The Marais Poitevin is a large area of marshland between Niort and the western coast north of La Rochelle It is the remains of the former Gulf of Poitou and the western zone – some 66% of the total – near the sea is called the “dry marsh” and is used for farming and breeding. The remainder on the eastern side is called the “wet marsh”, a maze of islets criss-crossed by picturesque canals and nicknamed the Green Venice (la Venise Verte).
It is the eastern side, the Venise Verte, that is the most remarkable area, being criss crossed with canals and small waterways and teeming with wildlife. By far the best way to explore is by boat, which can be hired at many towns for those of us who like to paddle, or guided boat tours can be taken with tour guide commentary in English. Many parts of the Venise Verte are only accessible by boat and so taking a boat for half a day gives more time to see the abundant flowers along the banks and the kingfishers flashing across the water, or the motionless heron standing in the water up to its knees.
We stopped in Coulon, the capital town of the Venise Verte and declared one of the region’s most beautiful towns, where we had lunch in one of the restaurants along the waterfront serving local specialities, such as fried eel and frogs legs – I was apprehensive about this but thoroughly enjoyed it – and farci Poitevin, a regional dish that is cabbage leaves stuffed with vegetables and served cold. I remain apprehensive about this dish!
From right outside the restaurant we hired a canoe to spend a couple of hours on the water enjoying the timelessness and beauty of the waterway.
Find out about a comfortable holiday in our nearby gîtes, from where you can visit the Marais Poitevin and explore the many other fascinating areas in Poitou-Charente.