Niort, Deux Sèvres, Saturday 22nd August 2015

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Original Dragon sculpture in central Niort

Original Dragon sculpture in central Niort

Bourdeilles (Dordogne Department) was absolutely lovely: a little medieval town with an impressive château dating back to the 14th century still preserving its medieval gardens, growing all kinds of medicinal herbs and other edible plants like rhubarb, courgettes, etc and with access to some spooky caves which we entered to accompany a couple of little girls who asked me very kindly and sweetly if I could go in with them. Luckily, they had a torch on their phone and we were able to see into the depths of these ‘caverns’. I was surprised to see that there were blankets in the ground in a couple of them, so it looks like they are still being used!

Medieval Bourdeilles on the river Dronne

Medieval Bourdeilles on the river Dronne

View of river and town from bridge

View of river and town from bridge

Enigmatic rock carvings on Château walls

Enigmatic rock carvings on Château walls

Enjoying the views in Bourdeilles

Enjoying the views in Bourdeilles, looking down on Medieval Gardens

Medieval Gardens at Bourdeilles Château

Medieval Gardens at Bourdeilles Château

About to enter caves in Medieval Gardens

About to enter caves in Medieval Gardens.  Do you dare?

Exploring the caves using a mobile phone light!

Exploring the spooky caves using a mobile phone light!

Bourdeilles from a bit further up the river in afternoon light

Bourdeilles from a bit further up the river in afternoon light

We stayed at the motorhome aire by the Municipal swimming pool, right by the river Dronne, with easy access to the town over the quaint ancient bridge and with lovely views of the château and town. Nobody came round to collect the 4.50 daily fee, maybe because we were not exactly in the official aire, which was a few metres away on grass or because it was Sunday. Either way, we spent the night for free at this most charming of places in the Périgord.

Motorhome aire seen from bridge expanding river Dronne

Motorhome aire seen from bridge expanding river Dronne

View of Bourdeilles from motorhome aire

View of Bourdeilles from motorhome aire

On Monday, we drove to the Municipal campsite of La Fontaine du Pre St Jean at Dompierre-sur-Charente, near Cognac, as we really like it there, and we booked for 5 days, which came to a grand total of ₤54.70!  We usually enjoy this site for its peace and quiet, easy access to the river for swimming, fishing for Adonis, the Bac crossing the river and long walks along the Charente for Beano, but this year the usual tranquillity of the place was shattered by a group of young teenagers and children who came to the picnic area by river just outside the camping in the early afternoon and stayed till the evening, being rather too loud for our liking and accompanied by a dog that would not stop barking. This certainly was the case on our last night, Friday, when the rowdy group arrived at around 2.30 pm, waking us up from our siesta, and they were still there 5 hours later, with an almost constant bark from the wretched dog. We felt annoyed about this, as we were paying customers and they weren’t, and they really spoilt it for everyone, so much so that we were actually glad to leave in the morning. Shame!

The peaceful Municipal Camping of La Fontaine du Pre St Jean at Dompierre-sur-Charente

The peaceful Municipal Camping of La Fontaine du Pre St Jean at Dompierre-sur-Charente

The picnic area by the Charente river outside campsite

The picnic area by the Charente river outside campsite

The 'bac' providing a river crossing service during the summer months

The ‘bac’ providing a river crossing service during the summer months

I couldn't resist this happy sunflower by the river Charente

I couldn’t resist this happy sunflower by the river Charente

After our shopping in Leclerc this morning, we carried on north on the free A10 to Niort and were very glad to find a couple of available pitches at this wonderful motorhome aire, attractively separated by old stone walls and hedges for privacy and so near the city centre over the bridges: a real bargain for ₤7.50 a night, to include electricity and water. The fee is collected by guardian in the evening.

Our pitch at Motorhome aire at Niort, with hedges and stone walls separating parking bays

Our pitch at Motorhome aire at Niort, with hedges and stone walls separating parking bays

I really enjoyed my walk with Beano in the park along the river Sèvre Niortaise by the aire while Adonis cycled 5km out of town to get some fishing bait. It is a very attractive leisure area for families with a well equipped children’s playground, fitness course and pony rides.

Niort seen from park

Quaint Niort 

After Beano’s walk and Adonis’s cycle ride, we walked into town just to look around and cool down with a beer at one of the many bars at the Esplanade du Jardin de la Brèche.

The Esplanade du Jardin de la Brèche in N

The Esplanade du Jardin de la Brèche in Niort

Niort really is a very charming city, with a mixture of old and new and even the shabby-looking old houses only seem to add to the overall charm of the place, with a great feeling of space and laid-back attitude. Les Halles de Niort Market near the Donjon (or Château de Niort) are open every day except Mondays, offering all kinds of specialities of the region and are worth a visit. We didn’t go inside the Donjon this time, as it was getting late, but it is something I would like to do on our next visit.

The Donjon de Niort

The Donjon de Niort

We also discovered on our way back to the aire an Indian restaurant and thought it would be a good idea to try it, but then Adonis read a good review of another one, The Taj Mahal, also very close to the aire, and we decided to go there instead, but, although the starters were very good (a selection of Samosas, Onion Bhajis, prawn puri, etc) the main courses did not quite hit the mark and they were definitely not a patch on what we are used to at home in England. Nevertheless, it was still a good evening out and the service was courteous and efficient and the prices reasonable.

Shabby façades in Niort only add to the charm of the city

Shabby façades in Niort only add to the charm of the city

Water mill near the motorhome aire

Water mill near the motorhome aire

Tomorrow, we are heading north to Parthenay, only 45 minutes away!

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