Central, cobbled, car-free Saintes – perfect for Francophile lovers. Do arrange a meal here at one big table (herbs from the walled garden). Cooking comes high on well-travelled (American) Jim and Monique’s list of passions; history and art too – their relaxed, typically French home (a hotel since the 16th-century) is full to bursting with beautiful antiques from different countries. Quiet, comfortable bedrooms on the second floor have linen from Italy, beams, white stone walls, original wood and parquet floors, and modern bathrooms with antique tubs. Take a trip on the Charente which runs through this fine town.