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USA to Paris to the Vendée: Our European Family Vacation

There is nothing like a pandemic and lock down to make you appreciate your past travels. It is hard to believe that it has been one-and-a-half years since my husband and I decided to take a trip to France. With the children. I had been homeschooling my son, Jake (then 9yrs old) and has an affinity for geography, history, culture, and travel. To help encourage these interests, my former colleague and dear friend, Brenda, who now lives in France, began writing to him to share her experiences and adventures abroad. Their correspondence through letters and postcards sparked Jake’s eagerness to go and visit his new pen pal! After some planning and research together with Bren, we decide to introduce the kids to the thrill of international travel. As our family clunk our way down the narrow aisle of the plane, my toddler daughter Sara’s car seat in tow, I pull …

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Castles to see in the Vendée

Not all châteaux in the Vendée are open to the public. In fact, most are privately owned, sometimes with holiday accommodations available. The selection of twenty Vendéen castles in this article represent those accessible to view in high-season or year-round, or those which are open for sightseeing, reenactment spectacles, medieval festivals, and adventure parks. Is the Vendée paved with castles? – Yes and no. From medieval, to renaissance or neo-renaissance-style castles, and even some art-nouveau style ones, the number of chateaux in the Vendée is quite astounding. But most of them are private residences tucked away in sleepy villages or seemingly endless forests. You may run into them quite randomly or look for them in the 3rd weekend of September each year, when many have events or an open house in light of the European Heritage days (Journées Patrimoine) It’s all about the medieval – If you know just a …

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Fishing in the Vendée

Introduction Once tourism season is over in the Vendée and holiday makers have returned home, the hotspots for fishing revert back to the tranquil retreats fishermen love. Hotspots for sea fishing include the beaches in La Faute-sur-Mer, L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer, and Les Sables d’Olonne. Where the Lay river meets the ocean, a sandy beach with a bridge over the river is an inviting spot from which to cast a line. Further north there are smaller, rocky beaches, near La Chaume. And Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie is not only famous for its generous sardines catches, the estuary where the river Vie river meets the ocean is also an attractive area for fishermen. If it’s a muddier beach you’re looking for, great fishing can be found near Bourgneuf-en-Retz as well as Beauvoir-sur-Mer. Two top lakes in the Vendée – Lac de Mervent (near Mervent, surrounded by beautiful forest) and  Lac de Rochereau (Monsireigne) – can be fished …

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Journées du Patrimoine 2020: list of places to see in the Vendée

Welcome to the European Heritage days of 2020! The 3rd weekend of September ranks among the best weekends of the year for us! We challenge ourselves with a spring around our lovely Département du Vendée for the opportunity to visit well-known historical locations and monuments as well as sites that are rarely open to the public, for free or at a reduced rate. Join us for a list of options this year. Historically, how did the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine or European Heritage days begin? The French Ministry of Culture began the event  La Journée Portes Ouvertes in 1984. In the following year, at the 2nd European Conference of Ministers responsible for Architectural Heritage, the French Minister of Culture proposed that the project be internationalised under the European council. The Netherlands joined with their own Open Monumentendag in 1987, followed by Sweden and Ireland in 1989, and Belgium and Scotland in 1990. In 1991 …

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Where Vendéens can see Le Tour de France September 2020

Are you excited? WE ARE! At inthevendee.com we are fervent ‘course’ fanatics from the winter cyclo-cross season to the Classic Road Races to the big tours. Of course, nothing is as fantabulous as Le Tour and everything that surrounds moving this massive production across the streets of France. And yes, we know that’s not a word… but it’s a word at hour house when it comes to everything cycling. So, we will be gathering all possible information we can find because we want you and your guests to experience the circus that is Le Tour de France as well. Can you feel our enthusiasm? Yes? Good. Find updates here up to Monday 7th September. Because on the 8th and the 9th, we will be out of office! Dear readers, cyclists, caravan… the whole circus… See you somewhere along the route! See maps and local details below for stage 10 on …

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Vineyards and wine tasting in the Vendée

