Things are Not Always What They Seem !

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This week I was in Potiers in the department of the Vienne. Now, if you had visited this city twenty, or maybe thirty years ago, you probably wouldn’t have come away with a particularly great impression. Sure there is some fabulous architecture but the overall feeling would have been of a rather run-down, slightly sad place that was perhaps down on its luck and a bit neglected.

Two years ago, I visited the city with our youngest daughter for a tennis tournament, but we didn’t have time to explore the city itself; instead we drove around the outskirts and I watched from the sidelines as she competed in her matches. There was nothing whatsoever that made me think my previous assumptions were anything but correct. Then last year my brother was staying with us from the UK. He had spent a day in Poitiers during his drive southwards to us and had nothing but good things to say about the place. At the same time our second-eldest was about to start university there and we got to explore the city center –  and for the first time I could quite see why my brother was so enamoured.

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Now it’s a year later and I have just spent another week exploring Poitiers. To say I was quite amazed by how much I love the city would be an understatement; it is a fabulous place and now I cannot help but think I was so wrong and that instead that this is a city which is doing rather well for itself; it feels ‘rich’, but in a good way – it is buzzing and vibrant. But don’t just take my word for it, have a look for yourselves.

I hope I’ve captured some of the spirit of the city, for it is so incredibly French. It’s not particularly well known on the tourist trail and certainly not popular with foreigners as a general rule, but it’s a real gem. Architecture dating back over a thousand years surrounds you. Traditional half-timbered houses feature prominently and somehow they have managed to carry off their transformation of ‘modern shop front at street level and private home above’ rather well.

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But if you visit, be sure to look up, for that’s where the real magic happens.

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The city is made up of a mass of tiny narrow winding streets, and as it is virtually all pedestrianised one can wander slowly along and just soak up the atmosphere.

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Stop at one of the many numerous cafés and restaurants and enjoy a coffee, or perhaps an aperitif, lunch or dinner.

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It’s a fabulous place just to sit and watch the world go by, ‘people-watching’ French style….

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….seated at the ubiquitous French café table and chairs!

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Poitiers boasts 2000 years of history and was first built on a rocky promontory between two rivers. After the Roman conquest in the 1st century BC it began to grow in size and by the end of the 3rd century AD a large defensive wall had been built around the entire city. It is here that you will find one of the most beautiful Romanesque facades in the world; the 11th century church of Notre Dame la Grande.

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It’s not just famous for its exterior though, the interior quite literally took my breath away. It is dominated by fabulous painted columns which were restored in the 1800’s

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and there are some stunning stained glass windows.

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IMG_5356IMG_5357These frescoes on the vaulted roof are from the 12th century.

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Poitiers also boasts one of the oldest universities in France dating from 1431. But I don’t want to completely overwhelm you with facts, because it is also the very Frenchness of this city that has captivated me.

Simple plants against a shabby exterior,

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A second-hand book stall in the middle of a square,

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cafés and more cafés.IMG_5358

Outside the prestigious Hôtel de Ville (which is the town hall and should not be mistaken for the town hotel!), vintage wooden games-tables had been set up for anyone to play.IMG_5470IMG_5471

The outdoor market is an absolute feast for the hunger within, as well as for the eyes.IMG_5452

There are artisanal breads,IMG_5449

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and flowers picked fresh that morning along with eggs from the hens of local farms and producers.IMG_5447

Couple this with the architecture, the latest shops, numerous small boutiques and mouth-watering chocolatiers and you really do have the best of French city-living, all in one place.IMG_5475IMG_5348IMG_5368

Now you might be wondering why or indeed how I spend so much time being able to write about various cities and areas of France. It’s something I have mentioned very briefly once or twice, but actually it’s all down to our youngest daughter. In a very short time she has become one of the very best junior tennis players for her age in France. At just 12 years old she has competed all over the country and in Portugal and Italy. Struggling to find players of her level locally we are forced to travel further and further afield and she is currently playing in adult tournaments in order to progress her game (that’s the reason we were in Poitiers, she played two adult tournaments back to back, and was runner up in the first and winner of the second, all while she is still just 12 years old).

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There are many who say she could be the next Coco Gauff, given her short but vertical progress, and I am sincere when I say wait three years and she will be on your television screens. Ok, so she’s our daughter and we are supremely proud, but she’s also one in a million on the court, not just for her talent and extreme dedication but also for her mental calm and impeccable attitude.

This is her passion, her life and her dream. I have been to every one of her tournaments, she trains with her coach for five hours a day (3 hours tennis, 2 hours fitness) and is now home-schooled. This is not our dream, this is her’s.  Financially, it’s horrendous, and time and again we’ve hinted that she might have to stop, except for her it is not an option, as there is NO stopping her. And so we have to find a way to keep her going.

In an effort to continue to pay for her coaching and travel we have launched a website today, created by her very talented eldest sister, Izzi, who works in London. If you feel like taking a look please do, the site is here.  If you feel like donating to help her, I cannot tell you how incredibly grateful we would be and you can do that here. I hate to ask, but I am guessing you all know that I would do anything for my family and for my children (she is the youngest of five)!

You can also follow her incredibly popular Instagram account too, which she runs herself for fun; it’s the story of her tennis journey with some great videos and has over 15,000 followers! @gigina_tennis

 

 

All I can say is thank you for taking the time to read this from all of us. And thank you to Gigi for giving me the opportunity to bring so much of France to you, it is a real pleasure. Susan xx

37 thoughts on “Things are Not Always What They Seem !

  • What an adorable daughter you have! I hope she does well. Thank you for your posts, I have been reading them for some time and have thoroughly enjoyed them.

