Niort, I have been round it maybe 50 times, but have never been into the city. On my way to the Marais Poitevin on through to La Rochelle or Fouras. Many years ago the route round was quite tedious but recently it has improved, although there is a very dangerous slip road where you have to cut straight into a single lane, I think it is the D148 link to the D11. Anyway today we did Niort. The satnav took us into the centre and eventually got us to a car park next to the river and close to the Donjon and Les Halles. I say eventually as it was not up to speed on many of the no entry signs.
First stop was Les Halles de style Baltard, it was open but only about a third of the stalls were selling goods, no fish, mostly cheese and charcutterie, also it was very cold in there. I think the full on days are Jeudi, Samedi and Dimanches.
From there it is a short hop to the Donjon, not a dungeon as it sounds but the ‘Keep’, part of a Chateau that was previously there. This is the most photographed building in Niort, It dates back to the 12th century and is very well preserved, Entrance is about 4euros and is well worth while. There is an extensive museum inside, but the most spectacular thing is the view from the roof. Lots of steps and several floors but eventually you get up there and you can see the entire city before you.
There is a circular orientation disc with directions and places marked. It is fading a bit with countless people pawing at it, but you can still see what is what.
In one direction is an impressive church with two towers called Eglise Saint-Andre, in front of this and slooping down to Les Halles and the river are old buildings and you get a lovely view of their roofs. You can see this church in the photo above.
In another direction you look across to Le Pilori which was the Hotel de Ville prior to the revolution.
The present Hotel de Ville is in the opposite direction and behind it is another impressive church, this one with one tower and called Notre-Dame,
On the other side you can see the river and indeed the car park where you might see our car. It is the black one!
From the Dojon we went for lunch, attempting to eat at a Restaurant called Le Donjon which is rated number 5 on trip advisor. They were full so we went a short distance back up from the river and ended up at Le Bistoquet (see our review)
After lunch we walked up through the main square, which is huge, and recently modernised and has a massive underground car park, this took us through more shops and the two serpents (the third most photographed…. Donjon number one, Halles number two).
Finally we ended up at the Musee Bernard d’Agesci. Nothing to do with the tennis player Andre Aggesi, it is a large museum, well it seems to go on and on. It is quite old fashioned, particularly the collection of birds and animals from the local area. Just birds on pedestals and very little interpretative stuff, it reminded me of my visits to the Natural History museum in the 1960’s.
They also have paintings and sculpture and scientific instruments. Lots of the male nudes have lost their manhood! and on one it had turned green. It is worth a visit, and you can get a double ticket for the Donjon and this museum, so why not. Better on a wet day.
So that’s it for Niort, I will most certainly visit again it was much more than I expected… do go and enjoy yourself.