Incredibly popular with the French and increasingly so with savvy Brits, the Charente-Maritime, situated in the heart of the French Atlantic coast offers a wealth of events and festivals to enjoy throughout the year.
Not only is it a stunning coastal destination with beautiful resorts like Royan and the island of Ile de Ré, there are charming cities such as Saintes and La Rochelle and, picturesque countryside like Cognac and the Marais Poitevin.
Charente-Maritime has six wellness centres, more than any other French ‘department’ plus a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is a gastronomic destination of note – oysters, mussels, sea salt, pineau des Charentes – a fortified wine (mistelle or vin de liqueur), made from a blend of lightly fermented grape must and Cognac eau-de-vie. The area boasts a Mediterranean climate of around 300 sunshine days a year and that makes it a perfect location for events and festivities all year round.
Below is just a selection of what’s on offer for 2014; see the website for the tourist office of the region for lots more details: www.france-atlantic.com
What to see and do in the Charente-Maritime region 2014
April to June 2014
Kite Flying Festival : Chatelaillon, 19–20 April: An annual event held at Chatelaillon-Plage with more than 250 competitors and 40,000 spectators
Festival Passe Portes : Ile de Ré, 27 May–1 June : A festival of open-air theatre free to all and taking place when the island is heading towards the summer months. www.festivalpasseportes.com
Stand up Paddle Challenge: 30 May–1 June: This takes place on the Ile d’Oléron. www.diabolo.com:
Maraisthon: Marais Poitevin -14–15 June: The fifth anniversary of the race this year. www.maraisthon.fr
Festivals Nuits Romanes: all over the department – 30th June–1st September : All sorts of entertainment that takes place all over the Châtellerault in the summer. This year is the tenth anniversary of the Festival. http://nuitsromanes.poitou-charentes.fr.
International Film Festival: La Rochelle – 27 June–7 July. The 41st festival is held in La Rochelle. In 2012, 82,429 spectators watched 389 performances of 142 long films and 61 shorts. www.festival-larochelle.org
July to September 2014
The Francofolies: La Rochelle – 10–14 July: It is the Thirtieth Anniversary of the festival this year. www.francofolies.fr
Festival de Saintes: Saintes – 11–19 July: This will take place in July 2013 in the Abbaye aux Dames in the centre of Saintes. The concerts are all classical with music from the present day back to the Renaissance. www.abbayeauxdames.org
A Violin on the Sand: Royan – 19–26 July: www.violonsurlesable.com
Festival Musique en Ré : Ile de Ré – 20–30 July: The only festival in France dedicated to amateur composers gathered together so the public may appreciate the talent and the diversity of French song.
Festival international de Guitare : Ile de Ré – 11 July. This festival takes place all over the island with a number of recitals given by guitarists from all over the world.
Jazz en Ré : Ile de Ré – 22-25 August. The Sixteenth Jazz en Ré Festival will take place this August in Saint Martin de Ré. Taking place at the port of St Martin de Ré under the Vauban fortifications, this enjoyable jazz festival has something for everyone, from swing to ‘manouche’ to blues. JazzEnRe
Festival BD Ile de Ré : Ile de Ré – 7 August: This festival welcomes artists and designers from the cartoon world for the most colourful two days of summer! www.festival-bd.com
Le Grand Pavois: La Rochelle – 17–22 September. One of the most important boat shows in the world with more than 750 boats, 89,000 visitors in 2012 and covering an area of 100,000 square metres. www.grand-pavois.com
October to December 2014
Jazz between Two Towers: La Rochelle – 4– 11 October: This is one of the best known jazz festivals in France attracting stars such as John Scofield, Joe Louis Walker and Michelle Hendricks. The beautiful setting between the towers of the old port of La Rochelle is exceptional. www.larochelle-jazz-festival.com
La Rochelle Marathon – La Rochelle – 30th November. The 23rd race will take place towards the end of the month and is the second fastest marathon after that of Paris. Usually about 9,000 participants take part in the marathon or the 10 kilometre race. www.marathondelarochelle.com