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The Vendee

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If you are looking for a holiday in France why visit the Vendée? After all it’s just a strip of coastline with a 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 holidaying 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, to enjoy the exceptional 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,

If you look at the Vendée in more detail you will find a region of France that is beautiful, varied and steeped in history. So 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 and the death of some 500,000 Vendéens. A spectacular depiction of the Vendéen War is re-enacted on weeknights throughout the summer at The Puy Du Fou. With a cast of thousands and that’s no exaggeration, this sound, light and laser show culminating in the raising of the Chateau is without doubt a 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 solitude 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, that 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. On the far south of the Vendéen coastline is Anse De L’Aiguillon a haven for waterfowl and a shellfish Mecca, with oyster and mussel beds in abundance. It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that the coast is therefore littered with fantastic restaurants specialising in seafood, it’s a yummy place.

Moving away from the coast we find “The Plain” a large flat area of agricultural land with enormous skies and a light that artists would die for. Much of the land is reclaimed and is extremely fertile, 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 road takes you through small villages, miles from the sea, with signposts which say Port.

South of Fontenay le Comte is the Marais Poitevin or the Green Venice an area of canals with beautiful villages and picturesque houses scattered along the banks. The Marais 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 the latticework of waterways that criss-cross the area.

The problem with the Vendée is that there’s too much to tell you about so if you want to know about the beautiful old town of Fontenay le Compte, or the Parc National at Mervent, or Vouvant an artists paradise, or take the wine route through Mareuil sur Lay you’ll just have to come and see for yourself.

About the author: Tate spends the summers in the Vendee and is passionate about good wine and good food,he writes exclusively for the www.gites-with-pools.co.uk website.

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