Confolens, France - Somewhere in The Middle of Nowhere
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
This lovely little town on the Vienne River in Western France is wonderfully calm and peaceful. A great place for a weary traveler to stop and relax.
Just over an hour south of Poitiers, just under an hour Northeast of Angoulême and about an hour Northwest of Limoges lies the sleepy little town of Confolens, France. Unless you're a major Francophile or French native (and maybe even then still) you likely will need to, or just did, look at a map to visualize the area. With populations of 87K, 42K and 113K respectively, I quite understand if you've never heard of any of these three cities who are the most sizable neighbors to Confolens. Unless you're into comics - then you might know that Angoulême is the site of the world's 3rd largest annual international comics festival.
Confolens is so named as it is the location of the confluence of the Vienne and the much smaller Goire rivers. The Vienne at Confolens runs between 200 and 500 feet wide through this tiny town of 2,700 at a serene pace that affords you glass-like reflections as it glides towards the gently-sloping, river-wide falls at the North end of the main part of town. By stark contrast, the Goire is about 50 feet across at its widest here. It enters the Vienne from the East just feet upstream of the falls.
On a lovely late-October midweek evening in 2017, I was standing on the old bridge (14th century, possibly older) in the center of town at about 7:30 for quite some time with not another soul on or near it's 300 foot expanse. The only movement aside from mine was a swoop of swifts flying out and about from under the bridge's East end. I passed the latest hours of the evening on a park bench on the Vienne's West side absolutely blissing-out under the spell of it's tranquility and that of a half-mug of fine Irish whiskey (Tyrconnell, to be precise) that I had procured in Ancenis. There are less than a handful of bars in town that all close fairly early - the one next to my hotel closes at 8pm - and this was a blessing as the ONLY way to party that night was to go mobile. And it was heaven.
Sadly, my evening meal that night was not exactly heavenly. I opted to dine at the hotel restaurant where I was staying - the Hôtel Mère Michelet. That was a mistake. I had what you might call the duck-duck-duck special. Duck fois gras, duck gizzard salad and duck confit. Believe it or not, the salad was the best part of the meal - and it was novel (to me), but not that great at all. The fois gras was the most tasteless I've even been served and the duck confit not much better and rather dry. Even the WINE was crap! Where the hell they found shitty red wine in France, I have no idea. The baguette with tapenade appetizer was actually decent. Despite the fact that my native French server needlessly explained to me with a sole word that tapenade meant "olive." Yes, honey. I do know what tapenade is. I'm just not exactly fluent in French. Yet.
But I followed the meal up with a nice evening stroll on the West side of the river. I'd done some exploring on the East side before dinner after crossing the old bridge and back over the new bridge which is crossed by a rural route highway known as the Route de Limoges or the D948. I walked up to the train station (don't bother - there's absolutely nothing to see) and then down to the river and settled upon the afore-mentioned park bench with my whiskey for an expanded session of tippleage in paradisaical imperturbability.
The hotel room was not much better than the meal - if you can believe that. Though quite spacious for the price, it was also in quite the state of disrepair. The shower needed re-grouting, the mirror needed replacing and the shelf above the sink needed repair. But the toilet was the real winner. Not only was the toilet seat missing a foot and more than quite loose, making sitting on the throne more like a sad ride at Disneyland than a peaceful place to poop, but it had a slow leak which caused the fill valve to kick on every few minutes with a volume level I can only describe as..."gusto." Unfortunately I discovered this after the tippleage session and it was way too late to ask for another room in the mostly-empty hotel. Fortunately, I'm well versed in plumbing appliances and propped the toilet brush under the fill valve trigger to cease it from activating and passed out in a much quieter brain mist of Irish booze bliss.
The following morning I drove my little Peugeot 108 across the Vienne to La Crêpe Idéale for a little breakfast to take on the road. (Please note that it is illegal to eat while driving in France. Don't get caught.) It was a healthy helping of buckwheat pancake enveloping scrambled egg, cheese and andouille sausage. That with an artisanal apple juice by exclusive-to-the-region producers Gargouil really hit the spot.
Before picking up my morning meal I spent some time at the park Square Jules Halgand across the street and right on the Vienne River at its lovely lilting falls and confluence with the Goire. It was a great place to have a last few moments of zen and declare the town my new home if found out that they had a weekly farmer's market.
The area south of Confolens along the Vienne has some remarkably gorgeous settings. Highly recommended if you're ever in the game for a road trip through Western France. Just make sure you plan a night's stay in Confolens. Don't worry, there are 4 other hotels aside from the Hôtel Mère Michelet - plus a campground with some serious glamping options!
No matter where you stay, you'll be glad you did. Confolens is the perfect place to relax, recharge and reset. And it is one of my favorite towns in all of France, if not the world.