Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Pretty but gloomy

I’ve just realized – to my surprise – that, besides a few ‘food’ stories, I’ve been posting about our weekend in the Alsace for more than two weeks now … which is quite an achievement, considering that it was a mere four day trip!

Before long we’ll be off to Northern France, for a two day escapade discovering the countryside and some typical villages around the metropolis of Lille. I suggest that, in the meantime, we ‘return’ to the Loire Valley

Whilst staying in Vouvray last year, we decided to venture outside our beloved Touraine to see what the adjacent Poitou-Charente region had to offer. The region, with a total area of 25,810 km², covers four French departments: Les Deux-Sèvres (NW), La Vienne (NE), La Charente-Maritime (SW) and la Charente (SE). Having only one day to spare, we limited our excursion to the northern part of La Vienne.

We took the A10 from Tours to Chatellerault, where we left the motorway to follow the D725 in the direction of La Roche-Posay, the largest spa resort in France and Europe devoted exclusively to skin disorders. The soothing, healing and softening qualities of its ‘Eau de Velours’ (Velvet Water) are recognized since the 16th century. Each year almost 10,000 ‘patients’ seek adequate treatment here. The water is also used by a cosmetic laboratory in the area to produce skin care products, such as moisturizing facial and body cream, make-up, shampoo, soap, etc. They are exclusively sold through pharmacists and often prescribed by dermatologists to people who have a sensitive skin.

I’ve been using La Roche-Posay foundation cream for years and I thought it might be fun to visit the town and the laboratory … and maybe get some foundation cream at factory outlet prices!

Our visit turned to be a disappointment on all accounts. Although the town square offered a pretty sight with its colourful and rich floral decorations and in spite of the fact that the streets and sidewalk terraces were crowded with people, the atmosphere was somewhat gloomy. You could almost feel that most visitors didn’t come here for fun. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it felt a bit like a hospital site… but nearly. We made some enquiries at the local pharmacist about the exact location of the laboratory and quickly learned that it was completely ‘off-limits’ for ‘unqualified visitors’.

Fairly disappointed, we scuttled off towards the old town, which was much more to our liking. Walking through the narrow streets and alleys we came across some lovely old houses and a small park. In it stood a medieval ‘donjon’ which, judging by the scaffolding with enough wooden seats to accommodate an audience of about a 100 people, was probably used as a stage setting for outdoor theatre performances.

Many of the typical houses had signs ‘Meublé à louer’ (furnished flat or apartment for rent) stuck behind the window or on the door. We wondered whether these housing facilities were meant for the numerous people coming to town seeking relieve for there skin disorders. Or were they just regular holiday homes for tourists visiting the area? Or were they vacant because the local inhabitants were fleeing town?

We left La Roche-Posay with mixed feelings. The town itself was pretty enough, but the atmosphere was very peculiar … making us feel uneasy. We were anxious to get to Angles-sur-Anglin, the next village on our to-see-list!



Jean said...

I know what you mean about La Roche-Posay. We have been there several times but haven't developed any fondness for the place, unlike most of the other towns in the area. I can't quite put my finger on it but there's something about it that just doesn't appeal.

I believe the market is very good but we haven't tried that yet.

ladybird said...

Jean, It's funny how we seem to visit and (dis)like the same places, isn't it? ;)