Photo credit: Kristian Soederberg

Touring Charente-Maritime – 3: Saint-Jean-d’Angély

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Charente-Maritime has interested me since I read that it enjoys a micro-climate that is much milder than would be expected in this zone. As I’ve started looking northwards rather than just on the southern coast, this area was top of my list for exploration. It was new to Kristian, too, so on our road trip we had a lot of fun seeing new places. This was one of two towns on my list of places to see as we made our way from Saintes to Niort, the other being across the departmental border in Deux-Sèvres.

In chats with hosts and other people we encountered, we’d been discouraged from expecting to find a good house to buy in or around Saint-Jean-d’Angély as it’s shaping up to be a significant spa and casino destination, and experiencing a concomitant, optimistic inflation of property values. Still, I wanted to at least cast an eye on this historic place. Charlemagne’s grandson Pepin founded an abbey here in the ninth century, which is reason enough for me to want to stop. No surprise, it’s another town on one of the routes to Santiago de Compostela.

Saint-Jean-d’Angély, on the Boutonne River, has about 8,000 inhabitants now, so is roughly twice the size of Pons or Jonzac, both seen the previous day. Its market days are Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Sunday sees a neighborhood market of sundry goods, and on the third Saturday of every month, there’s a jumble market, with food, clothing, hardware, household goods and all sorts of odds and ends. The town has a mediathèque and cinema and boasts a music school as well. The plans for the town to be established as a spa center and have a casion date to 2007, but they were put aside after a change of mayor, and are now revived with the aim to open in 2024 This would be the eighth – possibly ninth if Rochefort opens one first – casino in the department.

We were both charmed by the Hotel de Ville, and Kristian had the bright idea of looking inside, just as we’d done in Copenhagen – where it had never occurred to me to enter! What a treasure this building is.

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