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Day 9: From Loudun to Lusignan, 90 km

At 7 o'clock, I'm at the bakery's opposite our B&B in Loudun, starting the day with delicious petit pain au chocolat and other treats like petit pain aux raisins and myrtilles. I also buy two small pizzas for Floris to have as lunch. By 8:30, we have our bikes packed and head towards Loudun's center. First, we visit the Saint Hilaire du Martray church with its flamboyant Gothic portal, a former chapel of a Carmelite monastery from the 14th century.

Next, we explore the Tour carrée, a square tower dating back to the medieval period, built between 1162 and 1185 during the reign of Henry II Plantagenet, the King of England. It was rebuilt in the 12th century by his grandson Foulques le Rechin, and it stands as a reminder of Loudun's medieval history.

Loudun: Floky is hungry again, the church of Saint Hilaire du Martray, Tour carrée (square tower )

Leaving the town with many empty shops, we head towards Poitiers, 60 km to the south, on a cloudy day. Thanks to Floky's route planning, we reach the city centre around 1 pm. We first visit the Notre Dame de la Grande, a stunning Romanesque church with its iconic towers resembling pine cones, symbolizing resurrection and eternal life. The church is the reflection of the heavenly Jerusalem or paradise and you can immediately see it here. We park our bikes on the left side of the parvis (derived from the word paradis) and admire the church. Characteristic of the Poitevin Romanesque style, the beautifully carved facade is also a masterpiece of religious art from this period.

Poitiers: Notre-Dame la Grande

The inner walls of the church are also completely painted, as was the case in most Romanesque and Gothic churches. Inside, above the choir, there is still a rare representation of the Apocalypse: the Virgin and Child is depicted in a mandorla, Christ is in majesty on the vault, between a circle and a square, then the Lamb of God is placed in a circle. Beautiful stained glass windows have been installed in the large window openings on the left or north side. On the south side, they are small windows probably to keep the heat out with simple decorations. There are also unique statues such as a chapel with a relic of St Didier and a statue group of Saint Anna with Mary and Jesus, but exceptionally also with her two sisters. When we go back outside, we walk around the church and also look at the typical Romanesque "poitevin" tower.

Poitiers:Notre Dame-La-Grande: Painted vault, St Anna with Mary and child and stained glass window

After having explored the church's beautifully sculpted facade and painted interior, we move on to the Tourist Office to get some information and then to Saint Pierre Cathedral. It boasts an intricately carved facade and an impressive interior, featuring choir stalls from the 13th century and a collection of 12th and 13th-century stained glass windows, including a depiction of the Crucifixion. At the back of the choir ione can see a series of large statues of apostles.

Poitiers: St Pierre cathedral: tympaan, kchoir and stained-glass window with the crucifixion

Next to the cathedral, just 100 meters away, is the baptismal chapel of Saint-Jean in Poitiers, a very ancient Christian monument showcasing Merovingian architecture and adorned with lovely frescoes. Its origins go back to the second half of the fourth century, beginning of the fifth century. Although heavily rebuilt over the centuries, the building is a textbook example of Merovingian architecture. The baptismal font clearly shows that people were baptized by immersion from the early Middle Ages. The inside of the octagonal building also has beautiful frescoes.

Poitiers: 4th century baptismal chapel with baptismal font and frescoes

Continuing our journey, we visit two grand Romanesque churches: Saint Radogonda, known for its powerful tower and the crypt where she is buried, and Saint Hilaire Legrand, renowned for its unique Romanesque apsidal chapels.

Poitiers: church of Saint Radogonda, tower and interior: apsidal chapels of St Hilaire Legrand

After these visits, it's almost 3 pm, and Floris, who is watching our bikes, has already finished his two pizzas while I was inside the churches taking photographs. We then take turns and while Floris visits the churches and takes some photographs , I watch the bikes. Floris loves taking pictures and every day he makes a reel of our journey with the GOPRO camera which he edits in the evening with some music and then posts on Instagram. After these five speed visits I quickly ha a croissant.

We then proceed towards Lusignan, which is only 30 km from Poitiers on the Via Turonensis, but we face strong headwinds, making the ride challenging and draining our bike batteries.

To recharge our bikes and take a break from the winds, we stop at a large shopping center, where Floky works on editing his daily video with the GOPRO camera, while I do the shopping. After these five speed visits I quickly ha a croissant

An hour later, we resume our journey, and by 6:30 pm, we arrive at our cozy and spotless B&B in Lusignan. A retired bachelor firefighter welcomes us and helps us store and recharge our bikes. We each have a room, which feels like a luxury, and we only pay 35 euros, breakfast included. What a fantastic deal! We enjoy our heated pasta dishes on the terrace, surrounded by an oriental-style garden with a large Buddha statue. I head to bed early, while Floky communicates late but always manages to wake up on time and ready for the day.

Floky on an adventurous path , the garden in Lusignan with a Buddha statue

Tomorrow, we will cycle to Melle and Aulnay, heading towards Saint Jean d’Angély, where we will stay in a pilgrim's room at the Royal Abbey of Saint Jean d’Angély. This abbey holds a special connection for Magda and me, as for 15 years we were members of the board of the European Cultural Centre, which occupied a significant part of the abbey. We organized meetings, lasting two weeks, for young people (15-18 years old) from three countries, with theoretical European and EU-focused activities in the morning and art and cultural activities in the afternoon. Francine Vaniscotte, an octogenarian residing in Paris, was the center's president and reads our blog every day. She is a wonderful lady with whom we always enjoyed working – deeply committed to Europe. I am curious to see what has become of the center...

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