(The embarcadère in Coulon)
When we picked this area in France for our September Retreat, I had noticed something on the map – the Marais Poitevin and in particular The Venise Vert (the Green Venice.) You might remember how much I loved the real Venice, so I thought I might also love this French and green version.
(Wrong way, paddle backwards…)
The pictures showed tunnels of trees (and you know I love tunnels of trees) over narrow canals with flat-bottomed boats. But it turned out to be a bit of an elusive spot, ok, not the whole area. To be precise I had a very particular picture of what it would look like (mainly the tunnels, sigh) but each time we drove to La Rochelle and through the Marais Poitevin area we would pass canals at the edge of the road with flat green farmland on the far side. Something wrong with that picture. No trees, no tunnels, not even one flat-bottomed boat.
(Heading for my river bank… shriek, shriek, paddle, paddle…)
And so with only a week to go (I know, I know, 4 days isn’t a week) it was now or never! I set to work on Saturday evening attempting to pin down the exact location I had seen in the pictures (oh and disaster, I couldn’t find the pictures any more…) It was not an easy job, but I did locate a town possibly very close to but not exactly the right place. It would have to do. So on Sunday afternoon we put the name in the sat nav and set off to… Coulon.
On the way we got a bit side-tracked when we found another of the places the French people go on a Sunday afternoon – car-boot sale or an empty-your-attic sale, there were no signs and I don’t know the difference. Suffice to say there was lots of very good bargains to be had. Can you guess what I got for €1 each? More tea towels. And they’re linen. And they have sweet little loops for hanging up. Did I mention that I love fabric? (Tea towels are fabric!) Especially in bundles. The very nice French lady who was selling the tea towels had ironed and folded each one and tied a little ribbon around a bundle of six. (Yes, I did buy six more tea towels. No, I’m not going to use them for drying dishes.)
Now, even if we didn’t find Green Venice, all was well in my world. But we did! We arrived in Coulon and my investigations had indicated that we needed to find the area of embarcadère (I think it means where you get on the boats.) Long story short: we parked, we had lunch, we checked out the flat-bottomed boats.
Finally, we found the perfect boat and got in holding a paddle each. First, it’s very funny. One person rows a bit and then the other person rows a bit and both people laugh a lot. But if one person is stronger or more competitive the boat soon starts heading towards the other person’s bank of the river. Huge shrieks of laughter from me and a smidgen of panic. Instructions from Denis. Paddles in the water again, huge smiles.
Eventually, we started to match each other’s strength and competitive force and we stopped working so hard and the river took us along. And it was so cool and, really, really peaceful. And because each of us had our hands full and our feet firmly balanced it was almost impossible to think of doing anything else, except being there. We stopped wanting to take pictures. So we took very little. Instead, we had the experience, of floating, on the water, in the canals, built by 13th century monks. Sigh…
Sigh, Sigh, Sigh… Mairead.