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The Artisan Village of Arçais

Experience Hannah Henderson - blogueuse et photographe anglaise By Hannah Henderson - blogueuse et photographe anglaise, the 25 September 2020

Situated in the wet marsh of the Marais Poitevin, Arçais has much to offer visitors. A popular spot from which to explore the canals by boat, it is also a hive of artisanal activity.  Only 30 minutes’ drive from the city of Niort, a visit to Arçais would make a relaxing day trip.  We visited Arçais on a hot summer day in August, and it definitely lived up to its designation as a ‘Petite Cité de Caractère’.

Art in Arçais
Art exhibitions, craft stalls and market days bring the main square of Arçais to life. Utilising the old post office, pop-up galleries showcase local artisans. Of particular mention are the ceramics from La Petite Boutique du Marais on Place du Tilleul. The artists play with different styles and whimsical subjects, from ethereal abstracts to bird feeders and comical animal figurines. Follow the trail of ceramic flowers and painted escargot to discover the magic.

Exploring the Canals
The tranquil canals of the Marais Poitevin are famous the world over. There is nothing more relaxing that a ride in a traditional ‘barque’ (a form of punting) through the calm waters of the Marais Poitevin. There are two boat hire companies at the port of Arçais - Embarcadère Bardet-Huttiers and Arcais Venise Verte Loisirs.
You can hire canoes or barques with or without a guide. A guided boat tour offers the advantage of having someone to propel the boat, plus tell you the history of the area. Bring your strong family members to row the canoe or low boat for you!
Perhaps you will discover the mystery of the ‘fire on the water’?

Biking
If you wish to enjoy the canals from land, why not hire a bike and ride along the tow path.  Note the Ash and Willow trees lining the water and ducks meandering past - it is a very gentile way to explore the area.

Food in Arçais
Stop for a refreshment at one of the bars or restaurants in Arçais. Why not try some local Marais Poitevin specialities – eel, frog’s legs, snail pastries and white bean puree. Try these delicacies at Restaurant ‘Ma Gourmandise’ on Place de l'Église.

Don’t forget to stop by the Tourist Office opposite the church to get all the local advice you could need.

By Hannah Henderson, travel writer and photographer based in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France.

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