The tree-lined canals and rivers of the Marais Poitevin are renowed for their idyllic beauty, and as they were only an hour or so’s drive from Parthenay, we were keen to see this fabled part of France for ourselves.
The Marais Poitevin is a huge area of marshland stretching over some 970 sq km and the part we were keen to see was the La Venise Verte, or the Green Venice, so-called because of the green duck weed that covers the waterways. Our destination was Coulon, the unofficial capital of the region. As usual we arrived at lunchtime and after a quick lunch, we set about exploring the area.
The small village of Coulon is listed as one of le plus beaux villages de France (most beautiful villages in France) and it’s a charming place, if a little touristy. There are a number of shops and restaurants that are clearly geared towards visiting tourists with shops selling local ‘artisan’ produce and souvenirs, such as fridge magnets. As a result I didn’t find it quite as appealing as some of the other plus beaux villages I’ve visited such as Monpazier and Angles sur l’Anglin.
Having looked around the village, we made our way down to the river and the heart of the Green Venice. The Sèvre-Niortaise River runs through the village, and down by the water’s edge you can explore the surrounding network of canals and rivers by renting punts or taking a guided boat tour. The river bank is a pretty place with lots of characterful buildings overlooking the river, as well as numerous willow and poplar trees lining the banks.
We strolled along the river bank for quite a way into the surrounding countryside, enjoying the water’s peaceful and relaxing charms, and admiring the attractive buildings we passed along the way. Having ambled for quite a while down the river bank, we turned back towards Coulon where we joined a guided boat trip along the river. The boat trip was pleasant and scenic, but nothing spectacular.
After our boat ride, we strolled back through the village, stopping to look inside the old church in the centre of the village, the Eglise de Sainte-Trinité (above). Our day trip to Coulon was pleasant enough, but if I’m honest, I wasn’t blown away by the experience and I was left feeling rather underwhelmed. France’s Green Venice is a little touristy for my tastes and nowhere near as spectacular as its reputation and name suggests – it’s perfectly nice, but no more than that.