The village of Talmont-sur-Gironde in Charente-Maritime was founded in 1284 by Edward I, AKA Edward Longshanks, ruler of Aquitaine and King of England (1272-1307). He chose the land on a rocky promontory overlooking the Gironde Estuary, 15km south of Royan, in order to build a fortified town in the strategic location. The King wasn’t the most popular royal, but he was certainly good at picking a beautiful spot to build a castle.
There’s not much evidence of his time here though the town has kept its original layout. The village is incredibly pretty and is officially one of the “plus beaux Villages de France”.
What to see in Talmont-sur-Gironde
Sitting on the banks of Europe’s largest estuary, Talmont -sur-Gironde in Charente-Maritime, is postcard pretty.
Park your car in the car park on the edge of the town and wander the pedestrianised cobbled streets. Quaint traditional whitewashed houses with blue shutters. Bright coloured hollyhocks grow wild in the streets and roses drip from every wall. This is one of the prettiest little villages in France and the third most visited site in Charente-Maritime.
On Tuesday nights through July and August some of the buildings are lit up from 21h. It makes for a lovely promenade in the atmospheric little village and many of the shops stay open late.
Through April to September a farmer’s market is held on Sundays from 9h to 16h.
Though you could probably get all the way round easily within an hour, it’s a nice place to take your time. Wander, stop and enjoy the views, sit and contemplate the sheer loveliness of the tranquil streets and stunning views. Take a break at one of the little bars and restaurants and make it a half day…
Monuments and artists
The Romanesque Church of Sainte-Radegonde is one of the architectural jewels of the village sitting on the edge of the village, overlooking the estuary. Built between the 11th and 15th centuries by Benedictine monks, it was once used as a stopover on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela and is a classified Historic Monument. The fragile beauty of this white stone church, pounded by the elements, is magnificent.
Sainte Radegonde was a little known 6th century German princess. She founded a monastery of Sainte-Croix in Poitiers in 560 and was said to have the power to heal and protector of sailors.
Adjoining the church, is a marine cemetery which has also been classified as a Historic Monument in its own right. It possesses several cenotaphs, as well as tombs dating to the eighteenth century.
There’s a small museum set up in one of the traditional houses with an exhibition of local history.
The village is a magnet for artists and there are many artisan shops in the village. Beware, some of these shops are utterly irresistible. Rose Outremer creates fascinators, “head jewellery” she says as she shows row after row of enchanting accessories, unique and “frivolous”. Her husband Philippe Robert, a painter displays his art on the walls of their tiny boutique in rue de la Tour Blanche. And at the glass makers shop, Un Monde de Verre in rue du Port, Veronique and Marc, master craftsmen, spin amazing glass jewellery before your eyes.
A maritime marvel
Fishermen set up their nets from traditional wooden pontoons along the estuary below the cliffs. It’s a magical sight, one which has not changed in many years.
Wild meadow flowers grow along the cliff top and they somehow manage to thrive in cracks in the walls, giving the place a splash of colour that adds a little magic.
You can take a guided river trip from Port Medoc on the other side of the Estuary and discover Talmont-sur-Gironde from the water.
What to see nearby:
Close by and worth visiting:
The Gallo-Roman site Fâ in Barzan.
Les Grottes du Regulus, naturally formed caves which were converted to troglodyte housing in the 19th century.
What to see and do in Royan – Ville d’Art et d’Histoire
Top ten things to do in Ile de Ré
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Where to eat out in La Rochelle – the restaurants the locals love
Tourist office Talmont-sur-Gironde: www.talmont-sur-gironde.fr
What to see and do in Les Charentes: Charente and Charente-Maritime: www.atlantic-cognac.com