I’ve been away from home lately and I’ve found myself visiting a little bit of France unexpectedly. Well, I was spending some time in Charente, a region near the Atlantic sea. I did lived there a couple of years a long time ago, but I never took the time to appreciate the cities and the landscapes.
If you are a foreigner, you probably know France by the Capital, Paris and some well-known cities such as Marseilles, Bordeaux or Strasbourg. You might have heard about the south, the côte d’Azur, where people spend their holidays and you surely have heard about the food and the culture.
I met foreign people many times and I’ve been surprised to see that a lot of them associate France with Paris, as if the capital was representing the whole country. France is small for sure, but the long history and the different climates there give this place a rich spectrum of identities.
As a French person who did already lived in several regions in France, I sometimes feel like I know this country like the back of my hand. I’ve been to many cities, traveled to many beautiful places, I know the littorals, the mountains and valleys and I feel more eager to jump into a plane to go visit a unusual new country than driving one hour to get lost in the country, where I can only see some cows, chicken, horses and donkeys.
But yesterday, I was offered to go visit a bit of Poitou-Charentes, at least for one day, before going back home, where I live, in the east of France. I happily accepted and got in the car that drove me to the “Marais-Poitevin”. “Marais” means “swamp” and “Poitevin” is the adjective that associate the marshland to the Poitou, this very specific part of France we don’t talk so much about.
I spent years thinking that this region had nothing much to show and I would never have decided on my own to plan a trip there. When I was living in this part of France, in a small town, there were no museum, no outstanding event or well-known place to visit, this is why we did not spent too much time far from home.
After visiting an old abbey on the road that was falling into ruins, we headed to a lost place in the country were we were told we could have a little journey on a small boat. The “Marais” (swamp) was artificially created many centuries ago to dry some lands and make them available for cultivation. Nowadays, this maze of watercourses is a place to do some boat trips.
We found a boat landing near a small village and we were able to board for a one hour ride into the marshlands with a young boatman. We peacefully sat in this bark, listening to the silence surrounding us, observing some fishes, birds and small animals.
After a while of navigating, we started to see branches looking like faces and fairytale characters. We saw trolls and silhouettes, letting ourselves be taken away by all of this pareidolia, passing the doors of a complete imaginary world.
I did not imagine how soothing this would be. The place was so calm that we could only hear the wind going into the leaves of the oaks and poplar trees. I was surprised to see how I was appreciating this time in this environment and that this place would have such an impact on me. For sure, this was not a visit to the Louvres nor a night out in a fancy restaurant but this was as valuable.
I took this time to let my mind get lost in this gorgeous maze and this was just as if as I got disconnected with my own life. It felt really good.
In the end, it was not a trip to the other side of the world but I surprised myself to love every second of this journey. Sometimes, we only believe that the grass is greener elsewhere, but in the end, we stop seeing our home how beautiful as it is. In a way, I had forgotten how France can be pretty and how lucky I am to live there.
Dear reader, if one day you have the chance to come visit France, don’t hesitate to stop by some unusual places, the ones that nobody talks about, the ones that don’t have their pages in the travel books, because they are the most surprising ones.
Dear reader, if you have this kind of place in your country, an unknown place where you love to be to appreciate time and landscapes, please tell me about it! I would love to know and share.
Dear reader, take care.