La Venise verte

marais-poitevin3A popular vacation destination in western France is le Marais Poitevin. This marshland attracts 650,000 visitors each year. There are 379 square miles to explore with three distinct parts: to the west, there’s an estuary that shelters thousands of migratory birds; near the ocean, there are protected waters; and the third area is composed of prairie.

MaraisPoitevin_carteBut the most beautiful area is located between Maillé and Niort, known as la Venise verte (lah veneez vairt), or Green Venice. The name comes from the network of canals covered in duckweed. There are several locations from which you can rent row boats or flat bottomed punts. You can explore the waterways to your heart’s content with a guide or a map.

Marais_Poitevin_2The balance between nature and man is delicate: overfishing has endangered many species. Other non-native species have arrived, such as Louisiana shrimps, to the detriment of local fauna. Mind you, the storks love the Cajun newcomers and have come back to the marsh. Civelle, or tiny baby eels, travel about 3,700 miles from the Sargasso Sea to the Marais Poitevin to grow to adulthood, one of nature’s mysteries.

marais-poitevin1The civelle aren’t happy, however, with a plant that belonged in an aquarium but showed up in the marsh 20 years ago, la jussie, a pretty plant with a yellow flower. These days, it has to be ripped out by hand by the ton. Not only does it choke off the waterways, it consumes the oxygen the fish need. It costs the state 220,000 Euros each year to deal with the invasive plant.

marais-poitevinBut the Marais Poitevin is a natural heritage worth preserving so that future generations can enjoy the canals and wildlife. That’s why it was named a “Grand Site de France” in 2010.

513MR6JG4WL__SL75_Marais Poitevin

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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3 Responses to La Venise verte

  1. Wow, I really have to visit this place one day.

  2. vagabonde says:

    I had heard about this region but never been there – it certainly looks lovely. When I came to visit my parents in Paris (for decades) I stayed close to them so missed many pretty sights. I looked at your posts and they are enchanting, I’ll come back to read more. Vous avez un blog très raffiné!

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