We had another mini break from work at the weekend and headed down to the Venise Verte (Green Venice). It’s situated in the Marais Poitevin area of Poitou-Charente which is the second largest wetland in France. We parked up for the weekend at an Aire in Coulon, known as the capital of the Venise Vert, on the eastern edge of the Marais Poitevin.
The area is criss-crossed by a system of canals lined by willows and poplar trees .
The canals are essential to control the water levels in the region. Coulon itself sits on the banks of the Sevre Noitaise river and is a very pretty village with much character and charm with waterside frontage lined with restaurants, galleries and fishermen’s cottages.
Boats and canoes can be hired to explore the many canals nearby.
It’s a really lovely tranquil spot conducive to doing not much of anything. However, if Tim thought he was in for a lazy weekend by the river he was sorely mistaken! We couldn’t come to this area without exploring it by bike as this really is the best way to see it if you are tight like us and don’t want to pay the extortionate fee to hire a boat!
The area is as flat as a pancake though so Tim needn’t have worried – wait till we get to the Alps and then see the fear on his face!
We had a very leisurely tootle around and about on the bikes taking in the lovely stone cottages lining the river and the little tiny holiday shacks which would have done us as our main residence.
We went out at the quietest time in France, between 12.00pm and 2.00pm, when everyone was having lunch which meant lovely car free roads and tracks for miles.
We stopped and had a stroll around Arcais which is a very old and interesting village with a mix of derelict and renovated houses crammed in down little alleyways and lanes.
We didn’t know it when we planned on visiting Coulon that the Fête du Miget was being held over the weekend right next to the aire. The fete is a celebration of all the old traditions of the area with demonstrations and exhibitions depicting traditional farming methods, schooling, washing, rope making etc.
It kicked off at 2.30pm and was a really good afternoons entertainment. Oh, and free!
A big part of the day was a three course set evening meal served on long trestle tables.
A quick flick through my French-English dictionary revealed the main dish was stuffed eels………………err, mmm, hmpf I think I’ll give that a miss then! The finale to the days activities was a parade of traditional boats skippered by people in traditional costume.
My favourite was the goat boat but if those goats got a bit restless it could have been ugly.
On Sunday we called in at Niort with its medieval houses and buildings.
We were able to have a stroll around the 19th Century Market Hall made out of glass and steel and quite impressive.
It was all very lively in Niort for a sunday.
Niort had a cosmopolitan feel to it and the new blended well with the old.
Finally, on our way back to Sue and Ralphs we stopped for a mooch around Parthenay. We weren’t too impressed to start with as it looked a bit neglected and run down but we soon found the attractive 15th and 16th century medieval part of the town and the castle whereby we quickly changed our minds!
We have decided to stay on a little longer with Ralph and Sue to help them get some fencing done before their next pair of helpers arrive from Russia no less!