|Cathedral St Pierre, Poitiers|
Poitiers Love Tour
I loved playing the tourist in Poitiers on Saturday, as my silly selfie photos show, and following a morning mooch around the historic town centre, a spot of retail therapy and a tasty Turkish treat from a smiling vendor at the market, in the afternoon I joined a love themed guided walk run by the tourist board. Even our guide commented on how different this walk was from her usual tours. Rather than focus on the architecture or a specific period of history, she had devised a route to include locations important to some unusual ‘love’ stories from the past.
We were shown where on the façade of the Notre-Dame-La-Grande church, situated in the cobbled market place, we could spot the statues depicting the temptation of Adam and Eve, the original lovers. (Just above my right eye, if you fancy zooming in).
We heard about the young man who, disgraced by dying in the arms of a prostitute, was denied a Christian burial and his body buried in a ditch. His salvation came about when a pure white rose grew and bloomed in the ditch one winter. When his body was exhumed, between his lips a piece of paper with the name of Maria written on it was discovered. It was believed that only the Virgin Mary could have been behind this miracle. He now has an almost invisible column with a rose motif in the wall of the Notre-Dame-La-Grande church, where his body was reburied.
The clothes shop Zara was certainly a surprise location for a historical tour, but its branch in Poitiers is rather unique as it’s built around the ruined columns of a convent chapel. This had links to both Madame de Montespan and Madame de Maintenon, ladies of favour (and bearers of many illegitimate children) of King Louis XIV.
No guided tour of Poitiers could ignore Aliénor of Aquitaine (1122-1204), whose presence is felt all over town. Married to Louis VII when she was only 15, and then fifteen years later to Henri Plantagenêt, ten years her junior, there are many stories to be told about her travels in the area, her liaisons and her troubadours. Guillaume le troubadour, Comte de Poitou-duc d’Aquitaine, famous for pleasing the ladies with his poems and love songs, also has quite a few links to the town.
The residents of the 1930’s were a little more reserved than our medieval ancestors, as the statue above the chamber de commerce shows. Here the sculptor Couvègnes depicts a naked Mercury, but his manhood was deemed too much for the young women of the era and was brutally sliced off!
Fitting for a love themed weekend, there was even a wedding at the impressive Hotel de Ville. As I took a well-earned pause to read my book on a sunny bench, the wedding party appeared on the steps, accompanied by a celebratory cheer from friends and family that quickly rippled around the square, as those enjoying an al fresco lunch echoed their congratulations.
Feeling every one of the 8km I had walked, as I made my way back to Ed’s flat for a reviving cup of tea and slice of cake, the five o’clock bells began to ring out all over the town, and as Poitiers is also known as the city of 100 bell towers, you can imagine how lovely a sound that was.
I’m so glad I went, despite the group mostly consisting of couples and being the only English person there. For an interesting walk that took almost two hours, with lots of information from our animated guide, it was worth the 5.50€ charge and I’ll certainly be looking out for future walks.
I might not have been with my love this weekend, but I certainly felt the love in the air in the beautiful city of Poitiers.