Spending much of our time out ‘on the road’ either with house hunters or visiting new residents, it is clear that many people arrive over here looking forward to the peace and tranquility of rural France, but aware that there are certain aspects of UK life that they will miss. One of the most popular of these is sport, be it playing or watching. Fortunately, rural France is far better equipped than the UK in terms of sporting facilities.
Indoor Swimming Pools:
Most decent sized market towns – such as Melle and Ruffec – have indoor pools. Reduced priced entry is usually available for residents of the commune or canton and season tickets offer excellent value for money. The larger towns/cities of Poitiers and Angouleme both have fantastic state-of-the-art water park style pools. These include giant water slides, wave machines and toddler pools. It is worth noting that boys/men need to bring Speedo-type swimming trunks and will not be allowed in with Bermuda type costumes (for health reasons.)
Many small market towns such as Civray, Sauzé Vaussais, Vivonne, Lezay, Celles-sur-Belle and Melle have summer lidos. These are popular with French families in the summer holidays and are cheap, well run and great meeting places for children and adults alike. Once again, it is worth noting that boys/men need to bring Speedo-type swimming trunks.
Even sleepy villages often have communal tennis courts. There is sometimes an annual charge for people from the commune using them (like a season ticket, in effect) and the Mairie is the best first port of call for information. The courts are usually well maintained and are normally empty.
A large number of UK emigrants have left a long loved football club behind. Why not support a club over here? It is far cheaper than the UK, and offers a great opportunity to integrate and socialize with local French people. Poitou Charentes used to have four professional football clubs (Niort, La Rochelle, Angouleme and Poitiers) but since the last three slipped back into non-league football that just leaves Niort, who play in Ligue 2 (the equivalent of the Championship). The supporters’ club (UNICAMOX) offers fantastic deals on season tickets. For the 2006-7 season it was just 30 euros for adults and free for children PER SEASON! The club even organizes bingo nights, meals out and away travel. At the end of the 2005-6 season the team won their championship and half the town turned out at midnight to celebrate with a spectacular firework display sponsored by the mairie.
The region has no first tier (i.e. professional) rugby clubs but a high standard of the oval game can be enjoyed at La Rochelle and Limoges.
Poitiers has a professional basketball club with large crowds.
Celles-sur-Belle has one of the top European female handball teams. For anyone who does not know this sport, it is fast and exciting: a combination of netball, basketball and rugby. Once again, matches are well attended.