Royan, at the mouth of the Gironde estuary, in the Charente Maritime department is a major seaside destination for the French.

Badly bombed in 1945, the town was largely rebuilt in the 1950s, and unfortunately for modern tastes, concrete was the material of choice; although sometimes, as in the market hall designed to resemble a parachute, in commemoration of the Liberation, the material is quite successful.

Church of Notre Dame

The town still has its fishing port, although nowadays the boats land very few of the sardines known as the "royan", and the harbour is more used by pleasure craft.

From Royan it is possible to take a boat trip to the Cordouan Lighthouse, which guards the entrance to the Gironde estuary. The lighthouse is the oldest existing one in France, partially dating to the 18th century. When it was first built in the 16th century, the light had to be provided by a huge fire, rather than any sort of lantern - and in a particularly practical solution, the fire was tended by a hermit!

Cordouan lighthouse

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