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Europe

The European continent was named after beautiful Phoenician woman called Europa.

Europe

When Zeus have seen Agenor's daughter Europa gathering flowers he immediately fell in love with her.

Welcome to the Avert Penisula of Charente-Maritime

The Arvert peninsula is a portion of the continent under the department of Charente-Maritime, France. It is located between:

  • the Gironde estuary in the southwest
  • Atlantic Ocean, in the west
  • the straits of Maumusson, in northwest
  • Seudre river, in northeast.

The peninsula is connected to the mainland by the south-east territory but the beginning of peninsula is not well defined. It is named after the town of Arvert which is located nearly central, but the largest city of this peninsula is Royan.

Arvert communes

East north of Arvert penisula

Although the limit of the southeast side, where it is linked to the mainland, is not very well defined, we can consider that the peninsula is composed of the following 15 municipalities:

  • Arvert
  • Breuillet
  • Chaillevette
  • L’Éguille
  • Étaules
  • Les Mathes
  • Medis
  • Mornac sur Seudre
  • Royan
  • St. Augustine
  • Saint-Palais-sur-Mer
  • Saint-Sulpice-de-Royan
  • Saujon (left bank of the town)
  • La Tremblade
  • Vaux-sur-Mer

Other municipalities may also be considered as part of the peninsula, by their geographical location or common history:

  • Saint-Georges-de-Didonne
  • Semussac
  • Meschers
  • Talmont-sur-Gironde
  • others, along Gironde estuary.
Arvert lanscape Port
Arvert pejzage 3 President De Gaule grave

Because of their touristic importance, and because the author have visited many of them, some of them will be described in more detail below. We will start our journey from the north of the Arvert peninsula and will descend to the south ending at Gironde estuary.

La Tremblade municipality

La Tremblade as a commune counts about 4500 habitants and 70 km2 surface area most of which is taken by the Coubre forest. Within the 43 km2 of the forest no commercial or habitual activities are allowed except a couple of country roads that can be used by tourists. In three places along the Atlantic cost you can drive with your car into the forest bat then you have to leave your car on the parking and the last one kilometer to the beach you have just to walk.

Church in Tremblade Church backjaard
Seudre Tourist Boat La Tremblade

This municipality is bordered in the west by the rugged coast from north Point Spanish to Point Coubre in the south, collected large beach at the foot of a dune-lined couch marine, werewolves and marram grass, in front of a large pine forest de Coubre that covers much of the peninsula. The main dunes, which can reach 60 meters hight are the dune Vasselot, the dune of Aquitaine and the dune of Old lighthouse, near the Point Coubre. The rugged coastline is characterized by strong currents and powerful surf-waves that make it one of the favorite places for water sports, especially surfing. But be careful, this waters can be danger due to a combination of a strong current and waves, especially near the La Pointe Espagnole when the Côte Sauvage connect to straits of Maumusson.

Port in Tremblade Port in Tremblade 2
Port in Tremblade - inland part Restaurant in Tremblade

The entrance of the straits of Maumusson is particularly feared by sailors because of strong currents and waves that bar the entrance in bad weather. Several names are also directly from shipwrecks: the tip of Spain owes its name from the sinking ship "Antonio Carmen" December 20, 1823, while the beach of gold braid was named after the sinking of a Spanish galleon in the fifteenth century.

Forest near the Spanish Point Road from the Spanish Point plage to the forest
Plage near the Spanish Point The Spanish Point

Above: Coubre Forest and the plage near de La Pointe Espagnole

Northwest, the small resort of Ronce-les-Bains is established on the sea straits. Its beaches are almost sheltered of the currents. The town, which has been strong with tourists since the nineteenth century, counts eight beaches in total, 4 oriented northwest and 4 oriented west. These are the plages counting from the Seudre river:

4 on Maumusson straits:

  • du Mus de loup
  • de la Cèpe
  • du Galon d'Or
  • de l'Embellie

and 4 on Côte Sauvage :

  • de la Pointe Espagnole
  • de la Bouverie
  • du Vieux-Phare
  • et de La Coubre.

Les Mathes

Les Mathes is a commune in the Charente-Maritime department in southwestern France. Its land area is about 35 km2 and population of 1700. During the summer time thousands of tourists are coming here due to the camping’s located on the edge of the Coubre forest. From these camping’s one can access the beaches of Cotê Sauvage, the closest being the plage de la Bouverie but there is also not so far to the beaches at de la Pointe espagnole and the beach at du Vieux-Phare.

