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Charente-Maritime
Coat of Arms of Charente-Maritime
Location
Location of Charente-Maritime in France
Administration
Department number: 17
Region: Poitou-Charentes
Prefecture: La Rochelle
Subprefectures: Jonzac
Rochefort
Saintes
Saint-Jean-d'Angély
Arrondissements: 5
Cantons: 51
Communes: 472
President of the General Council: Dominique Bussereau
UMP
Statistics
Population Ranked 39th
 -1999 557,024
Population density: 81/km2
Land area¹: 6864 km2
¹ French Land Register data, which exclude estuaries, and lakes, ponds, and glaciers larger than 1 km2.

Charente-Maritime is a department on the west coast of France named after the Charente River.

Contents

History

Previously a part of Saintonge, Charente-Inférieure was one of the 83 original departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. On September 4, 1941, it was renamed Charente-Maritime.

When first created, the commune of Saintes was assigned as the prefecture of the department (Saintes had previously been the prefecture of Saintonge). This changed in 1810 when Napoléon passed an imperial decree which moved the prefecture to La Rochelle.

During World War II, the department was invaded by the German army and became part of occupied France. To provide defence against a possible beach landing, the Organisation Todt constructed a number of sea defences in the area. Defences such as pillboxes are particularly noticeable on the beaches of the presqu'île d'Arvert and the island of Oléron.

At the end of the war there were only two pockets of German resistance: La Rochelle, in the north and Royan in the south. Despite being almost completely destroyed during an RAF bombing raid on January 5, 1945, the town of Royan wasn't liberated by the French resistance until April of the same year. La Rochelle was finally captured on May 9, 1945.

Geography

Charente-Maritime is part of the Poitou-Charentes administrative region. It is the second largest and the most populated department in the region with a land area of 6864 km² and 598 915 inhabitants as of 2006.

The important rivers are the Charente and its tributaries, the Boutonne and the Seugne, along with the Sèvre Niortaise, the Seudre, and the Garonne, in its downstream part, which is the estuary of the Gironde.

The department includes the islands of Île de Ré, Île d'Aix, and Ile d'Oléron.

The department forms the northen part of the Aquitaine basin. It is separated from the Massif Armoricain by the Marais Poitevin to the north-west and from the Parisian basin by the Seuil du Poitou to the north-east. The highest point in the department is in the woods of Chantemerlière, near the commune of Contré in the north-east, and rises to 173 m.

Charente-Maritime is surrounded by the departments of Gironde, Charente, Deux-Sèvres, Dordogne and Vendée.

Climate

The climate is mild and sunny, with less than 900 mm of precipitation per year. Average temperatures vary from 20 °C in summer to 5 °C in winter.

Economy

The economy of Charente-Maritime is based on three major sectors: tourism, maritime industry, and manufacturing. Cognac and pineau are two of the major agricultural products.

During the summer months, families flock from all over Europe to bask in the sun and enjoy the local seafood.

Charente-Maritime is the headquarters of the major oyster producer Marennes-Oléron. Oysters cultivated here are shipped across Europe.

Rochefort is the site of shipbulding and a French naval base.

La Rochelle is a seat of major French industry. Just outside the city is a factory for the French engineering giant Alstom, where the TGV, the cars for the Paris and other metros are manufactured. It is a popular venue for tourism, with its picturesque medieval harbour and city walls.

Demographics

The inhabitants of the department are called Charentais-Maritimes.

Politics

The President of the General Council is Dominique Bussereau of the Union for a Popular Movement.

Party seats
Union for a Popular Movement 18
Socialist Party 15
Miscellaneous Right 8
Left Radical Party 7
The Greens 1
New Centre 1
MoDem 1

Tourism

Sunset in Meschers-sur-Gironde in the Charente Maritime [1]

Popular destinations include, La Rochelle, Royan, Saintes, St Jean d'Angely, Rochefort, Île d'Aix, Île de Ré and Île d'Oléron.

