“Venise Verte ?” Surely that just means “Green Venice” doesn’t it ? Yes, it does.
It’s an area of marsh lying in between Niort, La Rochelle and Fontenay-le-Comte which is now heavily farmed, but towards the Niort end there’s a little bit that is essentially still full of little canals which are used primarily for tourism. This is the part known as the Venise Verte.
I’m not sure where we read about this area, possibly in our Lonely Planet guide to France, but it looked like somewhere that might keep us busy for a day, so off we went. The weather was fiercely hot (again).
Our first stop was the village of Coulon, which sits nicely on a bit of canal that is quite broad and open (by local standards) and which houses a load of very photogenic little boats, which presumably can be hired out if you’re that way inclined. We weren’t.
We walked around here and took a few photos, which kept us busy until lunchtime. I seem to remember we sat in quite a nice restaurant here to grab some lunch, and that during a part of that I held a fairly creditable conversation in French with one of the other patrons. A lot of the discussion was about where we’d come from, and a lot more of it was about Ami, who was doing her best to be cute and not at all irritating to other customers.
After lunch we took a bit more of a walk in the area of Coulon, which involved walking over a couple of fields, sitting down for a bit (because it was hot) and spotting some cows.
From here we moved over to the village of Arçais, which is in the “proper” hard of the wet bit of the marsh. Arçais has a number of little piers where you can rent a small boat or punt for a few hours and go for a wander around the canals. We decided to give it a go here and were rewarded with a pleasant couple of hours punting around a series of small and confusing canals, not really going anywhere but enjoying the fact that the canals all had overhanging trees and so were mainly in the shade. Lush !
Once we’d finished in there we needed to let Ami run around a bit, so we disembarked from our boat and she had a run around on a open paved area near a tourist information centre in the middle of town, which was also close to some old small-scale dock loading machinery.
It turned out to be an excellent if rather hot day.