Thursday, December 14, 2023

Advent postcards, Saint-Sauvant, Charente-Maritime

French Village Diaries cycling adventures Advent postcard Saint-Sauvant Charente-Maritime
Advent postcard, Saint-Sauvant, Charente-Maritime

Advent day fourteen

Today’s cycling advent-ures postcard is from another characterful village we crossed paths with while looking for a pretty spot to rest and refuel. We had left Saintes, an impressive town on the banks of the Charente River, where vestiges of Roman life were all around, and were returning home on what would be an 86km cycle ride. 


It already felt like an adventure as we’d found a chain ferry to cross the Charente at Chaniers, which is so much more exciting than a bridge. A few kilometres later we arrived in Saint-Sauvant, a “Petite Cité de Caractère” in the Charente Maritime. This label is a way for small towns and villages to get recognition for their work to not only preserve the buildings that are part of their heritage, but also for their cultural events throughout the year that engage the local community and bring in the tourists.


Saint-Sauvant might be small, but its steep cobbled streets rising from the rivers Coran and Pidou, were begging to be explored, even if I did end up pushing the bike in places. The first thing to catch my eye was the medieval square tower that looked a little sorry for itself with a fig tree growing out of the crenelations at the top. My Petites Cités de Caractère guidebook tells me that it dates from the 14th and 15th centuries and was a prison until 1870. We had to demonstrate the folds of our bikes here for some French camping car tourists who had been eyeing us up since the lavoir at the bottom of the village. This is something we find ourselves doing at least once on a long-distance ride as most people can’t understand how something with such little wheels (and no electric assist), can carry us and our luggage all day, and fold so neatly.


Our next stop was the church of Saint-Sylvain, a lovely example of the 12th century Romanesque architecture that you see a lot of in this area, but with its square tower dominating the skyline, this one was particularly impressive. We found our bench and tucked into a snack before following the Coran Valley cycle route towards Saint-Césaire. It wasn’t until we’d arrived home that I realised Saint-Sauvant has a Terra Aventura treasure hunt we’d missed – but at least that gives me a good excuse to return.


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