Aubeterre-Sur-Dronne, a perfect, neat little village surrounded by beautiful rolling countryside, tucked away in the Poitou Charente Region of south western France says Geraldine Smith…
Did you know there are around 32,000 villages in France and only 151 of them are given the accolade of being “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France”?
I stayed in one of those award-winning prettiest villages – Aubeterre-sur-Dronne. Officially listed as one of “The Most Beautiful Villages in France” since 1993, pilgrims have been welcomed here on their way to Santiago de Compostella in north-west Spain, as have visitors and tourists for over 1000 years. Two important historical monuments add to the cultural status of Aubeterre – the extraordinary, monolithic, underground Church of St Jean and the Romanesque Church of St Jacques, with its stunning façade.
Visitors and tourists can enjoy roaming through the twisting narrow streets. There is much to admire including specialist shops like a leather worker and potters. Afterwards settle down in the village square, Place Trarieux, at one of the cafés or restaurants, comfortably shaded by ancient lime trees. For the active, the beach front style of the river Dronne is perfect for kayaking, swimming, boating and relaxing.
Our base for a five night stay was just outside the village, a luxurious bed and breakfast. I was thrilled as we approached the 19th century Manor House. “It looks so very French” I sighed as we pulled into the drive. “I think I will speak a petit Francais while we are here”. I rang the visitors’ bell and as the door opened trilled “Bon après-midi, Monsieur! Je suis Madam Smith de l’Angleterre!”
“Aye up lass, are you from my neck of the woods up north? “came the reply. Would you believe it, we were deep in rural France and our host was a lovely Irishman who had lived for many years in Lancashire, northern England. His wife though is very French (so I was able to practise my “petit Francais” after all).
The house is a stunning conversion with five beautiful rooms, every one perfectly styled. Relaxing in the garden by the swimming pool after a day sightseeing was just perfect, wine glass in hand, the sun setting in the distance, and everything is oh so quiet…
On the nights we made the short trip into Aubeterre-sur-Dronne village there was a good selection of restaurants for such a small village, the liveliest area was the Place Trarieux and we were always greeted warmly by the locals!
Aubeterre-sur-Dronne certainly deserves its accolade as one of the prettiest villages in France.
Website for Aubeterre-sur-Dronne Tourist Office
Geraldine Smith is a writer based in the UK