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Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Le Marais Poitevin





If we were still using song lyrics as the title to our blog posts, this one would be ' ... takes you down to her place by the river. You can hear the boats go by ...' Le Marais Poitevin is a landscape dominated by water and it has a sensuality that suggests this could be exactly where the Suzanne Leonard Cohen sang about spent her time.
Between Niort and La Rochelle, the rural landscape of meadows, woodlands and crops is criss-crossed by narrow canals, each shaded by trees and bushes; developed to enable the farmers to access the agricultural land most of the boats are now paddled by tourists.
This is a low landscape; there are no hills, cottages are single storey, pollarding of trees keeps their height down and even the churches have low towers. The tallest structures are the grandly named Chateau de l'eau or water towers, which stand out as grand as any chateau.
This makes it ideal for cycling, there are numerous quiet lanes and tracks and each is a joyful discovery of what appears to be an agricultural idyll. It is also an easy place to get lost in, despite a map (free and you do get what you pay for) and some signage (but never just where you need it) we managed to get lost more times than we can remember on our 30 km ride.
Unlike other parts of France, there are benches by the river and channels and we sat and fed the Mallards with stale crusty bread while we ate our picnic lunch.
'... and the sun pours down like honey ...'

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