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We often go through or sometimes round Melle as we travel across to the coast.

The church of Saint Hilaire is most beautiful and recently I stopped to photograph it. Apart from being on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostella which would no doubt have accounted for some wealth, the town has also been a centre for lead and silver mining and their extraction from their ores. This wealth was no doubt in part responsible for the beauty and complexity of the church.

 

If you look Melle up on the internet, you find descriptions of a wonderful town markets and beautiful surrounding countryside. All true, but what is often missing is any reference to the massive chemical works Rhodia, formerly Rhone-Poulenc, which dominates the town on the eastern side and which produces the most foul smells that you inevitably encounter somewhere depending on the direction of the wind. This is the modern day legacy of the old lead and silver workings, and no doubt, as in the past, produces some revenue and enployment.

I am normally quite complimentary about the various places we visit in Poitou-Charentes because this is a beautiful region but it has to be said that Melle is a lovely little town but it smells which is somewhat surprising because the branch of Rhodia in Melle is involved, so I have read, in the production of intermediates  for the formulation of aromas, perfumes and beauty products. There is a lot on the internet about cyclopentanone production which is supposed to smell of peppermints. To my nose, which went through ‘A’ level Chemisty and courses in Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry at University, Melle smells of sulphides. It smells a lot like our old chemistry lab. after the Wednesday afternoon practical and Hydrogen sulphide is poisonous. 

  Have a look at Melle by all means but think twice about buying there.  

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