Flanking the Charente river, Cognac is an endearing little town, the birthplace of the future François the First, king of France.
Today, the town is bright and lively, but if you approach from the river, past the tourist information office, you find that it reveals itself layer by layer, street by street. You begin fairly innocuously and then progress to the centre through ancient thoroughfares lined with 16th-century half-timbered houses, among which the best is arguably the Maison de la Lieutenance on rue Grande, with splendid wooded sculptures. It houses an exhibition of printing and bookbinding – Le Relieure et l’Imprimerie – which is essentially one man’s private collection of artefacts, the extent and value of which he prefers not to disclose to his wife. But, even if you’re French isn’t up to it, the experience is amazing.
Apart from that, this is a quiet, unassuming, provincial town, worth half a day and lunch of anyone's time.
Worth visiting are the Musée des arts (Les Remparts, Place de la Salle Vertec. Tel: 05 45 36 21 10; www.musees-cognac.fr), where you can learn how they make the drink (Open: all year: October-April daily except Monday, 1400-1730; May-June and September daily except Monday, 1100-1800, Saturday/Sunday 1300-1800); July-August daily 1000-1830. Admission fee). Also, take time out to find the Musée d'art et d'histoire (48 bd Denfert Rocherau. Tel: 05 45 32 07 25; www.musees-cognac.fr), located in the Hotel Dupuy d'Angeac and home to a wide range of municipal collections, including sculptures by Rodin, since 1925.
16, rue du XIV Juillet 16100 Cognac
Tel: 05 45 82 10 71