Thursday, 19 September 2013

Cognac, a town and a drink

But before the weather turns from bright and warm to gray and cool we decided to prendre des vacances (have a small holiday). Due to work commitments Dave couldn’t have much time off, so we decided to spend a few days camping in the lovely town of Cognac. Cognac is about 2.30 hours from us so not too far to go.  Its somewhere I have wanted to go since we moved over here. A hotel isn't really very Dave and I, so we decided to go back to our roots and go camping. There were a few to choose from and we picked one that was well appointed and close to town. We found all the info we needed to choose on whatever did we do before the age of the internet? Due to a cycling event going on in town the road infront of our campsite was closed till 5pm so we decided to go into town and have a good mooch around and see what is there and scope out some nice places to visit while we where in town.We also went to the indoor market, which is so evocative of all the best of things French and the reason so many of us love it here. Fresh bread, fish, seafood, fruit and meat compete with for attention with of local wines and of course the best Cognac. After buying some supplies to take back and cook at the campsite we ambled up to the tourist info office to get some ideas of where to go and what was on, before going to the campsite afterwards, The campsite we were based on was called  (subtle name) “Camping de Cognac” and was really great, beside the river Charente a in a wooded enclosed area that gave us privacy as well as some shade from the sun (it’s amazing how hot a tent can get on a sunny day). And after pitching the tent with surprisingly little trouble involved, we cooked our first camping dinner and sat down to relax with a wine and a good book. Perfect :) 

  Cognac town is a really beautiful place with a good mix of history and modern interests. The French do seem to love mixing an old chateau with modern art and we found some of that in cognac.

These flying sculptures were fun.
Dave admiring the view.

 We decided to go and visit a couple of Cognac houses after all it would have been rude not to. The first one was the Chateau de Font Joyeuse in Louzac Saint Andre on the outskirts of Cognac. When we visited it was just out of season so there wasn't anybody else wanting a tour and we got a private tour. They even opened the gates so we could go in and have a look around. Only 40 % of the produce of this distillery is used by them to make their own Cognac, the rest is sold it Rémy Martin. More information about the Chateau and Cognac making can be found at 

Chateau Le Font Joyeuse 
Chateau Le Font Joyeuse
The still in Chateau's distillery
The eau de vie barrels, eau de vie is the main ingredient in Cognac.The barrels and walls are black due to mushrooms that grow due to evaporated cognac from the bungs. All Cognac houses have this.

Our purchases

We also decided it would have been rude not to look at the more famous Cognac houses and as a anniversary gift from our daughter we had a tour of the famous Rémy Martin House. Again as it was just out of season – 2nd September we actually had the tour on our own. We could take photos in all the rooms except where the barrels were aging, that apparently was top secret. After the tour we had some appetizers and a tasting session in a lovely posh room. They weren't mean with the tastings and I felt a little light headed when we left. The whole experience was really good and I would recommend it to anyone in the region.
One of the old stills at Rémy Martin

Eau de vie barrels
Our tasting session
The tasting room , with some Louis 13th Cognac at 2400 euros a bottle, mind you the bottles are hand blown by Baccarat Crystal and all individual.
Cognac town 

Cognac town and and our posh camping cooker.

In future we will take some mini breaks like this across France and get to know our adopted country better. The break gave us a chance to relax before pushing onwards with all the jobs that we need to do before winter. Getting all the tiles up on the roof is a real challenge if you don’t own a Manitou, but we will get it done. Hopefully next blog will allow me to show you the finished roof (fingers tightly crossed).