It may seem unusual, however there is a place in France that is quite well known for their slippers. Chateau de L’Yeuse, a great old house in the heart of Cognac in Western France, is most proud of their glass displays showing off the finest slippers produced in the region.
Get Your Slippers On
On the other side of the channel they are known as pontoufles charentaises. In this part of France, the level of craftsmanship that goes into every pair of soft, comfortable slippers is at a whole different level. There is no large factory churning out pairs of slippers by the truckload. This is a place of great tradition.
The locals in the region take particular pride in their dandy slippers. That is not the only thing that the locals can be justly proud of though. Cognac, the famous brandy, is made in this region and there are many different types of Cognac available to sample.
Fancy a Tipple?
There are six parts (known as terroirs) in this area of western France that are permitted to make the intoxicating drink for it to still be legally called Cognac. Whisky is not much favored locally, and is somewhat frowned upon as inferior in quality to the connoisseur tipple fine Cognac. Additionally, it is part of the fun of a visit to the region after all.
One distillery that is worth a mention is the Meukow Distillery based in a classic French château in Cognac. This distillery dates back to the late 1800′s, which makes it a mere baby in the minds of the people of Cognac who take all this tradition rather seriously.
The tour of Meukow includes some technology improvements like a holographic panther logo projected onto each barrel in turn. The cavern walls all display vineyard projections. It is quite unexpectedly modern from the French upmarket distillery.
The final product is offered for sale (or to taste) in the shop after the tour. The different Cognacs sport English-sounding names, rather than confusing French ones. Apparently, this is because the French prefer their wine to a glass of Cognac (the market is mostly for export) and English names lend each brand a certain respectable image.
One fairly new development is the alternative flavorings for Cognacs. It has gone a little bit Frappuccino extra-something latte from Starbucks in some ways. Apparently the newly rich Asians, Russians rolling in rubles, and the growing list of wealthy rappers are all looking to try something ‘new’ and different. The result is some unusual combinations such as sweet Cognacs, vanilla-flavored Cognacs, and espresso Cognacs.
Over in Jarnac, not too far away from the Meukow Distillery, is Courvoisier Cognac. They too are looking to remove the stuffy old image of elderly gentleman sipping Cognac before bedtime for an updated ‘cooler’ brand.
On the distillery grounds is an exhibition based on Napoleon Bonaparte. He was their first patron and they have not forgotten. The river façade is big and imposing, with impressive calligraphy announcing Courvoisier proudly. Their range of Cognacs are equally as smooth on the palette.
Often referred to as the French bayous of Cajun country.
Known for its three outstanding medieval towers and its old harbor.
The countryside on either side of the Charente River produces the world’s best-known brandy.
Known for its ancient medieval ramparts.
Ile de Re
Tiny shopping streets and fine sandy beaches.
Region Looking For a Greater Presence
The Cognac region is not as well known as some other regions of France, which benefit from numerous promotional articles every year talking up the attraction of visiting their particular region. Although, the people of Cognac want to change that.
The Charente River is quite charming, but currently lacks the name recognition of the Loire or the Seine. Nonetheless, the countryside it flows through is expansive and it is very pleasant to spend time relaxing there.
The homes often wear red roof tiles, the gardens are lovely, and it all seems eerily familiar; a little bit like back home, but more ‘French’. Lavender is plentiful in many gardens, so this scent is often not far away. The loud chatter from the cicadas is also a frequent companion when strolling around the gardens.
Outside of Cognac
Whilst Cognac often appears half asleep, Saintes to the north-west is positively bustling with modern activity. On some maps, Saintes may be listed as Charente-Inferieure.
If you thought that there was only one Arc de Triomphe, then you would be mistaken. The original was of Roman design, whereas the one in Paris is effectively a cheap copy of the real thing in Saintes, which is also close to 2,000 years older.
From the port at La Rochelle it is possible to travel by boat or cross over on a bridge to Saint Martin. This is an exclusive enclave of the rich with a luxury seaside appeal in every sense.
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