Cognac, Charente, France

Cognac in Charente

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My only thought in heading to Cognac was that, since Kristian and I have to keep postponing an exploration of Bordeaux and its wine towns, Cognac could be a fun visit together, with perhaps a chance for tastings as we enjoyed in Calvados in 2014. Neither of us had an idea of what an attractive city it is, but we both liked it right away. We made a last-minute booking for a hosted room that was in the pedestrian zone, and got lucky as we found metered parking, free at night, on Blvd Denfert Rochereau just a short walk away. We weren’t going to be able to cook that night, so had picked up half a roast chicken and some wine, and had it at our hosts’ table while enjoying the chance to chat with them.

The next day we explored the city center on foot. I bought some fancy chocolates from Chocolaterie Lafuffe, the shop on our corner, a Charente firm established in 1873. I love selecting a few filled chocolates or truffles from a local artisanal business, and they’ve always been delicious – and bring back happy memories of Karl Bissinger’s in St. Louis, and André’s which used to be in Clayton.

We got to the Marché couvert de Cognac in the Place d’Armes a little late to see much. It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8 am to 1 pm, and looks like a good market when fully open. We also went to the Cognatèque as recommended by our hosts, but we weren’t greeted or spoken to, learned nothing, tasted nothing, and left wondering why there should have been any enthusiasm about going to it. It would be fun to visit some of the Cognac houses in the area, but that sort of enjoyment doesn’t fit into days of driving, so, like Bordeaux, it remains on our list for “some day.”

We did like the pedestrian zone, the parks and the city center. We happened to get into conversation with a woman who, with her husband, is house-hunting in town. Ready to move from Paris, they are very enthusiastic about the quality of life in Cognac, and shared a tip that cash buyers are able to negotiate better than asking prices, as long as one’s starting offer isn’t too low.

We didn’t try any restaurant in town, since we wanted to get on our way, and in fact there were none that caught our eyes, but we were charmed by the bakery Maison Lemetayer.

And yes, as usual, we entered l’Église Saint-Léger de Cognac, the old church that was on the pedestrian street, Rue Aristide Briand, near the apartment we stayed in. It happened to be the largest church in Cognac. It started as a Benedictine priory and dates to 1130. I found the side chapels with their starry-blue ceilings to be beautiful and reminiscent of La Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. There is quite a mix of elements in this church, as you can see, with many beautiful details.

I will have to explore the surroundings and the city’s neighborhoods next chance, because Cognac is definitely going on my list of areas to seriously house-hunt in. It’s just an hour’s drive to the Atlantic coast at Royan. And if you take a train to Angoulême – which does take an hour in itself – you can get a TGV to Paris Montparnasse that takes barely over two hours more.

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