Map of Poitou-Charentes Region
The Poitou-Charentes region lies in the middle west of France. It includes four departments. These are Charente, Charente-Maritime, Deux-Sevres, and Vienne. The region covers an area of 25,809 sq kms, and had a population of 1,722,000 in 2007. The region is bordered by the regions of Pays de la Loire to the north, Center to the northeast, Limousin to the east and Aquitaine to the South. The western side faces the Atlantic Ocean and is bordered by the Bay of Biscay. The region has more than 400 kms of shoreline and magnificent beaches. It remains one of the popular holiday destinations in France. The capital of the region is Poitiers.
The Atlantic Ocean on the west exercises considerable influence on the climate of the region. So, Poitou-Charentes has an oceanic climate. The climate is really mild with a number of sunny days. Summers are hot but not muggy while winters are cool and pleasant. The region gets an average of 850 mms of rainfall annually. The coastal areas are wetter while continental influence become predominant in the interior. The optimum rainfall has helped in the growth of a variety of vegetation in this region of France.
The topography of the Poitou-Charentes region is mostly low lying plain. The northwestern part of the department of Deux-Sevres is occupied by the Massif Armoricain. Towards the south, the land again rises to form the Massif Central. The land between these two highlands is occupied by the low-lying valleys. Several rivers like the Charente, Clain, Vienne, and Sevre Niortaise drain the area and have formed low-lying basins in the central part of the region.
Poitou-Charentes is predominantly agricultural with small rural settlements dotting the region. Some of the important urban centers of the region are La Rochelle, Rochefort, Niort etc.
The region of Poitou-Charentes was originally occupied by a Gallic tribe called the Pictavi. They were conquered by the Romans in 56 BC and the region became a part of the province of Aquitania. Subsequently, the region was captured by the Visigoths and then by the Franks. As the region lies on the way to Paris, it has remained the site of several important battles including the Battle of Poitiers where the victory of Charles Martel in 732 brought a halt to the Muslim invasion of Western Europe. In 1152, the area came under the control of the English, but it was reunited with France in 1416.
The language here is French. Three other languages are spoken by the minority groups. These are Occitan, Poitevin, and Saintongeais.
While the foreign tourists flock to the Mediterranean beaches of French Riviera, the discerning French tourists always head for the Poitou-Charentes region. It offers one of the longest stretches of beaches in Europe. The Charente Maritime department alone has nine nudist beaches. In addition, there are a number of beautiful natural reserves helped by the rainfall. The Marais Poitevin is one such marshy reserve which attracts a number of tourists.