Wake up to the Vienne!
There are good rental opportunities in this area which would help offset the costs of running a second home. As a rule of thumb you can charge €100 per person per week and more if you have a pool, so a 2-bedroom gite with pool (for 4 people) would let for €400 – 600 per week. A particularly special property with good local attractions could take that higher. In the traditional school holiday weeks you might attract young families looking for a peaceful, safe and private holiday. Outside those times couples can enjoy lower travel costs and can extend the letting season considerably.
This area is attracting more and more of the French themselves who are choosing to find a holiday home here for reasons of good access, the old-fashioned appeal of an area where the pace of life sloooows right down and because there are plenty of things to keep friends and family occupied during visits. The science park of Futuroscope at Poitiers is a big draw for kids and adults alike, the Puy du Fou historical park has spectacular daily shows depicting historical events and the Vallée des Singes (Monkey Valley) has 400 monkeys living in a 16 hectare park plus play areas and petting farm.
The rural landscape of the south Vienne is criss-crossed by miles and miles of quiet lanes and tracks making it perfect for walkers, runners, cyclists and horse riders. Rivers and lakes abound and many offer points of access for canoeists, public bathing beaches and opportunities for both lake and river fishing all year round.
Feeling a need for speed? The Val du Vienne motor circuit offers bike and car racing as well as its famous annual Ferrari days in June. A little further south, Angouleme hosts a weekend of classic car racing around the city ramparts each September where Bugattis, Ferraris, Porches and Alpines go hurtling around the old city streets.
And if all that activity has set your head spinning we recommend an educational trip to some of the distilleries and vineyards around Cognac. And whilst there it would be rude not to try the produce, wouldn’t it?
Without wishing to put the cart before the horse, what are the local dishes that you would hope to sample alongside the wine and cognac tastings? Well, most restaurants will be showcasing local ingredients including fresh, mild goat’s cheeses, oysters and mussels imported daily from the beds on the Atlantic coast along with cassoulets and desserts making the most of locally grown produce. Don’t miss the local specialities of farci potivine (a meat, bean and vegetable stuffing wrapped in cabbage leaves) and tourtre de chevre where cheeseboard meets dessert in what looks like a very well-done sponge cake but is actually a delicious gateau with goat’s cheese filling.
Now, about that belt. It’s probably best to prepare an extra notch or two before you even set out from home!
A wide variety of wildlife and particularly birdlife, including many migratory species passing through, makes this a great spot for nature lovers and ornithologists.
Early spring sees us looking skyward for the huge flocks of cranes signalling warmer weather as they make their northwards from the wintering grounds in southern Europe for breeding grounds on the roof tops of northern European and Scandinavian towns.
Many increasingly rare birds of prey take advantage of the open arable feeds to hunt for small mammals and insects. Buzzards, merlins, hen harriers and owls (long-eared, barn, tawny, little and scops), can all be seen.
The hoopoe is a summer visitor from Africa and often seen with its distinctive swooping flight and crested head feathers as it probes neatly cut lawns in rural gardens with its long curving beak.
Red squirrels are the norm here, none of your grey interlopers, thank you.
If you are lucky you can spot the many wild boar whose success mean they can be a real nuisance to local farmers and proud gardeners alike. Hunting boar, deer, hare and other mammals is strictly controlled in the region but is very much part of the local rural life in the small villages of the area.
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First published in French Property News magazine