Description: One of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, this is a really lovely village full of white buildings – the village’s name comes from the latin alba terre which means ‘white earth’. It is perched on the borders of the Dordogne and the Charente, and probably one of its most visited sites is the vast troglodyte church of St Jean, the largest of its type in Europe. You can wander around the Church at will (entrance fee payable with free audio guide), climbing up the 80 steps inside for views down into the nave which is 20m high, as well as visits to the catacombs. It is a fascinating place that is open every day from 9.30-12.00 and 14.00-18.00.
During the summer English speaking guided tours of the village are organized. If you feel hungry try out the restaurant at the foot of the village or one of the open air cafes in the village square.
Location: About 50km due south of Angouleme on D20/D17 perched overlooking the River Dronne.
General Information: Town’s official website. Free parking in the village centre above the main square (opposite the tourist information centre).
Our recommendations: Aim to spend a day here so you can sample the wide choice of entertainments available, both in the village and down by the river.
For the children: The village and subterranean church offer limited appeal. But they will enjoy the riverside attractions including a very pleasant river beach (please keep an eye on the little ones!) and canoeing, as well as a small play area.
Here’s more information to make the most of your visit to the Charente Maritime: