Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Vendee Globe

If you are visiting the Vendee or staying in a Gite, cottage or hotel in the weeks leading up to the 9th of November then take time out to visit les Sables d'Olonne and the Vendee Globe Village.
For many people around the world the word Vendee is associated with single handed ocean racing and not with that facinating part of western France that we all love.
The Vendee globe race takes place every 4 year and starts from Les Sables d'Olonne, the largest port in the Vendee. It is a race for 60ft grand prix racing yatchs by single handered sailors from around the world, with out stopping and without assistance. It is the worlds most prestigious race of its kind and the Vendee Department are truly proud of it. The pubilicity surrounding it is truly amazing with every effort being put into not only the race but to put the Vendee on the map.

This event showcases the Vendée to the world, and the Vendéens take it very seriously. Their publicity machine is working overtime with huge buildings in Paris being lit with the Vendée Globe emblem, and television crews from around the world being invited to cover the occasion. Every school in the Vendée is issued with publicity packs for each child, including brochures, plans, DVD’s and a lot more. Even the auto route toll charges have been suspended for the 3 weeks leading up to the start of the race, and the parking charges have also been cancelled everywhere in Les Sable d'Olonne for the same period.

The Vendée Globe village is contained within the Port de Plaisance and is open for 3 weeks before the start of the race. The Village is packed full of free information, with posters, stickers and brochures that anywhere else in the world would be for sale, here being given away without charge. There is a state of the art interactive sailing simulator to test your virtual sailing skills and videos everywhere. Of course all of the boats with their skippers are there for you to take a close look at, and believe it or not everything is FREE.
During the race the village closes down, reopening again just before the race leaders arrive home.

It’s a show not to miss.

Why the Vendee

Why holiday in the Vendee? you may ask, well my friend Tate has put pen to paper to answer the question and the following is what he has to say.


If you are looking for a holiday in France why would you want to visit the Vendée? After all as a nurse who had just returned from a holiday there said to me “it’s just a strip of coastline with a boring flat plain behind it, isn’t it”? Well actually no it isn’t. The Vendée is without doubt one of the jewels in the French holiday crown. Who says so? Well actually the French, but they say it quietly because in typical Gallic style they like to keep the best for themselves.

For years the French have visited the Vendée for their holidays, enjoying the exceptional micro-climate, the miles and miles of exquisite sandy beaches and the sleepy rural communities. In fact the French liked it so much they chose to build their holiday homes, not in Provence, or on the Côte D’Azur but on the Vendéen coast. Now the secret is out and the Vendée is fast becoming a popular destination for holidaymaker and émigré alike, and if you look at the Vendée in more detail you will find a region of France that is beautiful, friendly, varied and steeped in history. So it doesn’t matter whether you enjoy the sun, water sports, sightseeing or just hanging out with the locals, the Vendée has it all.

Just to place the Vendée in history it was the only French province to resist the French Revolution, and as a consequence a bloody war was fought between Les Bleu’s the French revolutionary forces and Les Blanc’s the Vendéen army which supported the royalists and the clergy. The war raged for 12 years culminating in the defeat of the Vendéen army and the death of some 500,000 Vendéens. A spectacular depiction of the Vendéen War is re-enacted on weekend evenings throughout the summer at The Puy Du Fou. With a cast of thousands drawn from the surrounding communities, and that’s no exaggeration, this sound, light and laser show culminating in the raising of the Chateau is without doubt a totally unique and unexpected experience.

So having placed the Vendée in history let’s place it geographically. The Vendée sits on the French Atlantic coast stretching from the Isle de Niormoutier in the north to Marans in the south. The miles of white sandy beaches are a sun worshiper’s paradise, varying from beaches that literally come into town to beaches that require a walk over high protective sand dunes. Some are well used and some are secluded enough to offer nudism.

The one thing that is constant is that the beaches are clean and plentiful. If you enjoy sharing there are beaches such as Les Sables D’Olonne, La Tranche and La Faute that get plenty of visitors, L’Aiguillon sur Mer even has a beach that is in the town itself. It is incredibly safe for children, with a small fun fair and water slides, there is even a beachside café so mum and dad can have a drink and a meal and still watch the kids swim. But if you like a bit of solitude it’s never far away and a short walk down many of the beaches heading away from the towns will get you all the seclusion you desire.

Not just the province of the sun worshipper there are many great surfing breaks and water sports venues, and let’s not forget the yachtsman, after all there must be some reason, the Vendée Globe round the world yacht race starts at Les Sables D’Olonne. There are plenty of marinas all down the coast, and virtually all of the coastal towns have a harbour. There are modern coastal towns like Saint-Jean-de-Monts a land yachting centre, and my personal favourite Saint-Giles-Croix-de-Vie. It has mixture of old and new architecture, a beautiful harbour and a fabulous seafront and beaches. At the far southern end of the Vendéen coastline is the Anse De L’Aiguillon a wetland paradise and a haven for waterfowl and the whole coastline has oyster and mussel beds in abundance. On very low tides the causeway out to the Isle de Niormoutier has hundreds of cars parked on the sand on either side with literally thousands of people raking all manner of shellfish. It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that the coast is brimful of fantastic restaurants specialising in seafood, making it a culinary dream for the gourmet and gourmand alike.

Behind the coast there is a mixture of sand dunes and pine forests which is almost entirely bordered by marshes from the Marais Breton in the north to the Marais Poitevin in the south. Sandwiched between them and the Armoricain Massif we find “Lucon- Fontenay Prairie” a large plain of relatively flat agricultural land with enormous skies and a light that artists would die for. Much of the marshland is reclaimed, it was drained at first by the Medieval Monks and the lords of La Garnache and further in the 18th century by the Dutch. A trip from Les Sables D’Olonne to Fontenay le Comte on the route of the old Roman coastal road takes you through small villages, miles from the sea, with signposts which say to the Port.

The Marais Poitevin is a large area of marshland criss-crossed with rivers and canals with beautiful villages and picturesque houses scattered along their banks. The Marais Poitevin is the second largest wetland in France; only the Camargue is larger, holds a proliferation of wildlife and is a haven for the twitcher and the casual observer alike. From the ruined abbey at Maillezais to Marans the Marais Poitevin is unique whether you drive or take to the canals on either a supervised tour or by hiring a punt and leisurely discovering for yourself the latticework of waterways that interlace the area. Behind the plain and the marshes is the Bocage, an area of rolling hills, woodlands and farms. The Vendée is one of the major food producing areas of France, it not only grows the raw materials and raises the livestock, but it is also home to some of France’s major food processing companies.

The problem with the Vendée is that there’s too much to tell you about so if you want to know more about the beautiful old town of Fontenay le Comte or the Parc National at Mervent, or the artist’s paradise of Vouvant, or discover the wine route through Mareuil-sur-Lay, or the Breton salt marshes, you’ll just have to visit for yourself. Who knows you may fall in love with it and become a Vendeefile, just like me. – Tate 2008

Well that is why so many of use are Vendeefiles.
Tate writes exclusively for the gites with pools website

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gites in the Vendee

Another fabulous week of weather here in the Vendee has somewhat lifted the gloom of the economic news that has yet again swamped our screens throughout the week. I have taken advantage of it and continued getting the garden ready for the winter, and have made some changes to the planting to make next year’s maintenance easier.
The upgrade of the Tournesol Gite has continued with the fitting of new double glazed patio doors in the lounge and the replacement of the window in the double bedroom. I have also laid laminate flooring in both of the bedrooms and have applied a fresh coat of paint throughout.
I’m hoping to start the upgrade on the Frene Gite this week by retiling the upstairs bathroom and by doing some remedial work on the kitchen before undertaking a complete redecoration of the Gîte.
There has also been a flurry of activity on the website to finish the pages on the beaches of the Vendée; this must now be the most comprehensive review of Vendéen beaches on the net. I completed the last two pages yesterday with articles on the beaches of the island of Noirmoutier and the coasts Naturist beaches. No matter how much I think I know about the Vendee, it never ceases to amaze me that whenever I carry out research for the pages that I’m writing I find so much more information, it does in fact just goes to show that so far as the Vendée is concerned, I’m really still quite ignorant.

My latest project is research into walking and cycling in the Vendee, writing these articles could be an even bigger challenge than writing those on the beaches, and my immediate thoughts are that I am going to have some problems with the images for these pages. So far as the beaches are concerned my library of images is fairly extensive, but not being an active walker or cyclist there are precious few photos in the collection appertaining to either. Perhaps this is a sign that I need to get more pro-active and take more exercise, especially after reviewing so many restaurants this summer, however with all of the work needed to keep the properties up to scratch and with my bad back, this may not be altogether practical.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

New gite pages

New gite pages
What a glorious week of weather we’ve just had for mid October. Notwithstanding the doom and gloom of the world’s economic problems, which must cause all us Gîtes owners concern over the future of our industry, here in the Vendée a week of sunshine with temperatures reaching the high 20s lifts the spirits and makes us all more positive. So with the old saying, or slightly newer song by Billy Ocean, "when the going gets tough the tough get going", I set aside the temptation to just lie in the sun and relax, and got on with some of the autumn work, not only in the garden and around the Gîtes, but also on the website.
On the website the sunshine inspired me to put up a page on the Vendéen weather, the page has the usual links for the forecast; but it also has the reason why the Vendée has its remarkable micro-climate. The page can be accessed from most pages on the site this includes the pages on beaches, including the 2 more that I have just added. The two beaches that I have added are the beaches of des Granges, to the north of Olonne and the beaches of Bem-sur-Mer, which include des Dunes and la Normandelliere.
Hopefully I will add more pages on beaches this week which like the rest will be full of photos. Another significant page I am working on is about driving in France. I was awakened to the fact that I didn't fully understand the significance of the Priorité a Droit law. This bizare law is the controlling law of the road throughout France and yet the French spend billions of euros telling us that most of the time it doesn't apply. Do YOU know what the law is? If so you could help us compile the facts, and just think of the lives that you could be saving.
Lastly this week on a slightly sadder note my mate Tate, who spends his summers in the Vendée and his winters in Devon, is just about to leave for another year. Tate is the website’s resident “Critique Gastronomique” and writes most of the reviews on the restaurants. We wish him “Bon Voyage”, a fond farewell and look forward to seeing him again in May 2009.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

gite website updates.

Well its been a busy time on the website these last 5 or 6 days mainly due to the weather. After a very dry and sunny September the weather has turned more to autunm and this has meant that I have had more time to spend on the website rather than laying about in the sun.
I have just finished redoing the page on Fontenay le Comte and hopefully by to night added the image gallery. The Series of pages on the beaches of the Vendee is progressing well with pages on the beaches around Jard sur Mer, Payre estuary, Veillon, Bougenay and Les sable d'Olonne.
There is also a new review by my friend Tate on the Restaurant at La Morliere. There may be one more review of a restaurant before Tate returns to the UK for the winter.
Mainly of our past clients and several of those looking to book a gite for 2009 have commented on how useful this information is.

Looking for a gite or holiday cottage then check out our website you will also be able to book ferries at a discount even if your not booking with us

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Credit Crunch and Gites

Credit Crunch and Gites
The credit crunch brings with it a pervasively depressing scenario, and it is natural when one reads about the collapse of the banking sector, the turmoil in the stock market not to mention the sudden drop in house prices to feel overwhelmed by the doom and gloom that seems to infiltrate all levels of society. As gîte owners we have just seen possibly 20% wiped off the value of our properties. Add to that the fact that if we price our holidays in pounds sterling, taking into account the fall in the value of the pound against the Euro, we have seen a reduction in our income for the last year of almost 20%. Further add to that the fact that our visitors for next year will also be feeling the same doom and gloom and therefore may not be booking, and you may feel that we have a right to pessimistic or even suicidal.

But history has shown us that more millionaires are made during recessions and depressions than at any other time, as fortune favours the brave. There is also the fact that people will cut back on everyday items, put off buying that new TV or washing machine as the old one still works, they may cut out those short breaks but the annual holiday will still be taken. Of course they may look for a slightly cheaper version but they will holiday, they need it, they feel that they need a break from reality and drudgery of every day living.
To all this you can add that there will be cheaper deals offered by the ferries and airlines in a bid to encourage more vacationers to their services. You will find that visitors will spend more time at their gîte rather than take an expensive day trip, so things will change but the savvy owner will see an opportunity to expand rather than contract.

For those that have liquid capital there is the chance to buy up property at a greatly reduced price, many items needed like domestic appliances, furniture and garden equipment will be offered at a much higher discount rate.

Now is the time to expand your advertising and attract the undecided, not cut back to save money. Now is the time to emphasise the quality of your on site facilities or better still expand them. Look to see what new Niche markets you can open up, walking tours, cooking or gardening courses, the list could be endless. Yes of course you must check that your prices are keen, but there again, many out there still think that the more they pay the better will be their experience.

The main thing is not to panic especially when dealing with customers, they can smell defeatism and fear and will try to take advantage of it by looking for you to lower the price further. So rather than pandering to them or worse still avoiding them altogether, think positively and act bravely, things will improve and you could end up making a fortune.