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D'Yeu just 10kms off the coast from St. Jean de Mont is a microcosm of the
Vendee. On the east coast are the sandy beaches with with the sand dunes behind
which have been planted with a pine forest so typical of most of the Vendeen
coast, the west coast of the island with its sandy coves amongst low granite
cliffs are simular to those on the north and east coast of Ile Noirmoutier and
the area just north and south of Les Sable D'Olonne. There are even areas of
marais and bocage.
island is primary by ferry though it is possible by helicopter from La Barre de
Mont. The ferries depart from Fromentine all year round and during the summer
season from La Fosse on Ile Noirmoutier, St Gilles Croix de Vie and Les Sables
d'Olonne, The crossing takes approx 45 mins and you arrive in the colourful
fishing harbour of Port-Joinville, the islands main town.
The town is a hive
of activity with both fishing boats and pleasure craft entering and leaving the
harbour and the regular ferry loads of tourist dis-embarking and the many
tourist shops, bars,cafes and restaurants that cater for them.
around the island to see the sights can be done in several ways and depending on
the length of your stay. If you are only on a day trip then there are several
bus trips that can whisk you around the many attractions and give you a flavour
of the island, you can hire a car which gives you more freedom but with both of
these there are many places you will not be able to go. Alternatively if you are
fit and wiling the hiring a bike (they come in many forms) can be an ideal way
to view most of the island though you will not be able to dawdle as the island
is 10kms long and 4 kms wide with 46kms of coast line.There are 3 well marked
cycle routes the longest is 30kms and takes 5h-30min.
For those who intend to
stay for a longer period in one of the many hotels,B&B's, Gites or camping,
then the islands charm can be unraveled at a much more leisurely
on the Island can be a bit of a disappointment for many. For a start except for
Port-Joinville there is only one other restaurant (port de la Meule) on the
island and even bars are almost non existent, if you are lucky you find a mobile
ice-cream/drinks wagon on one or more of the beaches, but it is best to take
refreshment with you.
The other disappointment is the quality, I had been
warned by my French neighbour that the restaurants were unsympathetic and not
till we tried to eat did we really understand what he meant. You would expect
that an island that claims fishing as its main industry would have excellent
fish restaurants serving fresh local produce. In most restaurants the menu had
little fish meals on offer and what there was, in the main was of mediocre
quality and served without fresh vegetables. The exception was the local grown
mussels which could be found in most restaurants and served in several
d'Yeu has had a human presence since Neolithic times and the many
Menhirs(standing stones) and Dolmens (burial chambers) bear witness to this
The Romans however do not seem to have had much interest in the
island as little evidence has been found for this period.
During the medieval
period religion played a central role in the development of the island with St
Martin and St.Hilaire coming to the island in the 9th century to preach
evangelism, next came the monks from the abbey of Bangor in Ireland who
constructed a monastery dedicated to St.Hilaire. The 10th century saw the
construction of the church at St.Sauveur the then capital of the island.
16th century saw the fortification of the island against the seaward threat also
to control the smuggling that was being carried on at that time. The Vieux
Chateau build on a rocky outcrop is all that remains today. The chateau becomes
an island at high tide, though its defenses were never tested.
island the sea has always played a vital role in its prosperity but for two
different reasons, The island was the departure place for many religious
missionaries to Africa, America and other places in the new world, so much so
that for a long time the island was called Ilsle Dieu (God's island).
second reason of course was fishing. Port-Joinville was the first and largest
Cod port of France and ships voyaged across the Atlantic, later around the
beginning of the 20th century the port become more important for tuna
fishing, a trade that still exists to this day. The fishing industry today
consists of deep sea fishing for cod,tuna and the like, and local water fishing
with tuna, crabs, lobsters and mussel farming.
postcard cottages and small harbours are all part of this interesting island and
where ever there are beautiful landscapes and colourful people the artists are
never far away,and so it is on the Ile d'Yeu.
There must be be more art
galleries per head of population that any where else in France, or that's the
way it feels. Not only art galleries but exhibitions of every description. But
whether your an artist or not the appreciation of the natural landscape,
it's history and the colour characters will make a lasting impression for you to
take away with you..
about more interesting towns and villages
in the Vendee