The tiny hamlet of Le Sauvage, just metres away from the Charente / Deux-Sèvres border, is perched on a hillside and surrounded by pasture, fields of sunflowers in the summer and groves of magnificent sweet chestnut trees. The hamlet, which means ‘untamed’, with its honey coloured stone walls and canal roof tiles, seems to sleep and shimmer in the heat of the day. It’s an ideal area for walking and gentle cycling, especially as there’s so little traffic on the roads, lots of interconnecting lanes through fields and woodland, forgotten hamlets, stone lavoirs (ancient washhouses) which bubble with ice cold spring water, wells … lovely spots for picnics. If you don’t feel like stirring out of the garden, you could stay at home and enjoy your private pool or simply watch the migratory hoopoes or later on in the evening listen to the song of the nightingale. There’s a wealth of good local restaurants offering excellent value, or dine on freshly cooked local produce 'at home' under the stars.
A pleasant bike ride or walk along country lanes to the nearest boulangerie and café/restaurant at Montjean which is only 3km from the house and the market town of Sauzé Vaussais with its fishing and canoeing lake, large supermarket and selection of bars, cafés and restaurants is under 6km.
Ruffec (8 km) is a bustling town full of little boutiques and cafés and has a lively market of fresh local produce every Tuesday. Take the TGV from here for a day trip to Paris or Bordeaux, visit the church of St André with its XIIth century façade or for a quieter day explore the forests of Ruffec or go fishing at Condac.
Chef Boutonne (12km) with its fairytale château and lavoirs, has a bustling market with stalls of freshly caught fish and local produce. The regional speciality, ‘Pineau des Charentes’ a wickedly delicious aperitif is served in pavement cafés in the town square. The Château de Javarzay and museum are open to the public and are well worth a visit.
Without moving far from home at Melle you will discover no less than three magnificent Romanesque churches, one being Unesco listed and which during the Summer months become venues for the prestigious Festival of Classical Music. Whilst at Melle, take time to visit the Silver Mines and it’s Carolingian garden which date back to Vth century. The Royal Abbey with its formal gardens at Celles sur Belle is an imposing testament to Renaissance architecture and hosts a Baroque Music festival in late August. Again, on a musical note, Operas of outstanding quality are staged en ‘plein air’ in August in the Roman amphitheatre at Sanxay. This whole area is peppered with exquisite little XIth & XIIth century churches, Medieval heritage, pre-historic remains and Roman settlements. Of particular interest is the ‘Tumulus de Bougon’, one of the oldest Neolithic burial grounds in Europe.
Equidistant from the cultural and historic towns of Poitiers, Angoulême and Niort all being within 50 minutes drive from Le Ruisseau Perdu.
Poitiers, with it’s abundant medieval and Renaissance heritage, notably the romanesque church, Notre Dame la Grande and the rare 4th century Baptistère St. Jean along with shops and cafés makes for a pleasant day out or visit the renowned (rightly so, it’s absolutely amazing) Futuroscope.
Niort, capital of the Deux-Sèvres and steeped in history, dating back to the middle ages. Make time to visit the ‘Pilori’ and the ‘Donjon’, an imposing fortressed castle keep overlooking the ‘Sèvre Niortaise’ river. Don’t miss market day at Niort (Thursday, Saturday and Sunday mornings) a cornucopia of fresh local produce, baskets of fresh walnuts, goat’s cheeses, regional specialities and freshly caught fish from the ‘Isle d’Oleron’.
Angoulême, town of art and history is home to several art galleries including the excellent National Centre of Comic Strip Art. The ‘centre ville’ rich in architectural heritage boasts the XIth century Cathédrale St. Pierre, churches, an abbey and a chapel as well as a ‘chocolaterie artisanale’ and a museum dedicated to the Résistance.
Further afield, although mostly under an hour’s drive, there’s boating through the leafy waterways of the Marais Poitevin also known as the Venise Vert or Cognac (for obvious reasons) or Saintes with its Roman amphitheatre. There’s the delightful historic port of La Rochelle (90 minutes drive to be realistic) with its harbour towers, art galleries, museums and superb aquarium or simply relax and absorb the atmosphere in one of the many quayside cafés or restaurants or stretch out on the sandy beach, a mere stone’s throw from ‘centre ville’. The royal naval port of Rochefort is well worth a visit; witness the meticulous reconstruction of the 16th century frigate, the ‘Hermione’.