Our Euro adventure begins with a visit with friends in Cognac
After leaving the UK, we headed to Cognac, France, to begin the European leg of our adventure.
Before leaving South Africa, we had plans to visit as many of the major European capitals and cities as we could. However, over the course of our travels our mind-set and game plan has changed somewhat.
We have realised that staying in one place for longer works best for us. We feel more settled, and more importantly, Aiden feels more settled. But over and above that, it gives us the opportunity to really explore the destinations we visit and get a feel for what they have to offer.
During our time in North, and South America, some of our best memories are from the lessor know destinations, destinations that are not high on many tourists lists. And so with all of this in mind, our thinking now was to visit less places, spend longer in those places and to choose interesting destinations that are perhaps not the first choice of your typical visitor to Europe.
When arriving in Cognac, we had no idea where we would be heading next, which was somewhat daunting but also a little bit exciting. During our time here we would need to send some time planning and organising our next stops. But first and foremost, our focus is to spend time catching up with our good friends Courtney and Conrad. And of course, explore a little bit of Cognac and the surrounding area.
Our Good Friends
We have known Conrad and Courtney for many years, going back to when Lauren and Courtney were at collage together. Conrad plays rugby professionally, which brought them to France almost six years ago now. This means we don’t get to see them very often any more, but as with all great friendships whenever we are able to reconnect it feels as if no time has passed. We are so grateful to them for opening their home to us and allowing us to stay with them, and of course for showing us around the beautiful town of Cognac.
To learn more about their story, have a look at Courtney’s blog, diary of a rugby wife
To be honest, our time in Cognac was very chilled and relaxed, with a lot of time chilling on the couch, but we also did do some exploring, some with Conrad and Courtney and some just the three of us. It the perfect way to slowly adjust back to just being the three of us again after an extended stay in the UK with our family.
Cognac is a town full of history, but is most famous for the spirit of the same name, and probably the primary reason most people visit. Understandably the town continues to revolve around the spirit, with its fortunes rising and falling according to the popularity of the drink.
So, other than catching up with our friends, what did we do in Cognac. Well we found many things to keep us busy. Here are a few ideas, if you do ever find yourself visiting this part of the world.
Take a Cognac tour
Of course, this is one of the most popular things to do, and although not high on our priority list, we did eventually take a tour. All the big-name Cognac produces offer tours, so take your pick of one, or more.
We decided to visit Chateau de Cognac, the birthplace of Francois 1. This Chateau has an illustrious history, which includes hosting the marriage of Richard the Lion hearts son to Aurélie de Cognac in 1190.
In 1705 the Chateau was purchased by cognac producer Baron Otard and to this day remains the headquarters of Otard cognac.
Even if cognac is not your thing, this is a pretty worthwhile tour as it includes some of the rooms of the chateau.
Visit Base Plein Air Cognac, an activity park for family fun
If you do happen to be travelling in the Cognac area with kids, you are in luck as there happens to be an amazing family fun park, which offers fun activities the whole family can enjoy.
It offers parents and children many activities including playground apparatus such as slides, swings and roundabouts; sports areas for skateboarding, football, rugby and tennis courts. And of course, what would an activity park be without inflatable jumping castles.
Visit the Cognac public garden while exploring the old town.
The park is situated in the heart of the old town and covers a large area and has a rose garden, water features, trees, and other extensive plantings. It is one of the few English styled gardens in France open to the public. There is no entrance fee and it offers the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of the old town.
We spent many hours exploring the small cobbled streets of the old town, and the gardens where the perfect place to relax and find some respite from the heat and sun.
Plan a day trip to nearby Angoulême or Bordeaux
Angoulême and Bordeaux are both within easy driving distance of Cognac, and are well worth a visit. Alternatively, if you are staying in either of these cities, I would highly recommend planning a day trip to Cognac, you will not be disappointed.
We spent two lovely days visiting both these cities. Although our visits were focused on gastronomy and finding the perfect places to eat and enjoy the best of what the French have to offer, both these cities have much to offer a tourist from a cultural and historical perspective.
We had a lovely, relaxing time in Cognac, and it was so special to catch up with good friends again. Not only did we get to enjoy time with friends, explore the town and surrounds, but we also managed to plan some of our onward journey.
From Cognac, we travel across France to the town of Strasbourg on the German border. And from Strasbourg we travel to Nuremberg. Travel in Europe really is a pleasure and we will be commuting by train, which gives us the opportunity to enjoy and experience the beauty of both the French and German countryside as we travel.
Keep a look out for my next blogs on Strasbourg and Nuremberg.
Until next time.