Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!

Saintes
Saintes along the wat ...

City of Art and History, Saintes deploys a breathtaking range of Gallo-Roman remains and historical monuments of admirable diversity and beauty. Crossed by the Charente, the capital of Saintonge offers a journey through time: its heritage tells the multi-millennial history of the prestigious ancient city which has become over the centuries a stronghold of trade and the transport of goods. To discover the city from another angle, we board a Charentaise barge which was used in the 19th century to transport salt, wood, stone, cannons, eau-de-vie or even pottery along this major axis of communication, to the ocean. A surprising discovery of Saintes along the water awaits you!


Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!
Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!

A journey through the corridors of time

Want to spend some time relaxing on the water during your next summer visit to Saintes? Meet at the Place Bassompierre pier, on the quay where the “Ville de Saintes” barge is moored for a cultural outing on the peaceful waters of the Charente.


Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!
Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!
Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!


After collecting our tickets at the Tourist Office near the square and the Arch of Germanicus, we board a sumptuous replica of a 19th century barge, then greet the captain and the guide. Made entirely of wood, these traditional flat-bottomed boats, which could reach 30 meters in length, were mainly used to transport goods on the Charente, an important trade route where hundreds of barges circulated at the height of river navigation. With the nearby town of Cognac, Charentes wines and eau-de-vie were popular export products that transited through Saintes. In addition, the establishment of the arsenal in Rochefort and the establishment of military garrisons in 1666 required a large supply of the hinterland by waterway: stone, wood, metals, cannons, and foodstuffs. At the time, it took five days of navigation on the Charente to make a round trip between Saintes and Tonnay-Charente! As you have understood, navigation, port life and that of the gabariers are therefore closely intertwined in the history and identity of Saintes, a past that we will discover along the water!

The good idea: To find out more about the region, read our article What to do in Val de Saintonge and Saintes?


Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!
The lookout tower made it possible to watch for barges
Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!
Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!
Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!
Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!
Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!

In Saintes, the banks of the Charente are lined with sumptuous buildings, noble residences and houses of Cognac merchants (including the Maison Rouyer Guillet)

Discovering an unsuspected nature

Unusual, this trip in a traditional boat is embellished with comments on the history of the city but also on the complex ecosystem of the river and the animal and plant species that flourish there. Along the ride, we leave the city and enter a wilder area of the river. Lulled by the lapping of the water, we admire beautiful viewpoints on the banks and discover preserved fauna and flora. In this flourishing natural environment, our guide takes the opportunity to give us an ornithological and ecological parenthesis. As we furrow the peaceful waves of the Charente, we are led to observe a multitude of birds: herons, kingfishers, ducks and moorhens, coots and egrets. A feast for the eyes !


Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!
Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!


The good idea: After your river trip, on the way for cultural visits? And if you visit one of the Châteaux of Charente Maritime?


This barge trip is truly a journey through the history of Saintes, punctuated by breathtaking landscapes, superb views, an exceptional river and a fascinating guide! A great excursion to do as a family, as a couple or with friends.


Saintes along the water: barge ride on the Charente!
Return to the starting point of the excursion by barge, at the foot of the Arc

Did you like our report? Find more on the Guide Charente-Maritime blog. Connect to the Charente Maritime Guide Facebook page to be kept up to date with our news. We are also on Instagram @guidecharentemaritime


Article and photos prepared by Lesley Williamson for the Guide Charente Maritime


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