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.
BECOMING A VENDEEFILE
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
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