Reflections from Poitiers on the Via Tournensis

We both really enjoyed a day relaxing in Poitiers yesterday after 186 or more miles of walking – a bit of sightseeing, a bit of souvenir shopping and a lot of sitting in a shady park reading. A welcome break before we return to real life and the world of work from Monday!

There seem to be a lot of tourists, including Americans, around the centre of what feels like a regular working city, albeit with some beautiful buildings.

Poitiers Post Office

This puzzled us a bit. Perhaps, we thought, they are more enthusiastic about Roman remains than Rosie? But it transpires that overseas students often come to the university here on exchanges and, perhaps, later in life, revisit a place of which they have fond memories. This, it turns out, is Freshers week! I was mistaken for a mother visiting her student daughter (to Rosie’s delight) in the restaurant where we ate last night. We were intrigued that the manager picked us out so quickly as English until she told us she came here from Cornwall 20 years ago, married and stayed!

The main ‘attraction’ of Poitiers itself is its Romanesque buildings. The main church, Notre-Dame le Grande, is 11th Century Romanesque style, with an exquisitely carved west front and painted pillars and frescoes inside. Joan of Arc features in one stained glass panel and the seige of Poitiers by the English in 1202 in another – somehow we knew the English weren’t the ‘goodies’ here!

We spent yesterday morning ambling and reading in the Parc Blossac, walking back up to town for a sandwich lunch, followed by pistachio and Speculoos éclairs. Despite its garish colour, the pistachio one was delicious.I visited the Town Hall too, to get my Credencio stamped, for only the third time this trip and we returned to our apartment to doze and read in the hottest part of the day. With temperatures hovering around 30 Celsius we were very glad not to be walking. Dinner was my birthday treat and chosen with care – French food seemed appropriate for our final evening. Though more goats cheese was involved in my starter, it was served imaginatively and both the fish cakes we had for mains and the orange sorbet I had for dessert were excellent, as was the local Aligote wine. It’s very hard to eat out as a vegetarian in France if you want any variety in your diet. Our schoolgirl French has generally served us surprisingly well but we ended up with 12 rather than two chouquettes with breakfast this morning – not much of a hardship when we have two or three train journeys to snack through. Before our train to Paris we  mooched round the Saturday market and wished we were staying for longer so we could try more of the delicious looking fruit, vegetables, bread and other cheeses on offer. Lots of small scale local producers and plenty of Turkish and other ethnic foods on offer too. I’m going to write a more practical blog about what we’ve learned about this Camino route in due course, when I’m back on a laptop. Using my phone as my only camera and to write blogs has been a new experience for me, but one that has saved a lot of weight and space in the rucksack. For now, suffice it to say that two weeks of walking, eating, sleeping and repeating in the company of a good travel companion is one of the best ways of de-stressing that I know. I’m very privileged to have a daughter who thinks this a good way to spend a large chunk of her annual leave, now and again. I suspect it will be a few years before we do anything similar; time, at least, to forget the blisters. But the path from Poitiers to Bordeaux, a similar length to what we’ve just done, is beckoning, though maybe we’ll have a more sensible family holiday in France first!


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