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.
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.
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!
The following day, we drove to La Rochelle on the coast, about 90 minutes from La Maurie.
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!
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.
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.
Next: Madness? A five-day cycle tour through the Bordeaux region.