Haute-Saintonge, hinterland, a former historical province, is a land rich in history. It has many old churches and examples of Roman art. Haute-Saintonge is a land of plains and hillsides, but also a land of viticulture and agriculture. Some windmills can also be spotted on the hills along the roadsides.
On a rocky promontory, overlooking the Seugne River sits the medieval city of Pons. The streets are narrow and winding, just as they would have been in the past. Of the 12th century fortress, only the 30 metres high keep remains. It is set in landscaped gardens offering exceptional views across the old fortifications and the surrounding valley. Two cafe/restaurants are situated here which let the visitor absorb the beautiful surroundings.
On the site of the fortified castle, which was destroyed during the religious wars, a seigneurial (belonging to a feudal lord) house was built. Today it is the town hall and is situated beside the keep.
Pons is a stopping place on the road to Saint-Jacques de Compostelle.
The new hospital, the Pons hospice, situated one kilometre from the town, has exceptional architecture with its vaulted passage, and is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. There is a landscaped medicinal garden with more than one hundred plants.
In Charente Maritime it is traditional to give your friends Lily of the Valley on 1st May. In Pons they give their friends a bunch of the new garlic, which is supposed to bring happiness and good luck to the recipient for the rest of the year. The fête de l'aillet (Festival of new garlic) takes place in May every year in Pons.
The geographical situation of Pons is ideal for visitors who wish to find many of the small villages of the Charente-Maritime, as well as their architectural treasures. Many tours are available from the Tourist Office. These tours offer a variety of destinations.
Jonzac is situated at the most southern end of the department and has developed thermal spas since the 1980s, thanks to its spring water which comes from deep within the earth. This water has prompted the development of thermal spas. They are located on a troglodyte site, a former stone quarry whose stone was used to build a cathedral, and also in a recreational water centre called “les Antilles”. The water has also been used for heating houses.
The health benefits of the Soenna spring water are recognized and prescribed to treat respiratory problems, arthritis and joint problems. These therapy treatments help many thousands, and cure patients each year.
A casino has also been opened. The city is surrounded by hills and crossed by the Seugne River. Built on a rocky promontory, the castle is the symbol of the city. The main edifice was attacked during the One Hundred Years War and was then restored during the 15th century. Today, it houses administrative offices, the town hall and the sub-prefecture.
In the historical centre, the Romanesque church of Saint-Gervais, from the graphic design it is reminiscent of the Merovingian prehistoric burial ground, adjoins the Baltard style covered market. The former convent of the Carmes, to the west of the city, houses the cultural centre.
During the summer, an outdoor Leisure Centre, heated by the excess heat from the thermal power plant, and with a fine sandy beach, is a great place for all the family.
The Maison de l’énergie (the Energy House) explains the development of geothermal energy. Windmills, entirely refurbished and working, are used for the milling of flour and pressing of walnut oil.
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Haute-Saintonge is also characterised by its oenological (the science of viticulture) heritage. Take a trip along the Wine Road to see the vineyards of the region, meet the passionate winemakers and taste their products. On the Wine Road, you will smell the sweet aromas of Cognac and Pineau des Charentes, (a local aperitif made from Cognac and grape juice) as well as Charentais wine.
A land of flavours, Haute-Saintonge offers its visitors local quality products. There are many tours which combine gastronomy and wine tasting. Do this gourmet stopover and benefit from the expertise of these producers. Enjoy Charente-Maritime!