Moulin de l’Arche

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Jun, 2014

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St Clementin, Deux Sevres, France. Travel along most lanes and byways in the Deux Sevres and it’s like English lanes used to be. Small fields and plenty of hedgerows for abundant wildlife. The northern area of the Deux Sevres is drained by many rivers, most of which finish their tortuous journeys in the Loire. It is not spectacular country, just tranquil, comfortable and relaxing. Farming is a prime activity, with the Charolais herds dotted across the landscape. There are plenty of mills on the variety of streams, many converted to homes or holiday accommodation. Having spent three weeks in The Granary, a small complex of two gites and the owner’s house, I feel compelled to share the experience. Sitting by the mill race, with barely the sound of traffic to disturb the peace, one could be in a different age. There is fishing to be had, so many different creatures to photograph or just to sit and sip the local wines and observe. The Loire is not far away, so there are prestigious pressings to be had as well. The atmosphere is conducive to writing all those letters that have been waiting for the right time. The feeling is so relaxed, they will get written! There is nothing better than sitting in the shade of the Horse Chestnut tree and conveying thoughts to paper. I have even started to write that book that is inside everyone. Whether I finish it depends on whether I return to this paradise.There are many things to convey in writing and if ‘chilling out’ is not enough, then there are sights and scenes to fire the imagination. Most reasonably sized towns have a chateau. Sometimes they are converted to hotels, if luxury is a preferred option. The local chateau in Bressuire, a short drive or cycle ride from St Clementin, is in the ownership of the local authority. The events that are staged reflect a wonderful variety. There is a biannual Highland games, with local participants even sporting their own tartan. Being lucky enough to be there on Bastille day, the celebrations culminating in a grand firework display that belied the modest size of the town. It was a mixture of ‘son et lumiere’ and the millennium displays. The chateau also has periodically, a variety of exhibitions often reflecting history or art. Within a short drive of an hour, many towns have a range of museums and fetes that would satisfy most tastes. Collecting the details of attractions and browsing through them by the mill stream could be as far as anyone gets. It certainly is a place to sit and dream! Jazz festivals to opera. But, to discover these gems sometimes takes a bit of research. Tourist offices sometimes offer this opportunity, but identifying opening times is quite a challenge. The small rural ones seem to be staffed with the most helpful staff anxious to practice English or at least tolerant of all manner of attempts at French. If a computer is allowed to disturb this tranquil idyll, then the task is a little easier. Finding the ideal location is not such an easy challenge. Self-catering holidays usually come from various sites promoting owner advertised properties. There seems to be no other way to find your perfect place and the best I can offer as advice is be sure of your requirements. There isn’t really a reliable comparison web site and personal recommendations are often coloured by unrealistic expectations. Direct contact with the owner quite often is a key to appreciating exactly what is on offer. I suppose as a last comment, remember that most mills are very old. Owners have put a lot of work into making accommodation comfortable and relaxing, but don’t expect five star luxuries. They have chosen to live in an old mill by the stream, fulfilling some long loved dream. They also share their home with others who can understand that passion.


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