French Connections

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I love being beside water – and I know I’m not alone, as watery locations have been proven to evoke a sense of well-being. How tempting then is the Loire-Atlantique, a region whose main element is water.  The mighty Loire runs though it, the Atlantic borders it and a broad estuary links river and ocean, so there’s an enticing mix of waterside environments.

The coastline alone has great variety – how nice to stroll a long beach of fine sand one day, watching the Atlantic breakers, and to picnic at an intimate little inlet the next. Behind you in this unspoilt setting may be sheer cliffs or rolling dunes covered with maritime pines.

Water sports naturally abound in Loire-Atlantique. I’ve never tried kite surfing, but this would be the place to start. You can also hoist the sails of an old sailing-ship, challenge the ocean in a sea kayak or go diving beneath the waves. Think I might prefer to canoe or gently cruise along the river, to walk or cycle beside the river or the canal that runs from Nantes to Brest. 

In the estuary are salt flats where the celebrated Guérande salt is extracted using purely natural means. I’d certainly want to try Bass en croûte de sel, the fish covered in a layer of the famous grey salt and cooked in the oven. And of course it would have to be accompanied by a very chilled glass of the local nectar, Muscadet.

This and other local dry white wines get their fruity flavours the Melon grape variety. Vineyards are small and numerous, set among charming villages, so following the wine route takes you right off the beaten track and along footpaths through the vines. Now is, of course, a great time to visit, with all the excitement and festivity around the harvest.

Nantes is the capital of and there are both scheduled and budget flights from the UK. The city is just 2 hours on the train from Paris and easily accessible from all the Channel ports. More about travel, tourism and accommodation in our guide to Loire-Atlantique.

Where to stay? Our self-catering accommodation gives you the choice of mouth watering country cottages and gîtes with the traditional charm and character of wood and stone – or you can stay in a modern apartment in a park setting or right in the centre of Nantes. Our title photo shows La Gacilly, close to the charming and peaceful Harmony Cottage.