Primarily intended for those people who have booked their self catering holiday accommodation in Vendee, France through vendee-gites.com, this page offers useful guidance on many issues that you may come across before or during your holiday.
The terms that you will usually find on this and other holiday web sites for France are cottages, farmhouses, gites and villas. These are often interchangeable, but in general the term used tends to reflect the style of the self catering accommodation.
Holiday cottage - a holiday property, usually independent, small to medium size.
Farmhouse - a larger independent self catering property and/or indicating a rural setting or its former use.
Holiday gite - the a general word coming from French, meaning "shelter" or "accommodation". Often used to cover all types of holiday letting accommodation in France, but particularly for specifically created or renovated units, either independent or as part of a holiday complex of several units.
Holiday villa - This generally indicates a modern holiday property, recently built and often refers to coastal holiday properties.
In all these cases the facilities may be for sole use of the property or there may be some facilities which are shared with one or more other holiday units (swimming pool, grounds, games room…). This is always clearly indicated in the property description.
Holiday Apartments - You can also consider taking an apartment on one of the holiday complexes in the Vendee area. These "residences" are mostly on the coast and offer a wide range of facilities and services on site or nearby (pools, fitness, spa, children's clubs, play areas, laundry, etc.) making them an ideal choice for families with children or for hassle-free low season breaks.
See this selection of Vendee apartments.
Quality ratings - The overall quality of the accommodation in France is obviously to a certain extent subjective, but can be mostly gleaned from the photos of the property. For the cottages, gites and villas on our French holiday rentals web site, we examine the property and facilities to make sure that they offer the necessary standards. Some are of a higher quality and this is often reflected in the price (but note that cottages, gites and villas near the coast tend to be at a higher price as well). Many of those we feature will have been inspected and rated by the French organisation “Clevacances” (at a three-star or four-star level), however we make no reference to this in the description, preferring to establish our own judgement. Note that a new national star rating system is coming into force in France, wherby all self catering holiday accommodation will be classified using the same criteria. In typical French administrative style, it is unclear how long this will really take to be fully adopted or whether the existing organisations will give way to this new system.
There are many holiday rental sites that you can use to find a property to rent. Our site Vendee-Gites.Com specialises only in quality properties in the Vendee area of western France. There are also sites covering holiday accommodation throughout France.
We endeavour to provide descriptions of the holiday properties that are as full and accurate as we can and we check and update them regularly. However, in the real world there is always a possibility of a minor error, or more commonly, that the holiday property owner has simply forgotten to provide something that was intended to be there. In these cases, simply asking the owner will usually resolve the problem. Occasionally there may be an item that has broken and the owners are waiting for a replacement – please be understanding in these cases. Note that the list of local amenities provided is for guidance only – for instance, restaurants come and go with surprising regularity and we cannot guarantee that the local bar, bakery or shop will not have shut down or be closed for their own holidays.
It is always surprising how little people actually read before booking their holiday accommodation, in France or elsewhere. For example we often get phone calls a couple of weeks before the holiday - "is the swimming pool heated?" or "are the sheets included ?" when it is stated at least twice on the property description ! The written information and the numerous photos are provided to inform you as much as is reasonably possible whilst deciding on your holiday property, so please do make sure that you make the most of this. Study the text and photos carefully. If there is anything you are unsure of, please ask, as we would prefer that you booked elsewhere than be unsatisfied.
We can't second-guess what is vital for you when on holiday. For some, the slightest late night noise is a catastrophe, whilst others might find the local village fete or the nearby lively bar was a great bonus... If you have anything that is particularly important to you whilst on holiday it makes sense to ask before booking and get advice on which holiday property fits best.
In the very few rare cases when we have an unsatisfied customer it is almost always due to the fact that the customer has simply not read the description or the Letting Contract or not looked at the photos. For example "it’s not the style of property that I was expecting", or “there isn’t a separate kitchen”, or “there is only one sofa in the living room”, “I had to pay extra for the bed linen”, or even “it’s too far from the coast”... We would obviously like to avoid this sort of problem, both for your enjoyment of your holiday and for our peace of mind !
