Nouvelle Aquitaine is composed of four "departments", Charente-Maritime, Charente, Deux-Sevres and Vienne. Les Balcones de la Seugne in Pons is in the Charente-Maritme department.

It has some of the loveliest countryside in France, long, glorious sandy beaches, winding rivers bordered by rows of vines and sunflowers, turreted chateaux, towering oaks and large inland lakes and forests. The region is steeped in history and evidence of the Romans, the Knights Templar and even prehistoric sites abound.

Tastes of the Charente-Maritime and Charente area

One of the reasons for coming to France has to be the food, the wine, the cheese and the relaxed way of life.

Oysters - The region is France's largest producer of oysters and they're at their plumpest between May and August. Try them with lemon, pepper and chopped shallots and a cold dry white wine - delicious!

Mussels - Popular with the Romans when they were here and even more so today - try adding a splash of Pineau to the pan for a taste to remember.

Fish - The choice and variety will astound you - even the supermarkets fish counters are something to see in terms of the range and quality.

Snails - The ones they eat in this region are le petis gris (often called cagouille). Go on, try them with loads of garlic and parsley butter, fresh crusty bread and some wine...

Salt - Charente-Maritme salt is world famous and is harvested during the summer months from the large salt marshes that border the Gironde estuary.

Cheese - Regional cheeses to try include Jonchee (made from cows milk and flavoured with bay leaves), Tricornes de Marans comes from the north of the region and the Chabichou du Poitou which is shaped like a small barrel.

Butter - They even have an AOC (appellation d'origine controlee) for the butter - it's that good. Try the butter from Surgeres - it's their speciality.

Cognac (see also Things to do/see) - The world famous brandy is produced in the region and is one of the 3 areas in the world officially recognised as such (Armagnac and Jerez in Spain being the other 2). There are 3 main types of Cognac: VS (Very Special) aged between 2 to 4 1/2 years, VO or VSOP (Very Old or Very Special Old Pale) aged at least 4 1/2 years and XO (Extra Old) aged at least six years - and often much longer!
My favourite is VS Cognac with Tonic, ice and a slice of orange - big competition for a G&T!!  A tour of one of the big Cognac "houses" is a must but we can recommend some smaller local producers who produce great stuff.

Pineau - A fortified wine drunk as an aperitif, there are two main types, white and rose but the choice of producers (and prices) is huge. Pineau is made by adding Cognac to unfermented grape juice which is then aged in oak barrels