Poitiers (86 Vienne, Poitou-Charentes) is a bit of a contradiction – laden with history (such as the Battle of Poitiers in the 100 years war) and yet host (on its outskirts) to the futuristic Futuroscope – a sort of theme park but with a real intention of looking into the future.
I have to confess it is usually one of those places which I pass by on the journey south towards Bordeaux and the Dordogne. Now it could be a city break weekend destination with Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) flying in from Stansted and Birmingham.
Anthony Peregrine in the Times visited the place:
The place had its moments in the Middle Ages, as base to Eleanor of Aquitaine’s court, with a full complement of artists, aristocrats and bad-tempered bishops. The period equipped it with a framework of outstanding buildings, noble (if narrow) streets and a lasting sense of self-worth. Then, about eight centuries later, the city had a rush of blood to the head and built the Futuroscope theme park.
In between, not much happened. Poitiers relaxed into being a small provincial capital, which, in France, is quite enough. It ensures a constant supply of students, lawyers, clerics, shops, political dispute, bars and restaurants.
This present life buzzes through the past, convinced that, whatever the rest of the world thinks, Poitiers is the place to be. While you are strolling along with it, you will agree. It is also a good kick-off point for a drive through the east of the Vienne département – a land of forest, farming and riverside villages…