The Vendee is a french department that has a varied countryside. The northern half is typically rolling hills with small fields, cattle farming and some areas of woodland and this is known as the "Le Bocage". The southern half is split between the limestone plateau, "La Plaine", with its vast fields of sunflowers and corn and the flat fens "Les Marais". The fens are of two types - the reclaimed land near the coast (Marais Desséché) which has a network of drainage canals and is used for mixed farming, cereal crops and cattle and the well-known Green Venice (Marais Mouillé) which has tree-lined water meadows and canals.
Whilst the north Vendee is a beautiful setting similar to many other rural areas of France, the south Vendee is something quite different, with stunning wide open spaces and often spectacular skys from horizon to horizon with a light that brings photographers from afar. It also boasts a particularly wide selection of birds - there are protected sites set aside ("Reserve Naturelle") which birdwatchers will find well worth a visit.
Of the Vendee beaches, the southern part of the Vendee has the biggest stretches of sand, from L'Aiguillon sur Mer round to Jard sur Mer. From Jard sur Mer round to Les Sables d'Olonne the coast alternates between sandy coves and rocky cliffs. Going north from Les Sables d'Olonne towards St Jean de Monts large sandy beaches predominate.
See more tourist information on the Vendee
See videos of the Vendee
Whilst the Vendee is the second favourite holiday destination in France for the French and very popular with other nationalities it is always possible to find quieter spots on the coast, even in peak season.
The main coastal resort towns listed below are obviously the most popular areas, but if you take look a map you will find many smaller places or strips of beach between these coastal resorts which will be quieter. And of course, everyone sits down as soon as they get onto the beach so if you are prepared to walk a few hundred metres there is usually plenty of space! For example, The beach at La Faute sur Mer where it’s nearest the town centre tends to be crowded in peak season, but if you drive a little north to La Belle Henriette it’s fine. If you really want vast empty spaces and no-one around, a 2-3km walk south, along this beach towards Le Point d'Arcay, will get you to a part of the beach where even in August you can only see a handful of people as far as the eye can see!
Also bear in mind that the French holiday season is now reduced to typically mid July to the end of the third week of August, so outside these weeks things are quieter.
L'Aiguillon sur Mer & La Faute sur Mer, La Tranche sur Mer, Jard sur Mer, Les Sables d'Olonne, Brem sur Mer, Bretignolles sur Mer, St Gilles Croix de Vie & St Hilaire de Riez, St Jean de Monts. Island of Noirmoutier, Island of Yeu. La Rochelle and the Island of Re (just outside the Vendee to the south, but near enough to be counted in the many attractions of this area).
La Roche sur Yon, Lucon, Fontenay le Comte, Challans, Chantonnay, Montaigu, Les Herbiers, Les Sables d'Olonne.
See our Travel page for ferry deals, a list of the ferry crossings to France, distances to the ferry ports and a list of airlines flying to the airports in the Vendee area.
Driving in France (for British visitors)
Apart from the fact that you are driving on the opposite side of the road, there are a few differences to bear in mind. It’s wise to get proper documentation on the rules and regulations (See this useful guide - AA European Drivers Handbook ), but here are a few points that often catch out unwary travellers to France.
Take special care if you come out of a junction or a parking area onto a deserted road – this is the situation where, in the absence of other cars to give you the cue, you may automatically revert to driving on your usual side of the road !
If you have a moment of doubt at any time, remember this simple rule – with your elbow out of the window it should always be over the curb…
On a small country lane, in the absence of any road markings indicating otherwise, vehicles coming from a side road have priority (strange but true!)
Speed limits are tending to be more strictly enforced these days and there are fixed cameras, mobile roadside radars and unmarked police cars with built-in radar. Pay particular attention to the 50km/h limit in towns and villages and unexpected restrictions (for example 90km/h on a stretch of dual-carriageway) as well as the 110km/h restriction on motorways in rainy weather.
