Jonzac is a very pleasant spa town situated in Charente Maritime, just half an hour's drive from the main Paris to Bordeaux A10 autoroute.
Jonzac has a rich and varied history. The chateau dates from early medieval times and was substantially rebuilt in the 15th century. The town had a particularly successful history during the 17th century when it was famous for the tanning industry. Today, it is a centre for tonnellerie – making barrels and pallets for the local cognac industry.The town has undergone significant work over the last few years and is seriously on the up and up. Pleasant shops, a very good covered market, boat trips on the river, a huge leisure pool on its outskirts, an open air lakeside leisure complex, a casino, restaurants, and a thermal spa are just some of the attractions.
The ancient chateau is at the heart of Jonzac. Substantially rebuilt in the 15th century, the chateau now houses the Marie. Tours of the chateau are available through the summer months, including a guided tour in English every Wednesday afternoon in July and August. A tiny theatre is located in the chateau - the local English-speaking Gilbert and Sullivan Society present productions in the theatre from time to time (usually out of the summer season).
The Place du Chateau was refurbished only very few years ago and now boasts wide pavements with the Coq d'Or brasserie offering delicious fare throughout the year and providing opportunities for people watching while you sip a ‘grande crème’ or a glass of the local pineau.
Leading off from the Place du Chateau is a medieval semi subterranean walkway. Feel the history as you walk through her. Opposite, also off the Place du Chateau is a footpath that leads you across the river Seugne and through to Les Heurtebises, the Base de Loisirs where you’ll find an open air swimming lake with a beach (open afternoons and a very popular destination for local French people on sunny Sunday afternoons) – picnic areas, a boating lake with fishing rights available, and all manner of outdoor sports for people of all ages including climbing wall, bouncy castle, archery, horseriding etc etc etc.
Just beyond Les Heurtebises is Les Antilles de Jonzac. This is a vast swimming lagoon which is covered over in inclement weather but is partially open to let the sun shine in during the summer. The lagoon has slides, chutes, fountains, geysers, a wave pool, a sandy beach, tropical gardens, restaurant ... and if you can’t bear to be separated from your computer you’ll find internet access here, free of charge. Les Antilles can also be readily access by road. Alongside is Jonzac’s modern casino and a restaurant.
Back into the Place du Chateau, exiting the Place at the far end you go through the old town gates and cross the river (boat trips available). Onwards you find yourself in a semi-pedestrianised street with lovely shops which, in turn, leads into the market square with a superb market three days a week (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday). The 19th century covered market hall was designed by the same person that designed the Eiffel Tower and was completely refurbished just a few years ago (2001).
Close to the town centre is Les Carmes, a former Carmelite monastery which has had many functions over the years. Having originally been ecclesiastical, it was later a town hall, then a prison, and is now a cultural centre for the town, housing a museum and offering exhibitions throughout the year.
Jonzac is a thermal town, having thermal springs which are now used for the treatment of rheumatism. At the entrance to Les Thermes is a memorial to two young soldiers who sacrificed themselves to blow up a German munitions store in the last World War – Jonzac was an important munitions base for the German army and, equally, was a centre for the French resistance (see the Museum of the Resistance at nearby Angoulême.)