Mathes Centre Palmyre
Camping L'Estanquet at Les Mathes Camping La Clé des Champs

This area is also famous for its camping’s many of them being position on edge of the Coubre forest thus between the community of La Tremblade and Les Mathes. The commune includes also the famous beach resort La Palmyre where one can find:

De Bonne Anse with High Tie Living De Bonne Anse at La Palmyre port
Dunes near De Bonne Anse bay Road to Bonne Anse plage

The formation of the Bonne Anse bay was due to confrontation between the Atlantic currents sweeping coastlines and currents of the Gironde flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean current, highly charged with sand, slows the passage of the tip Coubre, allowing the sand to settle heavily in and around the Bonne Anse.

This bay and is constantly changing, so its future is uncertain. The sand gradually can fill the passage and allows its filling with the tides, so the site could become an inland lake, threatening the business of the port and Bonne Anse.

De Bonne Anse bay during low tie View from the south into Bonne Anse bay during high tie
View from Bonne Anse plage in direction of La Coubre lighthouse La Coubre lighthouse

The Coubre lighthouse is a tower of 64 meters high. It clarifies and secures access to the Gironde estuary passes by the Great West, by facilitating the circumvention of sectors Coubre and the bench of the Poor, upon which lie many wrecks. The bench of the Poor is of a grim reputation. It is located off the Cotê Sauvage and is not healthy for boating, owing to the presence of variable conditions, shipwrecks and strong crossing currents. In transit from the estuary to the north, it is best to avoid these areas.

This is the highest lighthouse on the coast of Charente and is today decorated for the celebration of its centenary in 2005 and due to a museum that traces the life of lighthouses in the Gironde estuary. Nearby there is nice plage du Vieux-Phare shown below.

du Vieux-Phare plage du Vieux-Phare plage during high tie
ZOO La Palmyre 1 ZOO La Palmyre 2

Zoo de La Palmyre was created in 1966 in the forest of the Les Mathes by Claude Caillé. Extending over 18 hectares, including 14 of landscape garden, it offers the visitor the opportunity of observing more than 1600 animals of all kinds, divided into 130 species, over a walking distance of more than 4 km. The zoo is not the biggest in France but certainly the most visited.

Saint Palais-sur-Mer

Saint-Palais-sur-Mer is the commune located in the department of Charente-Maritime. Their inhabitants are called Saint Palaisien and Saint Palaisiennes.

Saint-Palais coast 1 Saint-Palais coast 2
Saint-Palais coast 3 with Grazyna Saint-Palais coast 4 with Maciek

The site of the present town of Saint-Palais seems to have been occupied for a long time, as evidenced traces of Neolithic and underground shelters for the men at the end of prehistory found on commune territory and some remains of Gallo-Roman period found during the construction of the new treatment plant. It was not until the eleventh century that we find the first written record of the city, through the reference to the church of Saint Pallais (Sanctus Palladius), seat of a parish that was dependent from the abbey in Vaux.

Entrance to Camping Camping Saint Palais
Camping Saint Palais 2 Camping Saint Palais Swiming Pool

Resort has gained its momentum in the late nineteenth century. Saint-Palais-sur-Mer is a residential area on the outskirts of Royan. Located at the mouth of the Gironde estuary, facing the Atlantic Ocean, it retains much evidence of seaside architecture of the "Belle Epoque" to the "Roaring Twenties" with its villas, cottages and castles in varied styles. Enjoying the reputation of the worldly city of Royan, a few miles distant, the village experienced a population explosion. Within a few years, become a peaceful village resort in its own right, attracting more and more people, requiring more and more facilities. New shops were located, new roads traced. Large halls were built in 1905 and a new church was built in 1909. As Royan, is made of architectural follies, as you can still see the villa with Primavera, true neo-Romanesque palace in Saint-Palais-sur-Mer. In 1897, the city, relatively landlocked to Royan was connected by tram. Finally in 1911, the town officially took the name of Saint-Palais-sur-mer.

Coastline Saint-Palais 1 Coastline Saint-Palais Grand Coté
Coastline Saint-Palais Grand Coté plage Coastline Saint-Palais Grand Coté bad

The city has hosted before the Second World War the important personalities from politics, artists and movie stars. Trotsky, in exile, took refuge in Saint-Palais some time before leaving for Mexico there met André Malraux repeatedly. In 1924 a big tidal wave have cause tremendous damage to infrastructure of the municipality.

