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Ile d'Yeu

The Ile 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.
Reaching the 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.
Getting 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 pace.
Eating out 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 recipes.

The ile d'Yeu has had a human presence since Neolithic times and the many Menhirs(standing stones) and Dolmens (burial chambers) bear witness to this period.
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.
The 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.

Being an 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).
The 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.
The picture 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..
More Images of Ile-d'Yeu
Find out about more interesting towns and villages in the Vendee
Rocky cliffs on the Ile d'Yeu, Vendee
Charming island cottage
Dolmens on Ile d'Yeu
Ferry passengers arrive at Port Joinville on the Ile d'Yeu
Fishing Harbour, Port Joinville
The Habour Port Joinville, Ile d'Yeu
Colourful fishing boats on Ile d'Yeu
Sandy coves on the island d'Yeu
Port de la Meule, Ile d'Yeu
Port-Joinville, the harbour front
Port des Vieilles, Ile d'Yeu
Fishing boats at Port Joinville, Ile d'Yeu, Vendee
Harbour entrance, Port Joinville
Sunrise, ile d'yeu, Vendee
Sunrise, Port Joinville
Vieux Chateau, Ile d'Yeu
Map of Ile d'Yeu, Vendee