Since Roman times there have been attempts at growing grapes and making wine in the Vendée, but it wasn’t until medieval times that the activity became successful. The monks of the many abbeys around here didn’t only manage to turn the ocean into fertile land while creating the Marais, they also had a hand in the proper cultivation of grapes. Historically we owe the production of good wine to them and to the Cardinal Richelieu who In the XVIIth  century donated wine lands to the farmers of Luçon. Another reason for successful viticulture in the Vendée is the region’s temperate oceanic climate, with mild, wet winters and cooler summers. The oceanic climate is warmer than the continental climate but less warm than the Mediterranean climate. Vendee vineyards listed by region 1. Brem sur Mer vineyards CAVE PAJOT LAURENT *AOC. AOC Fief Vendeens Monday to Friday 11:00 – 12:30, 17:00 – 19:00 Saturday …

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Medieval Festivals 2020

Reminiscent of the big Renaissance Fairs or the all immersive Feasts of the Hunter’s Moon in other countries like the United Kingdom or the United States, Vendeen Medieval Festivals take you right into the heart of life in the Middle Ages with authentic food, entertainment and artist markets. Fun for the entire family! All Medieval festivals and events in the Vendée 2020 – TO BE UPDATED AS INFO AS INFO BECOMES AVAILABLE CHÂTEAU DES ESSARTS       POSTPONED TO 2021      Open BY RESERVATION ONLY      ADVENTURE AND STORY TELLING WALKS  IN JULY AND AUGUST (from 14h00 – 19h00) ; AND on Wednesday and Sunday in SEPTEMBER      Directions CHÂTEAU DE TALMONT    MESSAGE FROM THE CHATEAU    From Monday 06 July 2020 to  Friday 28 August 2020: Following the health crisis, linked to Covid-19, all the chivalry, falconry and nocturnal shows as well as the medieval …

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Our Facebook group’s recommendations for great places to eat in the Vendée

Our Facebook group consists hundreds of member… locals, expats of all nationalities who live here permanently, people who own a holiday home or second home, and tourists. We all have our favourite places to put our feet under the table and tuck in to a nice meal and/or have a cocktail with family and friends, or just for a bit of romance. We have pooled together their recommendations in various areas of the Vendée.  Not to show favoritism, we have listed them alphabetically by name, so if you happen to be in the neighbourhood, you’ll know exactly where to go for a meal recommended by your Vendéen friends! All tastes – all budgets. Listed alphabetically Ateapick – Fontenay-le-Comte 85200// tapas, burgers, cocktails, small but varied menu €€ – play a game of boules  24 rue Louis Auber Zone Saint Médard Some vegetarian options +33251539433 Website Map + reviews Brasserie La …

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The Sanctuary of La Salette and its remarkable architecture

From the banks of the river la Petite Meine rises a very steep hill covered with lush foliage, wildflowers, and exotic species of trees. This beautiful environment in the middle of nowhere in the Vendeen countryside is home to a monument of remarkable architecture; a place of pilgrimage that draws a crowd each first Sunday of September but is a quiet spot of tranquility and reflection the rest of year: the Sanctuary of La Salette at La Rabateliere. It is a grouping of religious buildings commemorating  the apparition of the Virgin Mary to two children in the French Alps anno 1846. History and location  – The sanctuary was built in 1887 at the initiative of Abbot Hillairet, then parish priest of the small village La Rabatelière. The land belonged to the Count of La Poëze who then owned and lived in Château de La Rabatelière (which is today a bed …

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A radical life-choice and a patrimony restoration project

For 15 years we were happy on the east side of Paris. My husband, Paul, with his international career for Disney, and I myself was happy as a full-time mother of our four children. Life was good, stable, and every project in the house was done. But when our children became teenagers, Paul had seen too many airports, and I myself needed new challenges. More and more, we discussed what new adventures we could experience. For both of us it was clear: we wanted a change in life. On our wish list was: living in a sunnier area, closer to the sea, old building with character and a terrain with endless possibilities, close to a big city and a train station nearby. It seemed like searching for a needle in the haystack. In the spring of 2019 we made a road trip that started in Biarritz. In advance we made …

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William Chevillon invites us to discover Fontenay-le-Comte

While we are invited to rediscover the nearby territories without travelling too far, the Centre vendéen de recherches historiques (Sorbonne-University Scientific Council) is publishing a new book on the history, heritage and development of Fontenay-le-Comte. “À la découverte de Fontenay-le-Comte” is a book designed to offer a comprehensive look at the town, from prehistory to the present day, in all its diversity of landscapes and heritage. When I was offered this project on the history and cultural heritage of Fontenay-le-Comte, I thought it would be interesting to draw on what already existed and not simply evoke a past as glorious as often looked back on with nostalgia. Writing about a city is not just writing about people and monuments, it is also about trying to make people understand a global structure and to inscribe, for example, social housing and public art in the continuation of the primitive constitution of an …