Villa Primavera, now luxory hotel Old villa in Saint-Palais
Small church in Saint Palais Entrance to famous walking route of Saint Palais
On the walking route of Saint Palais On the walking route of Saint-Palais

The commune is located in the heart of a pine forest that reminds the forest of Coubre nearby. Its city center, consists of modern buildings, is built around a central square, lined with shops and restaurants, and a park of 16 hectares with a lake and artificial recreational facilities.

On the walking route os Saint-Palais One of the cornische in Saint Palais
View into the cornische plage in Saint Palais Near the cornische plage with Grazyna
Cornische Plage nera the old city centre with Maciek Cornische plage near the city centre with Grazyna

The whole coastline is home to five cornische beaches of various sizes, connected together by a landscaped walking trail called "The trail of Customs" from which picturesque rock formations can be observed such as the Devil's Bridge or the Well of Auture.

North of the town there is the Great Coast that consists of a wide straight beach evoking the Cotê Sauvage and the beaches of the Silver Coast.  A tourist center with shops, bars and restaurants was built nearby, taking advantage of a location being the "balcony" on the ocean.

Vaux-sur-Mer

It is the small town and the commune with a size of about 605 hectares south of the Arvert peninsula. Located on the right bank of the mouth of the Gironde estuary the commune is also close to the Atlantic Ocean. Vaux-sur-Mer was part of the old historical province of Saintonge.

Coast of Vaux-sur-Mer 1 Coast of Vaux-sur-Mer 2
Coast of Vaux-sur-Mer 3 Coast of Vaux-sur-Mer 4
Coast of Vaux-sur-Mer with Grazyna Coast of Vaux-sur-Mer 6

On the coast there are alternating limestone cliffs and beaches, locally called conches. There are four conches in this commune of varying sizes. From north to south these are; Conche Nauzan, which is the largest and is shared with the commune of Saint-Palais-sur-Mer and three smaller conches du Conseil, de Saint-Sordelin et de Gilet. At the southe end of the range there is conche du Pontaillac that marks the separation of the commune with that of Royan. All conches are covered with extremely fine sand, of the order of 180 microns. Their final formation seems to have occurred more than 8000 years ago.

Coastal landscape of Vaux-sur-Mer 7 Coastal landscape of Vaux-sur-Mer 8
Coastal landscape of Vaux-sur-Mer 9 Coastal landscape of Vaux-sur-Mer 10

The occupation of the territory of the commune is probably very old, since two portal graves (now missing) were reported in the late nineteenth century. Remains of Neolithic and underground shelters of men at the end of prehistory were also discovered within the commune. Later, in Roman times, several Roman Villae emerge like Pontaillac, Bernezac, Vessac. Owners planted vines and exploited forests and swamps around.

Church at cementary Cementary church
New church at Vaux Church in Vaux with Grazyna
Municipality park at Vaux Municipality park at Vaux 2

It is in the Middle Ages when the town begins to flourish, with the founding in 1075 by Benedictine monks of the Abbey of Saint-Étienne. This modest abbey was sacked several times during its history, first by Guibert, lord of Didonne, in 1167, and during the wars of religion, during which it was occupied by Protestants, before being transferred to Catherine de Bourbon, sister of Henry IV. Domaine des Fees, seaside, was called Lo Défens in a document of the twelfth century. The Duchesse de Rohan, the owner who had built a house there, called the Field of Fairies by deformation.

Park of Vaux-sur-Mer 1 Park of Vaux-sur-Mer with Maciek
Park of Vaux-sur-Mer 3 Park of Vaux-sur-Mer 4
Park of Vaux-sur-Mer with Grazyna Park of Vaux-sur-Mer Administration building

During the nineteenth century, Vaux began to benefit from the popularity of sea bathing, and the first chalets and villas starting to emerge, especially near the beaches and the cornice Nauzan north of Pontaillac. The tram line connecting the Royan coast was inaugurated. The city is adjacent to that of Royan, the capital of the Côte de Beauté and in fact forms its suburbs. The town is 57 kilometers south of La Rochelle and 97 kilometers north of Bordeaux.

Royan

Royan is the town and the commune in the Charente-Maritime department, along the Atlantic Ocean. As the seaside resort, Royan is located in the heart of an urban area estimated at 38,638 inhabitants, which makes it the fourth-largest city in this department, after La Rochelle, Rochefort and Saintes. Royan is the capital of the “ Côte de beauté “ and is located at the mouth of the Gironde Estuary, the largest estuary in Europe. Royan has five sandy beaches, a marina and a fishing port.

