The département of the Deux-Sèvres is a part of the Poitou-Charentes region in western France. The origin of the name: Deux-Sèvres comes from the fact that it literally means “two Sèvres”: the Sèvre Nantaise and the Sèvre Niortaise. These are two rivers which have their sources in the département. The entire département is famed for its beautiful rivers and wooded valleys, for example in the Sèvre Nantaise Valley, the area around the village of Mothe Saint Héray and the Thouet Valley. Deux-Sèvres was one of the 83 original départements which were created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790.

The departmental borders were changed in 1973 when the inhabitants of the little commune of Puy-Saint-Bonnet formally became associated with the rapidly growing adjacent commune of Cholet. Cholet is in fact in the neighbouring department of Maine-et-Loire. In order to avoid the associated communes being administered in separate departments, Puy-Saint-Bonnet was transferred into Maine-et-Loire.

Donjon at Niort - one of best Deux-Sèvres atractionsIn this département you will find some of Europe’s most imposing, Romanesque churches, châteaux and museums. The town of Niort , on the banks of the Sèvre Niortaise River has an impressive ‘Donjon’ or keep dating from the 12th Century (photo left) and this is now one of the two main museums in the town. There is also a 17th Century gate and a covered market dating from the 19th Century as well as the usual selection of Romanesque churches. This interesting town is today well served with restaurants and there is also a golf course.

The département it is still very rural: three-quarters of the area consists of arable land. Wheat and oats are the main products grown, as well as potatoes, apples, and walnuts. Niort is definitely a centre for growing vegetables and angelica. Some beetroot is grown in the district of Melle. Vineyards are numerous in the north (Vins du Haut-Poitou), and there are some in the south.

The département is also well known for the breeding of cattle, mules, and horses. The Parthenais breed of cattle is named after the town of Parthenay in the north of the département. Also, dairy products are produced in large quantities (butter in Échiré and goats’ cheese).

Textiles and shoe making, furnitures, mechanics, automotive (Heuliez and Irisbus), chemistry (Rhodia in Melle), food industry and food packaging are the major industries outside of the capital.

Attractions In Deux Sèvres:

Porte Saint Jacques Parthenay In Deux-SèvresHistorical heritage: the department has a huge number of old churches and castles to visit. The town of Parthenay is a particularly good example of the Deux-Sevres’ rich historical legacy, being a medieval town with many half-timbered properties. (Photo right: Porte Saint Jacques Parthenay)

The chateau at Niort of which the donjon or keep still stands (Photo above) was begun by Henry II and completed by his son Richard the Lionheart and is well worth a visit.

Gourmet food: this area has lots of rustic local dishes which you will love, amongst which the famous Chabichou goat cheese, Tourteau Fromagé cake, Angelica Liqueur and the worldwide famous Echiré butter.  Echiré butterEchiré butter (photo below right) is the best of the bunch when it comes to butter made with churned milk and especially when served on crusty French bread…. yummy!  Universally considered to be one of the best artisan butters in France, Echiré butter is served in some of the world’s finest restaurants.

Tourism – sights: Deux Sevres is famous for the Marais Poitevin, a marshy area located to the west of Niort. The goat farms are also a great attraction for families, as well as the Vallee des Singes, an entertainement park/zoo specializing in monkeys. As stated earlier,  Parthenay is a truly great place to visit if you are fond of history and architecture.

Lifestyle: the department has a very chilled-out lifestyle, deeply rooted in the French way of life. To get a taste of the local lifestyle, you should visit the markets during weekday mornings, or take part in the many cultural and musical festivals which take place in this vibrant area.

Location – transport links: Deux Sevres has motorway links to Bordeaux, Brittany, Paris and Spain, as well as a high-speed train line linking it to Paris and Bordeaux/ Toulouse/ Spain. When it comes to holidays, especially with children, do bear in mind that Deux-Sevres has no airport or harbour and of course has no beaches for holidays. However, the wonderful beaches of the Vendée are options for a nice day trip to see the sea.