Posts Tagged With: Royan

The carrelets of the Charente Maritime

The carrelets of the Charente Maritime

All along the Atlantic coast of the Charente Martime in France you come across these “sheds on stilts” with square nets hanging off them. These are the carrelets locals use to catch anything that happens to pass by. Their distinctive spidery appearance is due to the timber poles having to be tall enough to account for the highest spring tides and any other sea conditions that may occur.

The current design dates back to just after WWI, prior to this round smaller nets were used. Over the years a large number of them had to be reconstructed due to storms taking their toll on them. There was a period when the carrelets were considered an eyesore; in the way of people’s enjoyment of “unspoilt” nature, however, this tide of opinion has turned and the surviving carrelets are now valued as part of the areas heritage.

As ever in France, there is a lot of red tape around these structures. Firstly, the number and location of these are tightly controlled; secondly, you don’t actually own the carrelet, instead you rent it from the state for an annual fee and any reconstruction is at your cost. There are a lot of hoops to jump through if you want to build a new carrelet in place of a previously demolished structure, which again, you will not own, but the cost of building is yours to bear! There are regulations with regards to size, shape, materials to be used and even colour.


We found these wonderful structures on our drive along the coast north from Royan to the La Coubre lighthouse and I was lucky enough that we had a wonderful sunset that evening.


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Église Notre Dame de Royan

The Église Notre Dame de Royan

When you are in Royan you cannot miss the concrete tower that is the Église Notre Dame de Royan, a post war concrete block of a church. The original church that used to stand there was destroyed during WWII. It’s replacement, built between 1955 to 1958, is not perhaps as aestetically pleasing on the outside as some churches we visited, but still has some great appeal with its leading lines. I was expecting a lot of bulking concrete inside, so when we stepped in via an unasuming side door, I was not prepared for the awe inspiring interior that presented itself.

Looking towards the altar

I totally forgot that the church is made from concrete, instead I marvelled at the massive space which was not interrupted by any internal pillars, the wonderful glass windows illuminated by the light shining in, and the magnificent organ. The church holds up to 2,000 people, consists of 24 pillars on the elliptical circumference, and the organ is a masterpiece of over 3,000 pipes.

The organ


The church is easily reached on foot, as it is only a 10 minute walk from the waterfront and about the same distance from the town center; entrance is free. However, if you are planning to visit this church during your visit to Royan, please check to see if it is open, as there are a number of renovations planned. We missed some, which had been ongoing earlier in the year.

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Royan – a beautiful seaside town

Our trip to France started in Royan, a seaside town just 1.5 hours drive north of Bordeaux. Royan sits on France’s Atlantic coast at the mouth of the Gironde estuary and has a population of just under 20,000. We visited in September, and while there were still tourists in town, it was not as busy as I am sure it must be in the height of the summer months. Our hotel, the Brit Hermitage, was a wonderful little place that served a really great breakfast. Sitting right by the water it was the perfect base for us.

We had been to Royan before, on a day trip, so we were excited to be back for longer this time around. We couldn’t wait to get to the beach, living in Alberta, where the nearest coast is a 12 hour drive away, it was the number one priority for us. It did not disappoint!

The photos below are from our walk along the main beach, La Grande Conche, which, aside from the beach, showcases a number of different architectual styles, from traditional to modern, and everything in between.

La Grande Conche, Royan, France

Royan’s harbour

Looking back at the harbour from La Grande Conche

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