Royan Ferry Royan view from the plage
View on Royen port from the bay View on Gironde from Royan fortyfied bank

The site of Royan was occupied from prehistory: cut flints brought to light by archeological excavations give evidence of this. The Celtic people of Santones began to populate the peninsula of Arvert. Romans developed the cultivation of vineyards, the breeding of oysters and the saltern technique. In 418, the Visigoths arrived at Saintess. To protect itself, Royan surrounded itself with walls in 419, the date on which this city is mentioned for the first time. Grégoire of Tours mentions a usurpation of the church of Royan by the Arian Visigoths. In summer 844, the Vikings came up the Gironde, plundering everything on their passage.

Old church of Royan 18 century palace
Villa begining 19 century Hotel de ville of Royan
Villa begining 20 century City centre

For centuries Royan was reduced to a small hamlet near the local abbey. Then, in 1137, Eleanor of Aquitaine married the king of France, Louis VII. Then, Royan became an integral part of the duchy of Aquitaine and passed under the direct control of the king of France. But in 1152, the marriage was annulled and Eleanor was married again, to Henri Plantagenet, who became King of England in 1154. Royan then passed under English control.

Cathedral Notre Dame de Royan Yacht Port of Royan The oldest lighthouse in France de Corduan Cathedral Notre Dame of Royan
Cathedrale Notre Dame of Royan Cathedrale Notre Dame of Royan

In 1242, Henry III, king of England, at war against Louis IX, landed at Royan with 300 knights. Beaten at Taillebourg, the English kingdom kept, by the treaty of Paris, control of the South of Saintonge, with the city of Royan. In 1355, during the Hundred Years War, the Black Prince, heir to the throne of England, occupied Saintonge. He strengthened the defences of Royan, which became a large village administered by twelve Echevins and twelve councillors. At the end of the Hundred Years War, in 1451, the region of Royan was definitively part of French kingdom, but the city was again totally ruined.

Ocean front of Royan Ocean front 2
Ocean front 3 Ocean front 4
Shoping street of Royan One of Royan plage

In the 16th century, the religious wars raged, and almost all the great captains of the time, such as Henri de Navarre, the future King Henry IV, and the Sire of Brantôme fought under the walls of the citadel. After the Edict of Nantes, Royan was a Protestant fortified town under King Henry III. The strengthened city underwent a first siege in 1622, directed by Louis XIII, but resisted. The second siege in 1623 was terrible for Royannais, who had to abandon the city. But it was finally Cardinal Richelieu who, in 1631, made shave ramparts and houses of the suburb. The city, which no longer had a church, was connected with the rural parish of Saint Pierre. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the major part of the population emigrated, mostly to Protestant Holland, when the persecution continued under Louis XV.

Big plage of Royan Sea front of Royan during the evening
Marche of Royan Botanic gardens of Royan
Protestan church center in Royan City transport with specially design buses

The storm of 1735 took the elevation of its harbor and navigation was not restored before the 19th century. In 19th century the city became sea resort. Paving of the streets began in 1816 and was finished only in 1826. In July 1819, the mayor, Raymond Labarthe, signed the first prescription regulating sea bathing; this forbade nude bathing from beaches bordering houses and reserved the Foncillon beach for women. In 1820, it was forbidden "to wash pigs, horses and other cattle in the sea as we have baths". In 1847, the engineer Lessore built the sketch of the first casino. Under the Second Empire, the city underwent much development. In 1854, the first street lights were installed. Between 1850 and 1870, the number of tourists increased from 9000 to 10,000, and the population from 3329 to 4500.

View of Royan from the Ocean View of Royan from south plage
View of Royan from the Cathedral Typical villa of Royan

During World War II, two German fortresses defended the Gironde Estuary: Gironde Mündung Nord, and Gironde Mündung Süd. These constituted one of the Atlantic "pockets" which the Germans held on to grimly, well after the liberation of the rest of France. In the early hours of January 5, 1945, a force of about 350 RAF heavy bombers, at the request of SHAEF which had been told that nobody was left in Royan but Germans and collaborators, bombed the centre of Royan out of existence in two raids. The blame for this raid is usually attributed to Free French General de Larminat. The town was rebuilt in the 1950s, as part of an urbanization program and is very representative of the modernistic architecture of the time.