For cars with conventional headlamps you should install beam deflectors. See Eurolites Euro Headlamp Beam Converters + Alcoproof Twin Pack + Magnetic GB Plate. For some recent models with more complex or swivelling headlamps this may not be possible and in which case you need to consult your dealer to see how to adjust the beams. There is now a "recommendation" to have your headlights on at all times and it is mandatory in conditions of poor visibility (rain, fog, dusk..).
If you have a bike carrier fitted, make sure that the lights and number-plate are clearly visible. If not, attach a separate lights and plate assembly. Make sure that the bike carrier is very securely fixed, as this is often checked by the road police.
Take care not to go over the maximum weight rating of your vehicle, as this is also often checked (the police may require you to dump luggage in order to continue your journey...)
Please note that it is now mandatory to have a reflective jacket and a warning triangle (both inside the car, not in the boot) and a full set of spare bulbs.
See AA Car Essentials High Visibility Vest - Family Pack.
See Warning triangle (European).
See AA Car Essentials Full European Travel Kit (everything you need)
Motorways in France
Whilst these are nearly all toll roads in France, they offer good value for money. When coming to the toll area, note that the signs above indicate the payment method – “T” is reserved for users with an electronic season-ticket, "CB" is for payment by card (accepts most cards). The manned booths (getting rare these days) have a picture of a person. You sometimes see a coins symbol for an automatic booth accepting cash – in most areas these also accept cards (although in the south of France it may still be coins only in some places).
When navigating in France, remember that the road signs often indicate a general direction which can be disconcerting at first. For example around Nantes ring-road you will see signs for Bordeaux and whilst you are not going to Bordeaux, this is the general direction for Vendee. Note that the road number may not necessarily be shown so look ahead to keep in mind the towns you are heading towards. In towns, some road signs seem to point in odd directions - the simple rule is that the sign usually applies to the road its next to, even if it seems to point elsewhere !
Shortest drive to the Vendee from the channel ports
The shortest drive to the Vendee area is undoubtedly from the port of St Malo, offering day or night crossings and leaving a very easy drive on good roads. Count on 1 hour to Rennes, then 1 hour to Nantes and from there 40 minutes to 1 hour 40 depending on exactly where you are heading for in Vendee. See Vendee ferry port distances.
Arrival instructions, Sat-Nav and route planners
We provide detailed arrival instruction for each Vendee holiday cottage, gite or villa, based on arriving from the most obvious motorway junction. If you have a GPS (Sat-Nav) this may give you a slightly different route. In all cases we recommend that you pick up our arrival instructions once you get into the general area as the Sat-Nav may well only direct you to the centre point of the zone covered by the post-code which can be a vast area including several villages…
Internet route planner listings are notoriously difficult to follow and can sometimes have errors or omissions, so it’s best not to totally rely on them.
Get yourself a good map of the area - you never know when this might be useful and even in today's connected world it's certainly practical for planning a day out. For this area get a map of "Pays de la Loire" (includes Vendee and the adjacent departments to north and east).
You will probably be tired and stressed when you arrive at your holiday accommodation and just want to settle in as quickly as possible. We would certainly like to be able to allow arrivals from mid-day onwards, but it is just not possible, so if you will be arriving in the area early on the arrival day, prepare yourselves something to do or a place to visit. The stated arrival time (usually 5pm) is essential in order to leave the owners or caretakers enough time to properly prepare the property between lets and to do essential maintenance. If you will be arriving late, please let the owners (or caretakers) know as they may need to make specific arrangements to meet you.
The owner or caretaker will usually show you round the property and it is useful to pay full attention to this as he/she will probably point out things which may be essential to the smooth running of your holiday – from experience they know which details they need to emphasise and this is for your benefit. This may include points that are vital for safety (concerning the pool for example), so please be patient and make a mental note. You should also take the opportunity of asking about any things you are unsure of or any additional information that you may need. In most cases you will be renting from French owners in a rural location. They may therefore have only a limited grasp of English, but this is just part of being in an authentic setting in a foreign country… However, with a bit of good will it’s surprising how well you can communicate by pointing at things and miming the action. If you know a little French, don’t hesitate to use it – this is always very much appreciated, no matter what the level.
