Bordeaux is one of Europe’s biggest 18th-century urban areas and is, of course, a wine enthusiast’s paradise. It’s nicknamed “la belle endormie” (“sleeping beauty”) for giving a rare glimpse into French urban life pre-Revolution. See the immense Place de la Bourse and its reflection in the Miroir d’Eau, the largest reflecting pool in the world; find respite with a coffee and croissant at the Orangerie, in the city’s public gardens; watch opera or ballet at the Grand Théâtre; or explore cosmopolitan Quai de Bacalan, with its surfeit of restaurants and shops in transformed warehouses.
The fortified medieval town of St Emilion, roughly 50 minutes from Bordeaux, is heaven for wine enthusiasts. Its surrounding vineyards and chateaux are brimming with wine tasting opportunities; some of the most engaging tours take place at Chateau Cantenac and Chateau Laniote.
Pretty Marthon is a small village in the peaceful Charente department. It’s ideal for a country escape: you can take in the gentle rolling countryside on horseback, by bicycle or from a kayak on the windy Bandiat river.
While you’re in Charente, don’t miss a visit to Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, often cited as one of the most beautiful villages in France. The village is known for its breathtaking monolithique, a troglodyte 12th-century church. Take a dip in the river Dronne, relax on the plages aménagées ('beaches' with playgrounds and facilities) and enjoy a bite to eat in the pretty central square with shady outdoor restaurants.