of the Marais Poitevin also known as the ‘Venise Vert’ or visit ‘Futuroscope’, the renowned (rightly so, it’s absolutely amazing) European theme park of the moving image. The town of Poitiers itself, with its romanesque church, ‘Notre Dame la Grande’ and the rare 4th century ‘Baptistère St. Jean’ along with shops and cafés makes for a pleasant day out. Visit Angoulême, town of art and history and home to the excellent National Centre of Comic Strip Art, Cognac (for obvious reasons) or Saintes with its Roman amphitheatre.

There’s the delightful historic port of La Rochelle (90 minutes drive to be realistic) with its harbour towers, art galleries, museums and superb aquarium or simply relax and absorb the atmosphere in one of the many quayside cafés or restaurants or stretch out on the sandy beach, a mere stone’s throw from ‘centre ville’. The royal naval port of Rochefort is well worth a visit; witness the meticulous reconstruction of the 16th century frigate, the ‘Hermione’ or enjoy a boat trip to one of the charming islands of the île de Ré or île d’Aix.

For animal lovers and within an easy drive from Le Clos des Jardins, there’s the donkey sanctuary at Dampierre sur Boutonne, home to the gorgeous, shaggy ‘Baudet du Poitou’ donkey and ‘Zoodyssée’ at Chizé, an animal park of mainly European species. ‘La Vallée des Singes’ at Romagne, an extremely impressive and sensitively organised sanctuary for endangered monkey species is an absolute hit with our guests.

Things to do

This area has some wonderful way marked tracks for both amblers and ramblers. Discover tumble down bread ovens, stone wells, quaint bridges, ancient chapels and if ever you feel the need to cool down- bearing in mind this region is second only to the Côte d’Azur for it’s sunshine scores - just dip your feet into the icy cold water of any of the beautiful stone ‘lavoirs’ at river sources. It’s also an ideal area for gentle cycling especially as there’s so little traffic on the roads, lots of interconnecting lanes through fields and woodland… lovely spots for picnics. For aspiring and experienced equestrians alike, the best way to enjoy the countryside here is on horseback, so why not go for a hack ‘en famille’ with our highly regarded local Riding School, ‘Les Ecuries du Breuil’ just 3km from us.

For water lovers, there’s the sea near La Rochelle for beach combing, swimming and body boarding and there’s a wide choice of open air pools, man-made lakes with sandy beaches and river swimming all nearby, that’s if you can tear yourselves away from the gardens and pool at ‘Le Clos des Jardins’! There’s the ’Lac du Lambon’ set in an extensive park of natural woodland, which has a floating swimming pool on the lake itself, ‘acro-branche’ activities, boating and fishing. There’s several other lakes for fishing nearby; no need to cast your line too far to find a good one.

The ‘undiscovered’ Deux-Sèvres, offers wonderful possibilites for budding artists. There’s something special about the quality of light here; the way it seems to transform the banal. Francis & Alison, whose background is in Art & Design, will always make time to help and support guests, if requested, with drawing and painting on an informal basis…any excuse to take a break from weeding the vegetables!

There’s an enormous diversity of wildlife to discover and identify during your stay here. Woodpeckers, Hoopoes, Kingfishers, Nightingales, Barn Owls, Montague’s Harriers – just to name a few! There’s a fascinating array of Wall Lizards, Praying Mantis, Stick Insects, Mole Crickets, Glow Worms, Stag Beetles, Emperor Dragonflies, Swallowtail Butterflies and Hummingbird Hawk Moths and all these identified within our grounds! Staying within the animal kingdom, there’s always the hens and sheep ‘at home’ who always relish attention.

There’s a wide range of 18 hole golf courses, mostly under an hour’s drive from Mandegault. The closest is Niort with a good restaurant and only 40 minutes drive, followed by St.Cyr & Beauvoir near Poitiers, Angoulême, Saintes and Cognac with a 27 hole course at Le Forges, Ménigoute.

There are many pleasures to be had from simple everyday rural living. Markets of wonderfully fresh local produce are still a joy in this region of France and there’s a range of good local restaurants offering excellent value ‘menu du jour’. We’re delighted to give a few pointers and to share our knowledge whatever your budget or preferences.

As well as the numerous and acclaimed ‘festivals de musique’ of the Poitou-Charentes, several villages in the region stage festivals during the Summer months where everyday life and customs of the past are re-enacted; bread ovens are relit for baking, lavoirs (washhouses) bubble once again with ‘savon de Marseille’ and yes, the waters of the Marais Poitevin are really set on fire!

In short, plenty to do but according to many of our guests, ‘ just not enough time to do everything!’

Markets

Local markets, Marchés de France are wonderful places to lap up local atmosphere and find fantastically fresh local produce. There’s so many; the list below is a selection of our favourite ones in places that you’re likely to visit. Be prepared for a fairly early start as markets normally wind down by midday. We’re spoilt here in the Poitou-Charentes with daily deliveries (except Monday) of fresh fish & seafood from the fishing ports of Fourras and of the islands of Oleron and Ré. Local specialities include a wonderful diversity of goat cheeses (the shape dictates the taste!); look out for the Apellation Controlé Chabichou and Echiré butter and Farci Poitevin, a delicious paté made with swiss chard & everything green. Don’t miss the famous Tourteau Fromagé, a local cheesecake made with fresh goat’s cheese with a burnt top that could be mistaken for chocolat noir!

