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Europe » France » Poitou-Charentes » Niort
July 8th 2010
Published: July 19th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

So here we are in the Marais Poitiven which is a little hidden treasure only known to the locals. In fact, when I mentioned that France's 'Green Venice' was our next destination even alot of french people did not know of it. It was really hard to follow signs on the way to the canals. One would appear and then we wouldn't see another for 20 minutes. I think that mum was getting a bit concerned about taking so long to find the Hotel but my instincts got us there again. We ended up in a sleepy town with three or four buildings and a church all around a square. We took a short rest and then headed to find this 'Green Venice'. Again no signs, but following a dirt track took us to the head of the canal and a number of options in canal boats business. Just one problem........ none of the tours were in english! One young boy offered his tour in english but he asked the women at the counter to translate that to us!
We settled on a french tour, content with the idea of been given a leaflet in english, and sat down for a quick snack of crepes before the ride began. The sun was out and it was glorious! Now exactly like in Venice these boats are steered by a long stick and our guide, with a belly the size of a camel hump, could seriously work that stick well. Before we knew it we were in the middle of extensive waterways, lined with trees and set out as clearly as reading a map. The Marais Poitevin is a large area of marshland in Western France, it is the largest marsh on the Atlantic coast and the second largest of the whole country. It lost it's status as a National Park in the 90's due to large amounts of agricultural development but since 2000 there have been attempts to regain it's beauty and stature.
In summer months the waterways develop a green moss growth over the top which we did not get to see but the green of the land, the weeping willows along the banks and the large buttress roots where a beautiful sight that led to a peacful afternoon. I tuned myself out to the guide speaking french and admired nature at it's best. You are able to hire your own canal boats and watching others try a steer was funny. Contrary to finding Marais steering your way through the canals appeared easier with very good sinage on each intersection! At one point our guide used his pole to dig into the canal bottom then lit the area above the water with a lighter. He dmonstrated the canal natural recourse, which was some kind of gas, again language barriers prevented me from knowing more formal details but maybe mum will remember what it was.
This certainly was a relaxing part of the trip I was so tired at the end I headed straight to the hotel for a siesta. In hindsight I would probably have passed through here on my way to La Rochelle but I also think it is a great way to break up a days travel.


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