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The name 'Vendée' is taken from that of a river that runs through the south-east of the department. The Vendee is south of the Pays de la Loire region and is located on the French Atlantic coast, just south of Brittany and Nantes, and north of La Rochelle. Its position, within 2 to 5 hours of the various western ferry ports, makes the area an easy day's journey from Britain and Ireland.
La Roche sur Yon the capital of the Vendee was originally a stronghold for the people of the Vendee. Napoleon, in 1804, decided to rebuild the town hence the streets are regular and straight, which is most uncommon in France.
Along the coast and the Ile de Noirmoutier, a living heritage awaits your exploration - castles, humbler dwellings, tourist sites and charming accommodation. Also the Vendee offers the Poitevin marshes, inland cereal plains and fields sectioned by hedgerows, come and see for yourself…
Why you should visit Vendee for your next holiday in France
The Vendee is one of the sunniest spots on the west coast of France. There are many fascinating sites to visit such as:
- Historic towns
- Beautiful gardens
- Water sports
- Wine producers
- Picturesque villages and fishing ports
- Romantic islands
- Excellent Golf courses
- Cycle routes and rambling trails
Discovering the delights of the Vendee on foot or by bike is exhilarating. By using the comprehensive network of walking and riding trails and of cycle paths which cover the length of the coast and the hinterland the experience is made easy. The area around La Boucherie, Beaulieu sous La Roche and Aizenay is especially recommended. Also you could try the cycle way on the old railway line from La Roche to Coex, which passes through Aizenay.
For idyllic days out on the water there are many rivers and streams threading their way through the marshlands that can be explored by rowing boat or canoe on peaceful angling trips.
What to see and do in the visit to Vendee
Mussel farms can be seen right across the Vendée coastline. While you are in the Vendée, do try some delicious mussels fresh from the bouchots, A perfect accompaniment to seafood is the local Muscadet and Gros Plant wines, which are refreshingly dry and zesty whites. Another tasty suggestion is the unusual regional speciality 'tourteau fromager'. This is a round savoury cake made with goat's cheese which is baked in a very hot oven, giving it a black crust and a deliciously light, creamy texture.
The offshore islands are full of charm - known for their pretty white-washed houses covered in Mimosas. The Poitevin marshes form a labyrinth of waterways and are a nature lover's delight. You will find waders, redshanks and marsh-owls along one of the many walking or cycle trails.
Dotted along the ocean coast or on the beaches, anglers enjoy baiting their hooks in expectation of a catch. Those whom like to experience greater thrills are offered by water sports such as windsurfing, catamaran sailing, kite-surfing, scuba diving, land-yachting and more besides.
Golfers can enjoy the lush greens, sandy soil and sea views in Saint Jean de Monts, Port Bourgenay and Olonne sur Mer. On the coast of the Vendée, two sea-water therapy centres offer the best treatments the ocean can provide.
For children touring the sites and museums has been made fun. You can rediscover your own mischievous, playful, and carefree inner child as you experience the many ingenious attractions, historical, aquatic and zoological parks. All thirst for learning will be quenched, whatever your age.
As you tour the countryside you might guess from the amount of village names containing the word 'moulin', or by the dilapidated towers that dot the countryside, the Vendée's fenland, plains, hills and rivers provided excellent conditions for stone-built windmills and watermills.
Places to visit in Vendee
- Ile de Noirmoutier - this island is accessible from the mainland by a bridge from Fromentine and boasts marvellous unspoilt beaches and beautiful coastlines.
- Jard-sur-Mer - a small holiday town, typical of the Vendéen coast. Within the town there are remains of the 'Notre Dame de Lieu-Dieu' old abbey.
- Les Sables d'Olonne - a popular family resort, with a beach of fine sand skirted by promenades and ending in a line of cliffs.
- La Roche-sur-Yon - built by Napoléon I, whose statue is in the main town square, La Roche is now the capital town of the Vendée.
- Pornic - has become a fantastic holiday resort with a yachting marina. Still an attractive fishing town with many old streets and a busy harbour with a 13th-century château dominating the town.
- St Jean de Monts - the second largest resort on the Vendéen coast, ideal for a family holiday. In high season this modern resort offers lively cafés, restaurants, bars and night clubs. In St. Jean-de-Monts 'Ville', there is a very charming church and an open market square.
How to get to Vendee
Flights vary according to departure and destination airports, here are few route suggestions from London:
London Heathrow/Paris Charles de Gaulle airport /Nantes. Then by TGV or local train into Vendee
Eurostar has made the journey easy from London, St Pancras International to Paris, Gare du Nord is just 2 hours 15 minutes.
From Paris (Gare Montparnasse) there are TGV trains to La Roche-sur-Yon and Les Sables-d'Olonne; connections from Nantes run to St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie.
Arrive at Calais (Eurotunnel) then take the A1, A11 to Le Mans (this route takes you through Paris, you may wish to seek another avoiding Paris), A85 to Nantes then A85 to La Roche-sur-Yon the capital of Vendee. It will take approximately 7 hours to arrive at La Roche-sur-Yon.
An overnight crossing to Roscoff leaves a drive of around 3 to 5 hours.
The A84 'Autoroute des Estuaires' (a toll-free dual carriageway, linking the north-western ports with the city of Rennes), is now complete.
From Caen there is no obstacle to prevent you zooming down to Rennes and Nantes.
Visitors arriving via Cherbourg can pick up an excellent dual carriageway down the eastern side of the Cherbourg peninsula, and then cut across country on an ordinary road via St-Lô and Villedieu-les-Poeles to join the A84.
The run from St-Malo is simplicity itself; just head south for Rennes and Nantes.
And the dual-carriageway that runs around the edge of Brittany makes the drive from Roscoff.
This area is nearest the ferry ports of St Malo, Roscoff and Cherbourg although Calais and Dunkirk are also within a reasonable driving distance.