The department is served by the TGV at Surgères and La Rochelle. It can also be reached by motorway by the A10 (E5, Paris-Bordeaux) and A837 (E602, Saintes-Rochefort).

See also

External links

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : France : Central France : Poitou-Charentes : Charente-Maritime
This article or section does not match our manual of style or needs other editing. Please plunge forward, give it your attention and help it improve!

Charente-Maritime is a département in the Poitou-Charentes region of western France.

This article or section does not match our manual of style or needs other editing. Please plunge forward, give it your attention and help it improve!

Other destinations

Visits to Futuroscope at Poitiers, wine museums or the fabulous chic shops at Bordeaux are all under a two hour drive. The whole town preserved as a War Memorial at Oradour sur Glane is just slightly further away.

Understand

This beautiful area of SW France was born out of the French Revolution. The two areas of Saintonge, based on the old Roman town of Saintes, and Aunis,based around the old Huegenot stronghold of La Rochelle,were merged. The Charente Maritime was born. This is where the French themselves go on holiday because of the beautiful scenery, mild temperate climate combined with the luminous quality of the light (a painters haven!) and over 300 miles of beautiful coastline.

Talk

The Charente Maritime is a haven for wildlife and attracts many ornithologists. Both the flora and fauna are worth the visit. There are opportunities for fishing, sailing and golf.

Get in

Fly to La Rochelle or Bordeaux (an hour's drive from the southern Charente Maritime), Poitiers.

Get around

TGV, hire car.

See

Many of the villages are steeped in history, man has occupied this land for a long, long time. At the southern tip of the region is the "Haute Saintonge", this special area is a bit like the land that time forgot. Some of the locals still wear their blue overalls and slippers for all occasions. The land glows with light and warmth. The houses with their Roman tiled roofs and their ramshackle outbuildings just invite further investigating. The architecture is predominantly Romanesque - it is littered with fabulous churches, farms, wells, market halls. The ornamentation on the churches is awesome,maybe visit the church of Sainte Fortunata at St Fort sur Gironde and see the horses heads, or the church at Lorignac or Sainte Ramee.Grapes and sunflowers, as well as tobacco and maize are grown here. Most villages have a local wine maker, some have several. 100 years before the Revolution a wine producer had a moment of serendipity. He poured some grape juice into a seemingly empty Cognac barrel. He forgot about it and rediscovered it a few years later - the nectar known as Pineau was born. This area has lots of Pineau producers, you can visit most of them and of course taste the Pineau !

Itineraries

Royan is a lovely town, bombed by the Allies in WW2 it has managed to rise, phoenix-like from the ashes to become a chic, very French, resort. La Rochelle is further North and is a beautiful place to visit

Do

Visit the local wine producers and have a degustation (wine tasting). Taste the wine, Pineau and of course the World famous Cognac houses of Hennesy, Remy Martin, Otard, Martell all have conducted tours in English as well as French. Chateau de Beaulon is in the heart of the Haute Saintonge and you can visit the distillery in Lorignac as well as visit the chateau itself at St Dizant. There is a huge wildmarsh park at Vitrezay where you can walk along the shores of the Gironde or round a series of lakes. The beaches are nearby. There are golf course in the area. It is a ramblers paradise with miles of marked walks.There are thermal springs in Jonzac as well as Caribbean themed indoor water sports ( Les Antilles de Jonzac).

Eat

Plenty of waterside restaurants dotted around the small ports of Mortagne, Port Maubert, Vitrezay plus a plethora of other restaurants ranging from humble 10 euro inclusive meals to Chateau fare at rather more! Melon au pineau is a speciality as is a whole range of seafood and the salt marsh lamb.

Drink

This is the land of wine, Pineau and Cognac! Take your pick, you won't go far wrong. The Vins de Pays Charentais is quite a find, it was born out of necessity when the demand for grapes for Cognac declined but has been improving rapidly and is a perfect summer drink.

Stay safe

Lots of places to stay from campsites, b and b, hotels, rent a luxury holiday home - http://www.thepetitmanoir.com

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