Friday

Melle - large market, local produce
Coulon - fresh produce
Niort - fresh produce & indoor food market
La Rochelle - indoor fish market, fresh produce

Saturday

Chef Boutonne - fresh local produce
Saint Maixent l’Ecole - indoor and general market
Couhé - fresh produce
Civray - fresh produce
Ruffec - fresh produce
Saint Jean d’Angély - fresh local produce
Niort - fresh produce & indoor food market
La Rochelle - indoor fish market, fresh produce

Sunday

Coulon - fresh produce
Niort - fresh produce & indoor food market
La Rochelle - indoor fish market, fresh produce

Tuesday

Lezay - fabulous large market, fresh produce & livestock
Niort - fresh produce & indoor food market
Civray - fresh produce
La Rochelle - indoor fish market, fresh produce


Wednesday

Celles sur Belle- fresh produce
Ruffec - fresh produce
Saint Jean d’Angély - Lovely market with fresh local produce
Niort - fresh produce & indoor food market
La Rochelle - indoor fish market, fresh produce



Thursday

Brioux sur Boutonne- fresh produce
Sauze Vaussais - large market, produce & general
Niort - fresh produce & indoor food market
La Rochelle - indoor fish market, fresh produce


Restaurants

We have very fond memories of stopping off at around ‘midi’ and easily finding a small, often shabby, café/bar serving a set ‘menu du jour’ of freshly cooked simple produce. That was some years ago, then, sadly things changed; eating out became somewhat of a lottery. However, perseverence has paid dividends and as foodies who feel passionately about good food, it’s a great pleasure to share our - to be honest, not extensive - experiences in our little guide below. Generally speaking the set lunchtime menu available on weekdays only, offers good value but try to get a table by 12.30 to avoid disapointment as  the ‘menu du jour’ sells out fast. This small selection, in key places you may like to visit during your stay here, are placed in order of proximity. 

 

A rare find, Itimate quirky setting run by a sommelier and his chef wife.

Home cooked food with wine pairing

Relaxed, informal atmosphere with just three tables. Reservation essential.

Aux Choeurs de Bacchus

2 Rue du Bois Neuf À Courtanne,

79110 Pioussay

Tel: 05 49 27 65 59


Typical & convenient simple provincial bar/restaurant & pavement café in the market square, English spoken owners

L’Hotel des Voyageurs

18 - 20 Place Cail,

79110 Chef-Boutonne 

Tel: 05 49 29 73 13


Pizzeria Jos

Tucked away in a side street and conveniently close. Small & busy, nice thin pizzas, steaks, ‘farci poitevin’.

1 rue Seillon,

79110 Chef Boutonne

Tel: 05 49 29 62 31


Excellent ‘menu du jour’, lovely courtyard for outdoor dining. Next to the Abbey, open on Sunday’s for lunch but beware it often looks closed from the front entrance.

We love this place - never been dissapointed !

Hostellerie de l’abbaye

1 Place des Epoux Laurant,

79370 Celles-sur-Belle

Tel: 05 49 26 03 18


Simple down to earth ‘menu ouvier’ workers’ lunch

Le relais de la peruse

D19,

16240 Montjean

Tel: 05 45 31 32 48


L’Adress

Modern French restaurant with great mid-week lunch time menu

1 Rue des iris

79000 Bessines

Tel: 05 49 79 41 06


Artistic avant-garde French gastronomie

La Belle Etoile


115, quai Maurice Métayer 
79000 Niort

Tel: 05 49 73 31 29


Buzzy bistrot, fresh food by ‘le donjon’ and river

LES PLANCHES

18 Rue Pierre Antoine Baugier

79000 Niort

Tel: 05 49 24 90 91


French Gastronomy in a lovely riverside setting. Traditional & fairly formal.

La Roussille

Impasse de la Roussille 

79000 Niort

Tel: 05 49 06 98 38


Long standing reputation and although we haven’t been for some times our guest highly recommend it. The cheese chariot is outstanding

L'AUBERGE DU CHEVAL BLANC

La Gare,

16230 Luxé

Tel: 05 45 22 23 62

This area has some wonderful way marked tracks for both amblers and ramblers. Discover tumble down bread ovens, stone wells, quaint bridges, ancient chapels and if ever you feel the need to cool down- bearing in mind this region is second only to the Côte d’Azur for it’s sunshine...

Read more...

 

The ‘Marchés de France’ are wonderful places to lap up local atmosphere and find...

Read more..

 

The Poitou Charentes Food and Gastronomy traditions are very lively and visiting the French region is...

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There are many and varied museums and art galleries in Poitou Charentes. Too many to list...

Read more..

 

Vibrant busy bistro in a vintage setting

La Serruerie

28 rue des grandes écoles

86000 Poitiers

Tel: 05 49 41 05 14


Traditional French serving local, mostly organic produce

Beautiful ‘Eiffel’ greenhouse setting just minutes from the ‘Vieux Port’

Les quatres Sergeants

49 Rue Saint-Jean du Pérot,

17000 La Rochelle

Tel: 05 46 41 35 80


Traditional French with a menu changing daily

Very intimate family run restaurant

L’amaranthe

14 Rue Bletterie,

17000 La Rochelle

Tel: 05 17 83 07 21


Excellent french cooking minutes from the ‘Vieux Port’

La Fleur de Sel

45 Rue St Jean du Pérot,

17000 La Rochelle

Tel: 05 46 41 17 06

ARTS & CULTURE

There are many and varied museums and art galleries in Poitou Charentes. A printed brochure of detailed information awaits you in your gîte.

Gallery