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motorway aires: 21

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motorway aires[1]
Aire du Poitou-Charentes, A10
heart of Vendée

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Aire du Poitou-Charentes/Ruralies aire, A10
the Maison des produits regionaux - House of regional products
angélique de niort / niort angelica
how to find the Aire de Poitou-Charente
end notes

Motorway aires are designed to provide a suitable environment for relaxing, refreshing and recovering during the long, hard journeys. As well as facilities of often dubious nature, picnic tables and seats, a telephone kiosk, there are often optional extras such as a play area or a display related to some local interest or event.

Sculpture heralding Poitou-Charente aire from the A10 autoroute
Sculpture heralding Poitou-Charente aire from the A10 autoroute

Aire du Poitou-Charentes/Ruralies aire, A10

On the A10, north of Bordeaux and between J34 and J35 and close to Niort, is the largest aire in western France. The northbound and southbound aire (connected by a tunnel) until 2005 were called the Aire des Ruralies.

Smartened up, particularly on the southbound side, this aire is the Aire of Poitou-Charente, which has lots of pointless, but distracting activities.

general view, display tunnel, aire du Poitou-Charente

There is a space-age tunnel, which makes a good photo location, even if the reality doesn’t match the fantasy. Just the sort of setting for a fashion shoot, or a James Bond adventure.




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general view, display tunnel, aire du Poitou-Charente

The tunnel houses rather trite, large photos of the region.

interior, display tunnel, aire du Poitou-Charente

Nearby is a conference building that has changing art exhibitions, as well as cafés and a hotel.

Espace regional, aire du Poitou-Charentehotel, aire du Poitou-Charente

A bit further from the buildings is a children’s play area, and during the summer many outdoor stalls, information booths and even participatory sports events.

Outdoors at Aire du Poitou-Charente, A10

the Maison des produits regionaux - House of regional products

But for, probably the most interesting feature of Aire of Poitou-Charente is the Maison des produits regionaux - the House of regional products. There have been rumours that the building might turn into a fast-food outlet as being more commercial, but the proprietors have assured us that this is mere rumour. As it is, the farm museum at the aire, previously a major feature, has closed it would seem indefinitely.

Maison des produits regionaux - the House of regional products, Aire du Charente-Maritime, A10


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La Maison des products regionaux - House of regional products - offers about 1,700 local products: wine, spirits, but also chocolates, pastries, canned goods, leather goods, jewellry, furniture... ”

The first local product shop on the south-western motorway network, this store is a showcase of regional products open seven days a week.

There are ranges of food from the sea [produits de la mer], gourmet hamper boxes, chamois skins and other leather products, ‘luxury’ cognac.

Maison des produits regionaux - the House of regional products, Aire du Charente-Maritime, A10
Maison des produits regionaux - the House of regional products, Aire du Charente-Maritime, A10


Angelica products display
Angelica products display



angelica archangélique - cultivated angelica
angelica archangélique - cultivated angelica

angelica silvestris - wild angelica

angélique de niort / niort angelica

The range of products in this showcase store includes many angelica-based products, including angelique jam [confiture angélique] as well as sweets (illustrated on the left).

But many other edible products are made with angelica, from jam (with a very delicate flavour that needs to be eaten with a bland bread) to sweets and liqueurs. Chartreuse owes its colour and part of its flavour to angelica. There is even chocolate with candied angelica added.

confiture angelique (angelica jam) on bland-tasting bread
confiture angélique (angelica jam) on bland-tasting bread


Angelica of Niort [l’angélique de Niort] is said to have been brought to France’s western coast during the raids of the Vikings. (Remember, as well as Brittany and Normandy, the Vikings conquered and for a while settled in Aquitaine that, on the coast, stretches from just south of Bordeaux. Many place names signal this connection, none more clearly than those ending in -osse, -us, or -es, all derivatives of hus - house. Many Norwegian place-names end in hus, while Danish ones often end in -by, as often found often in English place-names.)

A herb that grows to a metre or more, angelica is reputed to have helped the French in medieval times to overcome the plague - its smell scattering the rats. Angelica was planted in large quantities around Niort during the great plague of 1603, so protecting the city from the scourge. Angelica has since become the emblem of the city.

