10 October 2010


It rained on and off during our first week in Le Grand-Pressigny in August. One day when the sky looked particularly threatening, we decided to leave the motorcycles at home and go for a ride in the car. We fancied going somewhere we had not ventured before and, thinking it would be a good idea to go where there might be shelter from the rain, entertainment, and perhaps a bite to eat, we decided to go to Poitiers.

Apart from flying into the airport, and making a visit to the Harley Davidson shop, we had never been to Poitiers before. Both of those places are on the outskirts so they hardly count as a visit to the city. We found that actually getting into the city was hard work.

We fought our way into the centre in heavy traffic and tried to find somewhere to park. It wasn't easy. All the car parks appeared full and we circled round the centre of town a couple of times until we spotted a space on the roadside. It didn't cost a lot to park using the parking meter, once we had actually found the meter, but the maximum time allowed was only two hours.


We are always fairly choosey about where we leave our car, not wanting to come back to find a dent in it - we have often cringed at some of the manoeuvres we have observed in France when people are attempting to park a car.


We found that Poitiers is a lovely city. There are many beautiful old buildings in the city centre and it is a smart and bustling place with shops and restaurants a-plenty. Which is a good job, as we had to keep diving into them during the heavy rain that occurred every few minutes all afternoon.


The place had a very grand feel to it. There were also lots of young people around suggesting the presence of a college or university. It was lively and cosmopolitan - well it certainly seemed so to me, as I fast become more of a country bumpkin each day. It's history goes back to Roman times and you can read a bit about it here.
Not being too good at remembering names, dates and details, I won't embarrass myself by attempting to give a history lesson on Poitiers here. Suffice it to say, Poitiers has been the site of many a gruesome battle over the centuries, some of which profoundly changed the future of France and what we now know as Europe.

There were no battles on the streets the day we were there, except for those people who were trying to hang on to their umbrellas in the wind.

During one particularly heavy cloudburst, we dived into a shopping centre and sat at a little table, watching the world go by whilst we had a coffee. The rain pounded on the glass roof of the building. The street outside became a little river and people splashed as they dashed along, jackets held over their heads.


Minutes later, the sun came out again. It was suddenly blue sky and warm sunshine. So we took our opportunity to find our way back through the maze of elegant streets, with its old-fashioned shops right next to modern fashion emporiums, to our car which was, thankfully, still in one piece, exactly where we had left it.
I am not really a city person any more. When I was younger, I loved the hustle and bustle of shops and cafes. Nowadays I prefer the peace and quiet of the countryside and felt slightly out of my depth in such a busy place. Having said that, I would definitely go back to Poitiers to explore the place and its history some more. That's if I can find somewhere to park the car for more than just a couple of hours.


  1. Parking is a bind, which is why I have been so rarely in recent times, but I like its university town atmosphere and the architecture.
    Did you nip inside the court building to see the medieval hall?

  2. I know the feeling of parking in the larger cities and driving in them. I have never been to see Poitiers, but we driven around it many times. This includes our first trip of driving completly around it, and finding the road we were driving out on, was the same road we came in on!! I was the navigator, lucky I have a very patient husband :-)

    There are many places I would like to see properly once we are both living here permanently. Diane

  3. Parking used to be a doddle until about two years ago. However,we have a secret place, if it is not taken! You just must go into the Law Courts and see the 5 chimneys on one wall and imagine being not a law-abiding citizen!! The Notre Dame (in the centre) has the most amazingly coloured pillars. There are several churches with the same including St Savin cathedral. Another church (I forget the name) has the most stunningly rare and most beautiful in France I believe wooden carved choir stalls. Each day there is a different market. The downside for me is the presence of doggy doodahs for the unsuspecting walker following the colour-coded promenades around the city. I'm up for a visit!

  4. Jean, be very careful you don't box anyone in when you park either.... we saw an elderly 'gentleman' [note the inverted commas] who found himself boxed in outside the Spar.
    He rolled forward to the vehicle in front, touched bumpers.... then put his foot down and shoved the car forward. He did the same thing in reverse... then tried to pull out.
    He took the tail-light of the car in front... so he reversed smartly and took out his tail-light and the headlight of the car behind... he then managed to pull out and roared off towards Descartes end of GP [this was before the one-way system... cars used to park either side of the road which was bi-directional]... we were too far off to get a number... but it would have been incomplete anyway as there was a plastic sack hanging out of the boot, covering most of the plate anyway.

  5. It must be the time of the year that we travel but in 2008 we drove into the city centre of Poitier, found parking underground and emerged to be enthralled by the Poitier cathedral. The outside carvings above the double entrance doorways were fantastic. The sun sent shafts of light into the cathedral and lit the fading painted columns within. It was just a mid-morning stop on the way to Chinon from memory but a place we wish we could have explored further.

  6. Watching the French try le parking is great entertainment. As for Poitiers - it's been on our list of towns to explore and after reading this I really think we will have to try and get there.

  7. Sounds like a delightful place to visit. The travelogue was grand.