Situated on the west coast of France, the Vendee is certainly one of France’s most sought-after holiday destinations. Its unique combination of glorious coastline and varied countryside make it perfect for beach lovers and nature enthusiasts alike. It offers a taste of 'real France', with picturesque villages, historic towns, true French culture and some of the best beaches in France - all this within an easy drive from the channel ports, yet far enough south to enjoy reliable summers and a warm, sunny spring and autumn. See videos of the Vendee.
Much of the coastline has stretches of pine forest, leading to sand dunes and on to safe, sandy beaches. From the point at L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer in the south, round to St Vincent-sur-Jard, the sandy beach extends, virtually uninterrupted, for over 12 miles. Further north-west there are delightful coves, rocky points and traditional ports.
The islands off the Vendee coast offer a pleasant diversion - Noirmoutier in the north is accessible by bridge or by the famous causeway at low tide, Yeu and Belle-Ile are accessed by regular ferries from the mainland ports. To the south, next to La Rochelle, the island of Re, (access by toll bridge) is ideal for cycling excursions, having many cycle tracks from village to village and through the salt marshes. See
Angela Bird's review of good beaches.
Each part of the Vendee has its own style and its own charm. In the northern half, there is the rolling countryside of the 'Bocage' with its undulating pastures and woods, offering an authentic rural setting. The valley of the river Sevre is particularly attractive, flowing through the towns of Tiffauges, Mortagne sur Sevre and Clisson.
Futher south are the dramatic expanses of the limestone plateau, with fields of sunflowers and corn, sleepy villages and only the occasional tractor to break the calm, peaceful ambiance. Nearing the coast, the plateau gives way to the reclaimed lands of the 'Marais Desséché', cris-crossed with drainage canals and abounding with birdlife. Hundreds of years ago, many of the villages here were the only islands standing out in the shallow waters of the 'Golfe des Pictons', now replaced by fields of corn and sunflowers and offering spectacular skies and a light all it's own.
The famous 'Green Venice' fens
In the south-east, around the courses of the rivers Sevre and Vendee, extends the famous 'Marais Mouille' (Green Venice) where the network of canals and waterways densely bordered with trees can be explored by punt or canoe. Many villages in this part of the Vendee, just south of Fontenay le Comte have 'embarcadaires' where you can hire a punt and make your own way round a signed route or hire a guide as well and just sit back and enjoy. Vix, Maillé and Maillezais are popular spots.
As with other regions of France, the Vendee is proud of its local produce.
Being a coastal departement, in the markets you will find a superb choice of fish and seafood, caught daily. You will also find a wide range of wholesome vegetables with real flavour. Other local specialities include tasty cured hams, goat's
cheeses, patés, honey and mead, and the famous 'mogettes' (white beans), not to mention the local foie-gras and duck.
There are many wine producers in the Vendee, centred on several main areas, including Mareuil-sur-Lay, Brem-sur-Mer and Pissotte. You can often visit the producers directly for wine-tasting, and we would recommend a visit to the newly restored 'cave' Marie du Fou, next to the river bridge at Mareuil-sur-Lay - offering some particularly good wines.
You will find a wide selection of restaurants throughout the Vendee, offering an excellent choice of classic French cuisine or regional specialities.
Take a tour round the local town, or through neigbouring villages and you will stumble accross many excellent value restaurants, full of local character. Lovers of fish and seafood will find superb choice of seafood restaurants at the coast - the local mussels, are served in dozens of different ways and are reputed to be some of the best in France. Many restaurants also offer basic children's menus and simple dishes tailored for children. See
Angela Bird's review of good restaurants.
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