Subsequently, the monks of Niort invented candied angelica, angelica liquor. In the eighteenth century, the delicate, dainty and delicious liquor was the basis of a flourishing business for the city of Poitiers and its region.

Now, angelica is better known in English-speaking lands for candied cake decorations.

Two species of angelica are grown in the Poitou region: angelica silvestris and angelica archangélique. A. silvestris now grows wild in the Poitevin marshes [marais Poitevin], while A. archangélique was brought to Poitou in the 14th century. The properties of the two species are similar, though wild angelica is less fragrant than cultivated angelica.

samphire, or sea asparagus
Another local delicacy sold at the Maison des products regionaux is salicorne, also called samphire, or sea asparagus.

Like asparagus, salicorne is usually treated similarly - trimmed, gently blanched and tossed in butter or lemon juice. But remember, there is no need to add salt as the plant grows in salty environments.

Salicorne plantd

There are two kinds of samphire. One is marsh samphire, also known as as sea asparagus, or glasswort. In France, it is called salicorne. It grows near the foreshore and in salt marshes, in North America and Europe.

The other samphire is rock samphire, also known as sea fennel.

Samphires are one of the first colonisers of salty environments.

how to find the aire de poitou-charente

Google satellite vew and map of Aire du Poitou-Charente, A10


Poitou-Charente aire is on both sides of the A10 autoroute. However, the portion on the south-bound side has the majority of the facilities and entertainments. When travelling north, going from the direction of Bordeaux, to reach the south-bound side, you follow a long approach road that includes going through a tunnel under the motorway.

Poitou-Charente aire is in Département 79 - Deux-Sèvres.


See also
aire de Lozay, A10
in Poitou-Charentes: motorway aires on the A83
in Poitou-Charentes - the A87 motorway and its aires
in Poitou-Charentes - aires on the A837 motorway
the French Wild West, Bordeaux to the Spanish border - the N10 and A63


end notes

  1. aire: in this context, an area —
    aire de loisirs: recreation area;
    aire de pique-nique: picnic area;
    aire de repos: rest area;
    aire de services: services , motorway (GB) or freeway (US) service station.

  2. Rock samphire - Crithmum maritimum, also known as sea fennel, is the only species in the genus Crithmum. Rock samphire grows on rocky shores of the mainland of Great Britain.
    Marsh samphire - Salicornia europaea - is one of about 60 Salicornia species. It grows in salt marshes, on beaches and in mangroves. Salicornia species are native to Europe, South Africa, South Asia and North America. Other names for marsh samphire include glasswort and pickleweed

    The term samphire is thought to be a corruption from a French name, herbe de Saint-Pierre (St. Peter’s Herb).

    Marsh samphire is also called glasswort because the ashes from this plant contain an alkali soda (sodium carbonate), which is one of the ingredients for soda glass. Glassmaker immigrants from Venice taught English-glassmakers to make clear soda glass. (Potash-based glass, using wood ash, is greenish in clour.)

on first arriving in France - driving motorway aires, introduction
travelling by rail to and within France individual aires                                             
A75 autoroute from Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers and its aires Les Pyrénées, A64 Poey de Lascar, A64
A89 autoroute from Bordeaux to Clermont-Ferrand and beyond - aires Pic du Midi, A64
Hastingues, A64
Dunes, A62
Mas d’Agenais, A62
A7 - aires on the busy A7 autoroute from Lyons to Marseille Pech Loubat, A61
Port-Lauragais, A61
Mas d’Agenais, A62
Garonne, A62
A9- aires on the motorway to Spain Ayguesvives, A61
Renneville, A61
Catalan village, A9
Tavel, A9
A62 - aires on the autoroute of two seas three aires on the canal du midi, A61 Lozay, A10
Poitou-Charente, A10
A65 : the autoroute de Gascogne, from Langon to Pau Carcassonne, A61 Les Bréguières, A8
A64 and A61 - aires on the other autoroute of two seas  
A83 motorway in Poitou-Charentes - aires A63: the French Wild West, Bordeaux to the Spanish border - formerly the N10
A837 motorway in Poitou-Charentes - aires A20 - aires on the Occitane autoroute, from Brive to Montauban
A42 and A40 motorways - aires from Lyon to Switzerland and Italy A87 motorway and its aires in Poitou-Charentes
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