Thursday, 20 October 2016

A visit to Availles-Limouzine - Staying near to home before part 8 of our USA holiday!

Last Sunday, as the 22C weather forecast sounded  pretty good for autumn, we took a drive to Availles-Limouzine, a town in the Vienne department of  France (bordering on the Charente), home to about 1300 people and built on a bank of the beautiful Vienne river.

The spot was successively occupied from the earliest times by the Goths, Romans, Gauls and Francs, but at the beginning of the 11th century, the town was mentioned in  archives as Viconia Avalia, developing on a salt route which ran inland from the coast, and at what had become an important river crossing - perhaps a ford. Availles was a stop-over point on the route and markets were held here, but the originally beautiful, but dilapidated, covered market building in the town square was demolished in the 1920s.(see later!). The town was fortified during the Middle Ages and in the 12th century, a castle was built to protect the wooden bridge which had been built across the river.   At least two gates provided access  through the town walls; the restored Cavalry gate, on the side away from the river and the River gate, as you would imagine(!), being next to the river on the opposite side, still survive.


The Cavalry gate. One can still see grooves in the stonework where the portcullis slid up and down!

The River gateway gave access to the previously mentioned bridge, which was destroyed in 1350, along with a lot of the town, by fighting  during the 100 Years War (1337-1453).

Circular riverside tower on the outside wall of the fortifications.

Up until as recently as 1950, the banks of the Vienne were visited by a mixture of washerwomen and sand gatherers.  The first came to wash their linen, before carrying it home in barrows and the second came to dredge sand from the banks, for use later in construction of the buildings. But not at the same time, presumably!

During the long period when there was no bridge,  people used to cross the river by ferry.  It was first mentioned in 1657 and was still there in 1750, as a map confirms its existence. In 1839 a suspension bridge was opened, but this proved to be inadequate as it required too much maintenance! Thus, in 1892, a metal bridge supported on two stone pillars and designed by the famous Eiffel company, was constructed. The increases in traffic volumes  eventually spelt an end to what was called "a work of art", and in 1957 the present concrete bridge was built.

In the 17th century, the house on the left became known as 'the domain of the river'. I somehow missed taking a photo of it, as we spent time looking for the covered market, previously referred to.  This is a sketch of what it looked like, and certainly the character of the market square has been completely altered, for the worse, by its disappearance.

Right opposite where the covered market stood, is the Mairie.

This house now stands on the site of the castle, which fell into ruin, due to the effects of first, the Hundred Years' War and later, the Wars of Religion in the latter half of the 16th century.

A dear little door which is not high enough for either of us to have walked through without bending quite low, but obviously adequate for the people of those early times.

A typical street scene. Most of the houses have been well restored.

Water pumps seem to be a feature of the town.......

Walking up the quite steep hill to the Church of Saint Martin.

The church of Saint Martin first appeared in texts in 1090.   It belonged to the Abbey of St Cyprien in Poitiers and was largely reconstructed in the 15th century after almost total destruction in the 100 Years' War. The church has also received further, more recent restoration in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The stained glass windows were installed in 1867 and are signed by the Gueritault brothers from Poitiers, a large town not far to the north-west.

 The restful, tree lined sand square outside the church is much used by players of petanque/boules! This cast iron cross on one side of it dates from the 19th century. It is set on a stone base and depicts a snake encircling an amphora above a lower section showing a lacrimosa with two tears clearly visible.

Near the church at the top of the hill is another water pump, so water pressure is obviously sufficient somehow, even up here!

A close up of the ornate cast iron spout.

Yet another pump, this one  nearer the centre of town.

If you should be interested in buying property in this lovely town, there were quite a number of houses for sale, this one being the largest that we saw! The tourist office was unfortunately closed when we visited, but even without any background information, one could spend a very pleasant  hour or so looking around this well kept hidden gem of a town.


Also see my daily diary HERE


and My Life Before Charente (updated  25 September 2016)  

35 comments:

  1. What a picturesque town! I love the colour of the stone. I agree, the Vienne is a lovely river well worth exploring.

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    1. The town is very pretty and the stone work in France is generally interesting. Lovely spot to go for walks. Hope you are well Diane

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  2. Even the rebuilt structures look old. Once again I am entranced by these quaint villages. And what a variety of ornate water pumps.

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    1. Thankfully in the towns they do try to keep the buildings looking 'older'. Since we have been here though so many new houses and buildings have been built further out that do not really fit in at all! Think they call it progress but I think it just spoils what is there. Hope your getting time to relax. Diane

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  3. I like the stone work on the homes, church and fortress, and the water pumps are handsome.

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    1. Thanks for your visit and comment. We love the old buildings and I agree the water pumps are handsome. Diane

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  4. Hi Diane - sadly I'm not looking for a house in Availles-Limouzine! Sad, but true. Beautiful town as French ones so often are ... and aren't the water pumps so well preserved. The stained glass window is pretty incredible ... obviously highly skilled glaziers in the late 1800s ...