  • what a talented daughter you have. You can really be proud. Thank you too, sharing the charming Poitier. Not for the
    same reason you do it, but I also currently like to discover the country I live. Spain…has so much to offer what many
    tourists don’t imagine. too bad or thank’s God. There is a tennis university in Marbella from Manolo Santana, but I
    guess yr daughter didn’t need it anymore. At what age did she start with Tennis?

    • Maybe, just maybe that autographed key ring will be valuable one day ;-))
      Go Gigi, Go….
      And yes to next year, and all the areas around.
      Hugs to all
      Ali xx

    • Hi, it is wonderful to feel content in the country we have chosen to live in isn’t it. She started playing tennis at 9 and I am sorry it has taken me so long to reply, the summer was somewhat hectic and now I am playing catch up! and yes maybe it will be super valuable, keep hold of it Ali ! Susan x

  • Wow. I’m reading this as I watch the mens’ finals at Wimbledon. Gauff was indeed impressive, for her grit as well as her level of play. Can’t wait to see your youngest compete!

  • Ahhh, your photos today have made me very homesick for Poitier which was my home for 5 years. My apartment was next to the Parc Blossac – have you been there? I loved the sense of being so close to the Moyen Age and occasionally led walking tours ‘in the steps of Eleanor of Aquitaine.’ My choir sang in Notre Dame la Grande, as well as most of the other churches, as well. Sigh…

    And you are right to be proud of your talented daughter. Her dedication to her passion is bound to pay off.

  • Thank you so much for the lovely pictures. Enjoy them so much – the buildings are tremendous, cannot think how they built those without the tools we have today. Congratulations to your daughter & know you must be proud of her. It takes not only money but time & effort on your part too. Have a great “rest of summer”. Thanks again!!!

  • I only wonder why you would have thought Poitier not being a great ‘little’ city? If I remember correctly, Hero Husband and I have spent a night there on our travels, long ago and many of your photos seemed to ring lovely little bells.
    As far as Gigi is concerned, I’m here to underscore everything you wrote about her personality. As I cannot comment on her sportive efforts and succes, I can – all the more – on her fresh, honest, kind and no-nonsense but super friendly being. As your other children too, she is a human being one only can be proud of. She is unspoilt, natural, and the way you all, as a family, interact, help each other, and how you speak, work and laugh together, is something of a rare beauty and a joy to behold. Since the day I got to know you all personally, I have been thinking of ways to be able to help you but haven’t come up with the golden idea. I DO however wish that all will come to fruition and I tremendously admire your holding up and continuous ‘making it happen’. For someone as non-sporty as me it is very difficult to imagine the hours and hours of hard work, dedication, the long hours of travelling, waiting, watching, the aching and hoping, you all spend in order to allow G her fullfillment. The most impressive part of knowing your family, is the mental attitude you all have, and how you stick it out and make it happen, all of you. And that’s not mentionning your other four children, all of them being wonderful, outstanding and accomplished human beings.
    I DO think of you very, very often and I still think that you should be able to get her more sponsors and ppl in the sport business to make it happening…. Congratulations G, to your wins, in the adult game, no less. Have a hug, that’s the least I can do!

  • I like Poitiers too. It’s about an hour from where we live. It is only marred for me by the horrible road from here to there and the fact that I had a period 5 years ago travelling up and down it for medical reasons (daily then weekly hospital visits for my husband).

    Good luck with the campaign for Gigi. I spoke to my friend Huub about your problem. He’s a Professor of Biomechanics who has worked with several national swimming teams, and his daughter is an Olympic level swimmer. He said it is very hard funding an emerging high level sports person. The only way to do it is to hire a good manager, whose main job is to go after sponsorship deals. The trouble is, good managers are really hard to find.

  • We just finished watching the men’s finals @ W—-wow~ I did see Stan & Margie Smith in the box & said a prayer that maybe, just maybe, he will see the G talent & jump in at some point for encouragement! I have no doubt that we will someday soon see little G & her entire sweet family in their own family box watching w/anticipation as she shows her stuff. I applaud each of your family members for the spunk & determination it takes to keep up the race!
    I always love your blog! Thank you for the beautiful pictures!

  • What a lovely city! Thanks for alerting me to it. And congratulations to Gigi! Wow….5 hours a day. That is dedication. I used to play tennis every day but since I’m not a competitive person, striving in that way was not part of my journey. I admire her tenacity and drive!

  • Thank you for allowing us to share the facts of Gigi’s progress . . . I knew she was an avid tennis player but none of the facts of her brilliant progress. And her maturity as she so well displays on her video interview . . . naturally am now a follower on Instagram, and if future conditions allow, would love to send a little support. To think you may have a future world champion on your hands, one who happily smiles at New Zealand being her birthplace 🙂 ! Oh you walking us thru’ a very civilized Poitiers is grand but, for me, this is Gigi’s real introduction around all your worldwide friendship circle . . . all the very best . . . .

  • Back after a few hours with a challenge to all the readers’ of this blog. I am certain all of you are as thrilled as I am to read about Gigi’s talent, hard work and success. I have just reposted this blog to four of my lists of friends and colleagues asking all to repost again to their own tennis loving friends. If you had not thought of this . . .please do as they also may be thrilled by a young girl’s drive and possibly be able to help just a tad during these important days at the beginning to make Gigi’s dreams come true . . . over to you . . .

  • I also found Poitiers delightful, and I now feel I need to visit again…and again! Of course there is no excuse as it is only 1hr north along the N10. Like you, I seem to spend my time walking around places always looking UP…so much of interest that is too easily missed by the visitor. How proud you must be of your daughter’s achievements 🙂

  • Congratulations to your daughter and to you as parents. Fabulous post, as always. Wishing you all much success and happiness. And looking forward to seeing a few tennis matches too!

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