A Gastronomic Guide to Poitou-Charentes
From all my memories of the region, the one thing that surprised me most during my time in Poitou-Charentes was undoubtedly the quality of food and drink. It is here, for example, that I discovered the birthplace of the world famous Cognac, tasted the exquisite Marennes-Oleron oysters and indulged in the delicious Chabichou du Poitou goat’s cheese. Not only that, but as a budget traveller I found that Poitou-Charentes quite often provided a cheaper meal out than other more famous regions in France, yet the quality of produce here could still match any other.
Below I’ve included my top recommendations on where I think you should go in Poitou-Charentes to have the best ‘foodie’ experience.
Taste some green oysters and Eclade mussels in Marennes
There are many delicious food stops to be made throughout Poitou-Charentes, but you would be missing out if you didn’t make time to visit the small and colourful harbour of La Cayenne in Marennes. Oyster tasting in the small fishing huts here is quite simply an experience for the taste buds and the setting of the oyster huts provides an authentic and scrumptious ‘foodie’ experience that is different to anything you might experience in a traditional sit-down restaurant. Once you’re done devouring your oysters, I also recommend utilising your time in Marennes to indulge in some Eclade mussels, a local speciality of mussels baked under pine needles and a real local favourite!
Cycle along the coast and visit a local food market
Poitou-Charentes is not just a place to indulge in high-quality cuisine; it’s also a rather beautiful part of the world too. Like in much of France, I found that one of the best ways to experience the local scenery, whilst indulging in local food, was to hire a bike and cycle along the coast, visiting local food markets and discovering more about local oyster farming.
If you take a route like the Velodyssee, you could start in the beautiful seaside city of La Rochelle, visit the golden sands of Chatelaillon and wander the royal city of Rochefort. From here the cycle route will take you inland, following the former steam train route, eventually leading onto the marshes where the oyster farming at Marennes takes place.
Visit a Cognac producer in Charente
Poitou-Charentes is Cognac country, and of all the food and drink you can indulge in whilst you’re here, this is the one activity I urge you not to miss out on! Whether it’s a big name brand or a small independent producer that you visit, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn about the famous spirit in Charente. Just follow one of the itineraries of Etapes du Cognac and you can’t go much wrong.