The Marais Poitevin, also called ‘Green Venice’, is the second largest wetland in France after the Camargue. The canals, which meander and cut through meadows and light woodland are covered in duckweed and hence it’s alternative name. Once the Gulf of Pictons, it’s origins date back to glacial activity in the Ice Age, but it was monks in the area in medieval times that began draining the marshes to create this intriguing region.
The best way to get a feel for the landscape is by boat, but it is also a great area for cycling and walking as the terrain is gentle. Traditionally shaped flat bottomed boats, shaped like the original barques, can be hired to row yourself, or for the less energetic, you can join a guided tour and be punted round the canals and perhaps see the lighting of methane gas on top of the water!This is also an art lovers paradise, with many working sculptors, painters, woodworkers and ceramic studios which are open for browsing or to watch artisans at work. But do take your camera or your easel, sketch pad and pencils as it the scenery and sights could inspire the suppressed artist in us all!
The wildlife is diverse but can be a little shy. We have seen kingfishers and some of the biggest dragonflies ever; there is a range of flora and fauna which you may not see together in the wild in other parts of France. Restaurants reflect the bounty from the marshes and include soft, succulent eels, pike, snails and even pâté from the local coypu! This region is also where angelic a is grown. The shops will sell you Angelica liqueur, sweets, oils and facial care products, to name but a few! There is a fabulous walk from the St Liguaire quatier in Niort along the Sevre river to the Marais, passing the Angelica fields and taking the chain boat to cross the river.
This is just a taster, find your own Marais Poitevin and your favourite place to eat, be that a picnic or fine dining, and take in this captivating scenery.