The department of Vienne in south-western France is a bit of a well kept secret. It’s in Poitou-Charentes (now called Nouvelle-Aquitaine), and though the capital, Poitiers is well known, and the department has several big ticket attractions – including Futuroscope theme park and La Vallée des Singes – there are lots of enchanting little towns and villages to discover that are off the beaten track.
Montmorillon (top photo) is famous as a Cité de l’Ecrit et des Métiers du Livre. Basically a city of books and writing. Wander the winding alleys are filled with book shops, second-hand and specialist books stores as well as workshops of those involved in the book trade: from calligraphers to illustrators. Head to the medieval district of Brouard to experience it’s bookish charms. It’s a timewarp town that will enthral bookworms, art lovers and curious travellers in search of an original and fun destination. Montmorillon is also home to several remarkable religious buildings such as the grandiose Maison Dieu. And it has an Almond and Macaron museum – yes, they do offer a tasting session, macarons are a speciality of the town. Now who can resist that?!
Medieval city of Chauvigny
Chauvigny is perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Vienne valley. It uniquely has five fortified castles. At the Chateau de Gouzon, discover the local archaeological history from Neolithic times to the present day. Stop at the Château des Eveques, known as the Bishops’ Castle. Here you can witness an exceptional falconry show featuring birds from around the world. In the heart of the medieval city, don’t miss the Saint-Pierre collegiate church, a stunning example of Romanesque art.
Angles-sur-l’Anglin is officially one of the most beautiful villages in France (Plus Beaux Villages de France). The upper town, with its ruined castle and warren of medieval streets and buildings, hangs over the river Anglin, 50m below. The lower town is equally charming. And it’s here that you’ll find the Roc Aux Sorcieres centre which reveals the details of a unique prehistoric site, a 20m long sculpted frieze in a rock shelter, believed to be around 15,000 years old
Medieval Charroux is a classified Small Town of Character. It has an exceptional architectural and religious heritage and was capital of the county of Marche until the end of the twelfth century. Dominating the heart of the village, the Tour Charlemagne towers over the Saint Sauveur abbey, founded in 789 and once of the most powerful Benedictine abbeys in 9th century Europe. Today it houses a museum exhibiting Gothic sculptures and models of the building. The town is a stage on the Camino de Compostella route. Charroux’s streets are filled with half-timbered houses and market halls, fountains and charming squares. It’s the perfect place to sit and while away a few hours day dreaming and watching the world go by.
Futuroscope – weird and wonderful rides at a multi-media themed park that’s like no other
Find out more www.tourisme-vienne.com