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La Talbotte is close to several towns and villages for daily shopping, restaurants and bars. For those of you with more energetic aims there are plenty of opportunities to walk, run, cycle or ride and there are several adventure playgrounds nearby for both adults and children.
From La Talbotte it is easy to get on a bike or walk out into the lovely countryside for longer or shorter walks. During the spring and early summer there are wildflowers in abundance including primroses, orchids, violets and wild strawberries. . The wildlife is interesting and varied although sometimes a little elusive! There are wild boar, deer, rabbits, foxes of course and hares. There are also pine marten, lizards and salamanders and snakes (adders and grass snakes), ragondin (coypu), badgers, owls and red squirrels. Bats are a regular sight and we find preying mantis too. The edible dormouse are also fairly common and quite noisy, they can live up to seven years and are also known as the fat dormouse. The Romans kept them in special jars to fatten them up for the table but we prefer to listen to their antics and catch the occasional glimpse of this squirrel like mammal.
The Marais Poitevin or Venise Verte is a wonderful area. With its cultivated fields and forests the stunning thing about the marais is the multitude of canals dug out by monks in the 17th century. Hire a boat, take a picnic and explore all the little nooks and crannies where every turn takes you into caves of greenery reflected in the still water. This landscape provides a habitat for many animals and birds including otters, coypu and kingfishers. After that you can picnic or eat at one of the restaurants at Coulon, Arcais or Magne.
Heading over to the coast there are some wonderful sandy beaches. In fact this coast line is the most popular with the French holiday maker. There are fascinating towns to visit particularly La Rochelle a vibrant port with centuries of history behind it. The architecture of La Rochelle is wonderful (particularly the town hall, which at the moment is sadly undergoing a restoration following a devastating fire) and there are many restaurants, shops and bars to discover. There is also the world famous La Rochelle Aquarium and several other interesting museums and parks.
The Ile de Re is nearby and is a lovely island to visit. Reached by a long curving bridge this is the place to see and be seen and can be a bit busy. There are pretty towns like St Martin and Ars en Re to explore and beaches. Best of all it is perfect for cycling with plenty of cycle paths and more or less flat.
Closer to home is the Forest of Mervent – a natural paradise ideal for running, walking or cycling. Here you will find plenty of picnic spots and peaceful glades. The park is also home to Parc Pierre Brune where you and the children can play on huge bouncy castles and trampolines. Vouvant PHOTO is a pretty town in the heart of Mervent and a good place to have a cup of coffee or lunch. The creperie down by the river is particularly attractive. The church has a fascinating and beautifully carved doorway and there are often art exhibitions. The tower of Melusine is at one end of the town. There is also a lake in the Forest which has a swimming beach if you want a change from swimming in the pool.
On the way to Moncoutant, which is home to Pescalis a vast fishing paradise, there is a fabulous adventure playground set in and on and up the trees. There is one section for adults and one for smaller children and also a crazy golf course. Just over the road is a Go-Karting track.
Poitiers is an interesting town and worth a visit for several reasons. The most well known perhaps is Futuroscope the film park boasting a host of virtual reality rides drawing the viewer into other worlds. The centre of the town is very attractive with the half timbered houses of the rue de la Chaine and Notre Dame la Grande. This church which is unusual in design was inaugurated by Eleanor in the 12th Century. There are also plenty of restaurants to suit most pockets.
To get to Poitiers from La Talbotte you will probably pass through Parthenay which is well worth a visit. The market on Wednesday takes over much of the town and you can stock up on all manner of fresh foods or foodie gifts. This medieval town winds down a hill to a curve in the river le Thouet and there are plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy a meal or drink in. After that you can stroll on to watch a game of boules shaded by plane trees – a typical French scene.
Many other nearby towns are also linked to the famous pilgrim route through Northern Europe to the shrine of St Jacques at Compostela in Northwest Spain and the sign of the pilgrim (a scallop shell) is often to be found carved or painted on churches and shrines.
The Puy du Fou is another theme park but this time set in the grounds of a chateau and boasting all sorts of shows including gladiatorial fights, jousting tournaments and falconery displays during the day and a spectacular show at night telling the story of the history of the Vendee.
For art lovers the Chateau d’Oiron is a fascinating gallery/museum to visit. Close to Thouars (go there for lunch first perhaps – it is an attractive quiet little town) this Chateau and its grounds are home to a weird and wonderful collection of exhibits tantalising to sight, smell and hearing.
If you or your children are interested in animals there are several parks and zoos to visit. The valley of the monkeys (Vallee des Singes) where these primates wonder around in apparent liberty, the Forest of Chize where you can see wild boar, and many other native European animals. Further away is the world famous Zoo at Royan and the Ile aux Serpents – a huge collection of reptiles. The zoo near to Angers, the zoo de doue, is also a fabulous day out.
For those who enjoy shopping in wonderful French markets there is plenty of choice within easy access of La Talbotte. Coulonges sur l’Autize is the nearest and has a full market on a Tuesday morning where you can buy everything from cheeses, meats, vegetables, kitchen equipment live chickens and ducks to oysters and honey from local hives. There are also the pleasures of the cafes to enjoy after all that shopping.
Coulonges also has a smaller market on Saturday but Fontenay le Comte is the larger market on a Saturday and stretches up and down the main street of this lovely old town – once the capital of the Vendee and still a bustling market town with some fine old buildings and restaurants. The market offers all the usual French specialities but also African and Chinese stalls. There are antique shops and gift shops to visit too.
Niort has a superb market open every day except Monday. The best days however are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday when there are more stalls. This is when producers from all over the area come to town to sell their wares. There is such a wide choice of food available it would take too long to list but fish, meat, poultry, cheese, fruit and vegetables all feature as well as bread, patisserie and preserves. And when you’ve finished shopping why not eat at one of the restaurants to ease your aching feet.
La Rochelle although further afield has a lovely market and if you are equipped with cool bags or a fridge in the car you can stock up on fantastic fish and shellfish or have a picnic to enjoy at one of the nearby beaches. That is if you can resist one of the hundreds of restaurants which abound in and around the port.
If you are staying longer term or perhaps the weather is not great for a couple of days a visit to Nantes is well worth the effort. This vibrant city has plenty of shops, restaurants and historic monuments to make it worth the hour and a half drive from La Talbotte. This is where we often choose to have a ‘grand day out’.
Saumur is another lovely and interesting town. Visitors often visit the abbey at Fontevraud and then go on to Saumur. The abbey is amazing and is where you will find the effigies of Richard the Lionheart, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine – who designed the kitchen. The abbey was originally site of the tombs of King Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, their son King Richard I of England, their daughter Joan, their grandson Raymond VII of Toulouse, and Isabella of Angoulême, wife of their son King John. Their remains however, were destroyed during the French Revolution.
There are too many places to visit to list here but we are sure that you will leave La Talbotte with a ‘to do next time list’.