This post about the French village of Talmont-sur-Gironde is the first instalment in a series highlighting Les Plus Beaux Villages de France – the most beautiful villages of France!
In a country blessed with postcard-perfect villages, the coveted title of ‘most beautiful’ has been awarded to a select 155 villages (correct as at the time of writing). There are strict criteria these villages must adhere to in order to receive – and keep – the title of most beautiful.
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There’s something about village life in France that radiates the romantic nostalgia of yesteryear. The cities are amazing in their own way, but give me an afternoon to stroll aimlessly around a pretty village with crumbling ramparts and a manicured town square and I’ll be a happy traveller.
When I recently came across the concept of Les Plus Beaux Villages I wanted to see what made these revered villages special. Consulting the list, I realised I was living a mere 30 minutes away from one such village – Talmont-sur-Gironde, also known simply as Talmont.
Driving towards Talmont you get the feeling you are entering a special area. Rustic farmland gives way to neatly plotted vineyards, and ancient statues stand guard over the sloping fields. Talmont juts out into the Gironde estuary at its widest point and offers a view to Point de Grave in the distance.
Formerly an island, the village is now easily accessible by road. Parking in the dedicated lots, I can see the famous church rooftop peeking above the terracotta rooftops. Low-slung houses huddle around the perimeter – their stone façades protecting the magic within from prying eyes.
I have my (3-year-old) son Arthur with me, so I follow his curious lead into the village. There is no traffic here, meaning we can safely wander through the maze of narrow streets and sheltered alleyways.
Where is Talmont-sur-Gironde?
Talmont is in the Charente-Maritime department of France. Around a half-hour drive south of Royan, 40 mins south-west of Saintes, and just less than 2 hours north of Bordeaux.
What makes Talmont worth a visit?
The town’s inhabitants are undoubtedly proud of their town. The houses and gardens are perfectly sculptured in that slightly ‘unkempt-on-purpose’ way the French are experts at.
They aren’t afraid of colour around here, and the artistic flair is evident on the streets, well before you step inside the galleries and art studios that dot the town.
As you amble past sagging sea walls and monuments honouring fallen heroes, the colourful history of the town is prevalent.
Talmont has endured changes of rule and natural disasters that have altered the landscape of the town and its surrounds. Despite this, the layout of the village has remained the same for the last 700-odd years, since it was founded under the rule of King Edward I of England.
We visited mid-November when the last of the Autumn leaves were falling, creating a crunchy carpet beneath our feet. During the summer months, wildflowers burst through each crack in the pavement adding more colour to the village canvas.
Talmont’s main attractions
Talmont-sur-Gironde is most famous for the Sainte-Radegonde Church. It’s an imposing sight perched on the promontory, like the figurehead of a boat ready to set sail.
Built in Roman style by the monks of Saint-Jean-d’Angély in the 11th Century, the west face of the church was rebuilt in a gothic style in the 15th century after sustaining considerable damage from the ocean. The two styles make it an interesting and unusual building to visit. Next door lays a well-cared-for cemetery with bright flowers creating contrast between the tombstones.
Nearby you will find a small museum detailing the village’s history and fishing traditions. It wasn’t open when we visited, so if you do plan to go – check the opening hours beforehand.
Few of the traditional fishing huts (carrelets) remain, their counterparts destroyed by a tidal wave that battered the headland in 1999. Those that were spared add a rustic charm to the promenade walk.
Where to stay and eat in Talmont
There are a number of eateries in the village offering everything from crepes to confit. You’ll be spoilt for choice during the summer. But visit during the cooler months and you may need to look a little harder to find food.
The restaurants and cafés reduce their hours or close completely over winter, in tune with the decreased demand of diners.
For those wanting to extend their visit to Talmont, Airbnb provides a few attractive options to stay local.
Events in Talmont-sur-Gironde
There are brocantes (flea markets) held throughout the year, as well as Xmas markets and local festivals. For up-to-date information about events in Talmont-sur-Gironde, see the local tourism Facebook page.
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