Bishops Visit – France and More – Dampierre and Cognac

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Kerry and I had been to Cognac previously so going back there was only intended to be a quick visit. There was no hurry this morning, no ferry to catch or traffic to avoid so we cruised through bright sunlight with clear skies with expectation that we would travel wider than just Cognac today. Tommy decided to give us the “Cook’s Tour“ and we travelled down back roads past thousands of vines all dedicated to the divine brandy called cognac.

The weather is not a trustworthy friend for as we arrived at Cognac the wind rose and the temperature dropped – I could feel the cold through my corduroy trousers and my fingers were losing sensation without the warmth of gloves. As we approached the town we caught sight of this odd house overlooking the river and the town boundary for Cognac. Cognac is situated on the river Charente between the towns of Angoulême and Saintes. The majority of the town has been built on the river’s left bank, with the smaller right bank area known as the Saint Jacques district. The town is situated on one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostella. We parked on the banks of the River by the St Jacques Gate a remnant of its medieval past.

Flying high above us was the flag of Hennessy and the flag of Otard, two of the international distillers of Cognac located in the city (there are three other internationally known distillers in town – Camus, Remy Martin and Martell – and many lesser known brands as well). But there is more to this city than the distilleries.

We start by walking through the Gates of St Jacques along the cobbled streets to the city centre. The architecture tells a story of an old city with a variety of influences. Cognac was unknown before the 10th century and was established as a fortified town which changed hands a number of times during the 100 year war. The Chateau de Valois remains looming over the township but it is closed for visitors til next year. One of the special sights was the “Maison de la Lieutenance” the house of the Lieutenant General of Cognac from 1603 to 1624. Made of timber rather than stone and ornamented with carved figures it is unique.

Strolling on up the hill we discover a whole new Cognac. Kerry and I had gone straight to Hennessy last time we visited but there is another part to the town (particularly the old town) which we had not seen. I was sent back to the car to bring it up to the centre and on returning found the girls had found the shopping. Doug and I found St Leger Church.

As we passed through the mall I noticed that some of the citizens were more interested in modern history as shown by the graffiti of Marilyn Munroe. We made our way to the centre of the old town and found a nice coffee shop. Kerry found out the hard way that the southern French have a different idea of a cappuccino – espresso topped with whipped cream and sprinkles! We ended up overstaying our planned time and with a special dinner tonight we headed back to Dampierre. Not to be out done Tommy found even smaller roads in even remoter parts of the Charante to get home.

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