Hidden behind stone walls on the road through the little village is a lovely surprise of character and comfort. The three-centuries-old converted barn was once a wine press, an apple store and a stained-glass workshop (‘JC’ was the artist) before its conversion into a traditional/modern gîte that families and groups will love. With one main kitchen/dining room, and a sitting room with comfy sofas set around the wood-burner and fine stone fireplace (logs supplied in winter), it combines conviviality and independence. The new heated pool in the private garden is a delightful focus. Oak beams and stone walls, a clever mezzanine linking the two parts of the house, good beds, variegated window patterns that reveal the building’s history, and calm, understated décor all make for a memorably comfortable place to stay. Atelier JC is perfect for discovering “green Venice,” as the canal-laced wetlands are called. Explore the Atlantic coast and its islands; Île de Ré’s medieval market in La Flotte, the unsung city of Saintes and, of course, historic La Rochelle. And there’s a great crêperie in the village.