    The river walk looks like it would be a beautiful stroll .. I guess one would have to turn round and come back ... no wonder you made the most of the decent weather we've been having ...

    Cheers Hilary

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    1. Ha ha not house hunting then. Pretty place to live with some great walks. A town we pretty much discovered by accident. So many places close by that we have not heard of!!!!! Hope all is well with you Diane

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  5. That brought back memories of visiting friends nearby years ago...lovely to see it again in your super photographs.

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    1. Thanks fly, hope they were good memories. Hope all is well with you both, and you have a good weekend. Diane

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  6. What a charming little town! The water pumps are all the same color? How pretty. I love the restored old houses, although I don't know that I'd enjoy owning the house with the very short door. Thanks for the tour, Diane.

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    1. Marjie it was a lovey place and it was a pity we did not know the history before we went! Sadly the tourist office was closed as well, so it was a case of following signs around the town and tracking the history later. Gad you enjoyed the tour Diane

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  7. Hello Diane,
    At last sitting down in front of my computer sorting my latest photos and commenting on friend's blogs!
    I love this post, the first picture of the Cavalry gate is awesome!
    About the door on pic n°9, I don't think it is about the size of the people... they were not that small then, it was most probably a door to a cellar or store room.
    The close-up of the cast iron water pump spout is really mind boggling!
    This eagle spitting out the head of a dragon of some kind, itself letting out a pipe or fish mouth... Very strange!!
    Thanks again for all your kind comments on my posts, this Grey plover was one species I was after at migration time but I wasn't lucky with other species flying down before I got to the Atlantic ocean. Ah well, maybe in spring when they fly back to the northern regions!
    Keep well and warm, I hate this cold spell!


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    1. Thank Noushka for the long comment. I loved that spout so different to normal! We also hate the cold and it really is not that bad yet, the worst is still to come and then of course UK at Christmas!!! Have a great weekend. Diane

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  8. Availles-Limouzine is lovely Diane, it would be so nice to spend a day exploring here, merci beaucoup for giving us the next best thing ☺ Bon weekend.

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    1. It was interesting to explore but if the tourist office had been open it would have helped. Sadly we did our homework after rather than before, but we saw most things I think. Have a good weekend Diane

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  9. What a treat it is to drop in and see your photos and stories! Are you planning an American holiday and are you possibly coming West? I'd love it if we could meet up.

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    1. Hi Rosaria. We have finished the American holiday which is why we are already up to the eighth blog next one! We were there in June and July staying with friends who have scattered around the USA. East coast, then Dallas, Mesquite, the canyon and Vegas. We flew home via Chicago which was only a quick stop. Have a good weekend Diane

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  10. Gosh its like a living museum. A beautiful town and what mazing history. I can't help wondering why humans seem hell bent on warring. They were at war from the beginning of history up until today............don't we ever learn?

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    1. Diane so many places here are like a living museum and so sad that some of the places have been demolished through war. As you say people never learn, there is always someone who wants something that the other has not got and then it all escalates!!! I do not understand it but.....
      Have a good weekend t'other Diane

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  11. Merci pour cette très belle ballade.
    A bientôt

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  12. I already asked about your My Life Before Charente. May we also display the header for here on SiteHoundSniffs.com?

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    1. Thanks Jerry you have an interesting blog and well worth following. Diane

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  13. The old building and churches are always so interesting and beautiful to look at. Thank your for sharing your area with us Diane!

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    1. Thanks Pam for the comment it is an interesting place. Keep well Diane

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  14. The whole place is so beautiful and well maintained

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    1. Thanks so much for your visit and comment, glad you enjoyed the virtual walk around. Diane

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  15. Great post, Diane! I thoroughly enjoyed the tour! The architecture is beautiful on the buildings and the stained glass window is splendid. Nice water pumps too! That is one large house in the last photo and I'd love to see the inside of it. Thanks and take care.

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    1. Thanks Pam, I also loved the water pumps but it is an interesting town all together. Mmmm it would have been good to have seen the inside of the house for sale! Hope you are both well, take care Diane

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  16. What a charming little town…I especially liked the multicolored stones showing on the buildings.

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    1. Many thanks Karen, it was a fabulous town but I wished we had done our research before going there rather than after! Of course if the tourist office had been open..... Keep well Diane

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  17. I always enjoy your travel photos. Wish I could travel as much as I would like to. Beautifully captured!

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  18. Hi, I discovered your blog by accident and hope you don't mind me commenting. My wife and I bought a house in Availles in 2016. We looked at a dozen places in the area and fell in love with the place immediately. Beautiful town, lovely people and we have just spent the most fantastic New Year here. We're discovering more bit by bit and I'm reading as much as I can about it. We head back to Scotland tomorrow but will be back several more times this year before making this our permanent base. Thank you for your interesting and informative post. Best wishes, Roy

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    1. Lucky you a lovely place to live, though we do love our own area as well :-) We bought in 2005 but only moved permanently in 2011. For 6 years I lived here in summer doing renovations while my husband brought in the the money to do it!! Enjoy, hope to see you back visiting. Diane

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