A Roller-coaster Day

Trip Start Jun 01, 2012
Trip End Aug 13, 2012

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Flag of France  , Poitou-Charentes,
Monday, July 2, 2012

Well, that was exciting. Someone just got into an accident right outside our hotel, the scene visible from our balcony, which overlooks the main street. The gentleman seems to be okay -- he's up and walking and talking on his cell phone -- but his car is definitely not. He slammed into a van, which slammed into an SUV, which jumped the curb and bumped into our car. Lovely. The plastic grill popped in a bit, but we managed to get it popped back out, leaving only a slightly bent license plate as a visible indication of damage. So far, it appears to drive fine.

So, that makes for an nerve-wracking ending to the day, though I'm sure much more so for him than for us. And for the woman who's screaming at him outside. Maybe it was her car? As for the rest of the day, it got off to a rocky start, but quickly changed tunes to be quite lovely. 

In the morning, we thought we'd try to check out whether any wineries (or actually, distilleries, since we're entering the land of Cognac) had tastings/tours we could go on. This proved to be insanely frustrating, both because the internet at the hotel was hellishly slow and because wineries/distilleries seem to think that having flash programming makes their web pages look slick and awesome and not pretentious and slow-loading. Scrapping the idea, we headed off for Chauvigny. 

I have to say, France is just too darn picturesque. I'm simply not a good enough photographer to capture how beautiful it is. Chauvigny just reinforced this fact. A keep, an amazingly up-kept church, a charmingly rubbled bishop's palace, a small chateau. Gorgeous. And that was before the storks took flight.

While in Chauvigny, we glanced at a map of the region marking historical spots and learned of a new one on our route south to Angouleme: Civaux, where there is a Merovingian necropolis. The site was in use since at least the 4th century and many of the sarcophagi can still be seen, though the site held many many more (somewhere between 7,000 and 15,000 tombs). By the 18th c., the lids had been used to create the enclosure wall that you can see in some of the pictures. In the center of town, the Romanesque church stands on  the site of an ancient Roman temple. They're currently doing some excavation work, which on the one hand means it's hard to get a clean picture of the church, but it also means that they had some information up for nosy people like us.

We ended up taking a winding route through farm country to get to Angouleme, stopping in Civray to see a Romanesque church from the second half of the 12th century. The interior was hard to photograph, but extremely vividly painted.

Getting in to Angouleme just before five, and being a hop, skip, and a jump away from Cognac country, we struck out in hopes of getting in a distillery tour, stopping in Jarnac, which lies between Angouleme and the city of Cognac. We went first to the Courvoisier distillery. Unfortunately, we were too late in the day for a tour, but the front desk woman was very kind, and spoke English, offering to give us a mini-tour and tasting. The most interesting part of the experience was the smell-o-scope video presentation: a 10 minute film about one of their cognacs that blew scents at us to help us better understand the flavors combined in it. Next we stopped at another distillery for a much larger tasting, including of Pineux, which we greatly enjoyed -- though in moderation, as we were driving.

Now, we're debating whether or not to spend an extra day here to do a Master Blender tour and make our own bottle of cognac. It's expensive, though, so the likelihood is that it won't happen. Maybe next time we're in France.

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