Practical things (shops, opening hours, bins)
As with the rest of France, in the Vendee you will find that many shops close between noon and 2pm. Bakeries tend to be closed from 1pm until late afternoon. The exception to this is the coastal resorts where most shops open all day until late evening. The larger supermarkets are generally open all day, closing around 7.30pm - 8pm, but please note that may will be closed on Sunday, or just open in the morning. Plastic carrier bags have now disappeared from most supermarkets in France, but they sell large reuseable bags. For food shopping on Sundays you may need to look for the smaller mini-markets (superette in French) which are often open on Sunday mornings.
Other than snack-bars and some restaurants in the tourist hot-spots, restaurants tend to be strict with their timings, so for lunch you can be served between noon and 1.30pm and for evening diner between 7pm and 9.30 pm.
Rubbish collection is rarely more than twice a week. If you are not staying at a property where the owners are on site you will have to put out the bin yourselves on the appropriate day(s). The information pack in the property will give details for this. For recyclable waste (glass, cartons, plastic, etc.), if the owners are not present to look after this you will need to take these items to the nearest recycling point – large bins on the roadside or in the village square, or put out the recycling bins on the appropriate day. Please don’t leave a week or fortnight’s rubbish stacked in a corner when you leave!
Cleaning and deposits payments
We offer full and precise guidance on these matters in the Questions-Answers section of our website. On a more informal basis, the way to understand this issue is to try to imagine that you are a holiday property owner, letting out a cottage or villa that you have worked hard on to make it a nice as possible. Cleaning the property between clients is all part of the job, but you would not take kindly to being left with an indescribable mess or with annoying breakages or damage !
It's a long-established tradition in France that you leave the holiday property reasonably clean on departure. It’s just a matter of courtesy to the property owner to leave the property in a fit state when you leave and this need not take up too much of your valuable holiday time. Think back to how pristine the property was when you arrived. Sweep the floor, empty the bins, wipe over the kitchen and the bathroom fittings, clean the toilet, put the linen in a tidy pile, etc.
The Security Deposit held by the owner is their protection against damage to the property or it being left in a totally unsatisfactory condition. In most cases this is just a formality and deductions are rare. It is in your interests to point out any minor breakage to the owner and offer to pay for the item to avoid any fees involved in deducting from the deposit.
Please note that the Security Deposit is an arrangement between you and the owner and that we can't reasonably be asked to arbitrate in matters that we have not been witness to.
In the Vendee, there are many holiday attractions to choose from, to suit all tastes. Angela Bird's comprehensive Vendee guide book The Vendee and Surrounding Area
is well worth getting.
You can also, see our web page on things to do in the Vendee.
Here are a few suggestions.
A trip on the canals of Green Venice.
Le Puy du Fou (see below). Futuroscope at Poitiers. For either of these, set off early and count on a full day. A trip to the town of Nantes to see the Machines de l'Ile is popular with children.
The aquarium at La Rochelle (very busy on wet days in peak season). There is also one at Port Bourgenay.
Some adult's favourites
Day-trip by boat to the island of Yeu. Cliff-top walk "Chemin des Douaniers" at Port Bourgenay (7.5km round trip). Wine - take a look in the local producer's shop at the bridge in Mareuil sur Lay or follow the signed wine trail around the surrounding villages. La Rochelle - lunch on the port and shopping in the town.
From the northern end of the Vendee you are not far from the Loire valley, with it's chateaux and vineyards (Angers is about 1 hour 15 from Les Herbiers).
Le Puy du Fou
Whilst little-know to British tourists, is one of the best theme parks in Europe. Its recreations of different periods of history, together with the night-time spectacle offer an unforgettable day out for all the family. For the night spectacle you need to book tickets well in advance (on-line reservations, in English) but the rest is certainly a full day's entertainment.