Cognac

The TGV train from Paris to Angouleme near Cognac took two hours, reaching speeds of up to 320km/h. Daan Prins, an old friend from University days, met us at the station and drove us to his place in La Maurie on the Charente river, about 15 minutes from Cognac.

Train spotting: The TGV beast.

Train spotting: The TGV beast.

Daan and Gretel his wife, bought this house a couple of years ago and renovated it beautifully. Gretel certainly has an artistic touch and has collected an eclectic mix of furniture at the local flea markets.

Gretel & Daan's front gate. Note the date: 1825.

Gretel & Daan’s front gate. Note the date: 1825.

Inside the gate.

Inside the gate.

Lounge room.

The lounge room.

Our room.

Our room – check out the timber beams.

Our room 2.

Our room 2.

They showed us around their village and the adjoining village of St. Brise, on our drive into Cognac on the Sunday. This is of course the heart of Cognac production where all the well-known Cognac brands are distilled. Late Sunday afternoon, we packed a few bottles of wine and snacks for a scenic river cruise in their dinghy to Cognac. Eye wateringly beautiful!

Entrance into Cognac's old town.

Entrance into Cognac’s old town.

The oldest house in town - now a Cognac tasting centre.

The oldest house in town – now a Cognac tasting centre.

Park in the centre of town with Municipal offices.

Lovely park in the centre of town with the Municipal offices.

Beers after all the walking: Daan & Gretel.

Beers after all the walking: Daan & Gretel.

River, boat and jetty at the bottom of the garden.

River, boat and jetty at the bottom of the garden.

Sundowner cruise.

Sundowner cruise.

River reflections.

River reflections.

The following day, we drove to La Rochelle on the coast, about 90 minutes from La Maurie.

La Rochelle old town.

La Rochelle old town.

Covered colonnades.

Covered colonnades.

This popular coastal resort has a historic town centre and an enormous marina, giving access to the Bay of Biscay. As luck would have it, there was a Boat Show on in the marina, which we explored at length. With the Jeanneau and Beneteau yacht factories a short distance to the North of La Rochelle, there was a comprehensive display of all their sailing and power vessels. Conservatively speaking, this show is about 3 times the size of the Sydney International Boat Show!

La Rochelle boat show.

La Rochelle boat show.

Jeanneau exhibition - please, don't tempt us!

Jeanneau exhibition – please, don’t tempt us!

La Rochelle harbour - where all the persecuted French Protestants departed from to the rest of the world.

La Rochelle harbour – persecuted French Protestants departed from here to the rest of the world.

On Tuesday we did a long walk through the surrounding vineyards and saw first-hand how everything from pruning to harvesting is done mechanically. After lunch we visited Baron Otard, one of the oldest Cognac Chateaux’s, for a tour of their cellars and a Cognac tasting. Annie, a brandy lover, was in her element and we had to purchase some VSOP Cognac.

A walk in the vineyards.

A walk in the vineyards.

Early morning jetstream trails over Cognac.

Early morning jetstream trails over Cognac.

Entrance to Chateau Baron Otard.

Entrance to Chateau Baron Otard.

Barrels of Cognac ageing for up to 40 years.

Barrels of Cognac ageing for up to 50 years.

And now, for the tasting.

And now, for the tasting.

On Wednesday after another sumptuous breakfast, we said our goodbyes to Daan, and Gretel kindly drove us to Bordeaux, where she had some other business to attend to. This was a truly wonderful four days in the company of good friends.

Dining room at Chez Prins.

Dining room at Chez Prins.

These croissants are much too nice!

These croissants are much too nice!

Next: Madness? A five-day cycle tour through the Bordeaux region.