I’d been past this fine city many times en route between Paris and south-west France - but never before stopped to look. I’m glad I now have. Poitiers has been miraculously preserved thanks to its singular geography, protected by a loop in the river Clain (a tributary-of-a-tributary of the Loire). Take a day or two to explore, and you find all the fine things about any self-respecting French city – such as sophisticated shopping, great food and a sense of joie de vivre - plus a saturation of history.

Five centuries ago, Poitiers was a powerhouse of enlightenment, capitalising on its position on the Chemin de St-Jacques – the pilgrimage to Santiago in Spain. Today, it has the air of a quiet backwater, but with a refreshed city centre and the superb ecclesiastical heritage it is a place for the informed 21st-century traveller.

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