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Vouvant, Painters’ Village in the Vendée

Resting snugly in the arms of the Mère river at the edge of the largest oak tree forest in France lies one of the most beautiful villages of France. Vouvant, whose narrow streets demand a languid stroll in admiration of ancient architecture and a colorful plethora of flowers, seems to have been kissed by the gentle lips of history and tended by the loving care of faeries. A lovely drive toward the south-east corner of the Vendéen countryside will quickly point in its direction. Accept the challenge of discovery and you will quickly understand why Vouvant is lovingly referred to as the painter’s village. An introduction – The beginnings of Vouvant are somewhat mystical according to legend. The tale goes that the original castle here was created in just one night by the fairy Mélusine as a gift to the village. Of this castle only the donjon that dominates its …

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Market Days in the Vendée

Markets in France are typically held in the mornings from 8h00 to 13h00. They are usually up-and-running by 9h00. Do check village websites for cancellations, though these are not always announced. Summer Courgettes, asparagus, tomatoes, beans, apples, spinach, peppers, apricots, blackberries, cherries, currants, carrots, lettuces, radishes, raspberries, MELONS, aubergines. For a summary of markets in the Vendée, please keep scrolling. The markets highlighted here are organised in or around the Vendée. They are worth your time due to their seize, focus, or interesting location to perfectly combine shopping and sightseeing. Keep scrolling for our comprehensive list of markets. Covid-19 update: our market list dates from 2020 before coronavirus. Please check local websites and facebook pages for protocols or cancellations. inthevendee.com is not responsible for cancellations.  Niort Niort, with its narrow streets and remaining medieval half-timber structures, is located on the Vendéen and Deux-Sèvres border. While shops, cafés and restaurants are …

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The days to avoid driving in France summer 2020

France is the most popular travel destination in Europe with under normal circumstances over eighty-one-million worldwide visitors per year, but it is unclear how the Covid-19 pandemic will affect traffic on French motorways in 2020. France typically sees top traffic every July and August weekend. However, the outer European borders of countries where the virus-related health situation is not under control, remain closed. Travelers’ fears of contracting the disease abroad will also have an adverse affect on travel to or through France. This year, however, French natives may decide to vacation in-country, choosing a driving holiday over flying which may balance things out again. Additionally, the extra measures put in place at borders to control and to trace the spread of the disease, may put people off traveling. It’s also important to note new peeks of Corona virus in certain areas such as Catalonia in Spain, with governments (e.g. Belgium) …

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The Legend of the Fairy Mélusine

Château de Lusignan  (Vienne) was the ancestral seat of the House of Lusignan, the Lords of Poitou, who commanded great respect in the First Crusade. The castle was so large that in the 12th century a legend developed as to its beginnings. It was speculated that its founder must have had the help of a fairy, a fairy who took on the guise of the shape-shifting water spirit Mélusine said to have built the castle and its church for her husband Raymondin by using her mystical gifts. The reputation of the Lusignans was larger than life. So much so that between 1392 and 1394 the author Jean d’Arras recorded the folktale in a book entitled Le Roman de Melusine. It was the first of many literary versions that would be recorded through the centuries, as the folkloric tale seeped into the very fabric of history. The Legend One evening in the …

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Île d’Yeu, beautiful island of the Vendée

If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting the Greek Islands but haven’t been able to realise that dream, the Vendée has a wonderful surprise in store for you. Île d’Yeu, a small island located 32km (19mi) from the coast in the Atlantic ocean, has no shortage of whitewashed homes with colourful shutters and tropical flora set in three tiny villages, little ports tucked away along the wild coastline, and sprawling beaches that invite to spread a towel in the sand. And that’s just the beginning. If exploring in an idyllic setting is your thing, Île d’Yeu is ideal for a vacation, a weekend getaway, or a day-trip in the Vendée. Island of natural beauty, rich history and folklore – The Vendée is known for its beautiful coast as well as a rolling countryside painted in innumerable shades of green. But its islands off the French Atlantic coast have their own unique …

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Windmill hunting in the Vendée

The windmill was omni-present in the European landscape and history shows their use wasn’t limited to the production of flour. In periods of conflict the windmills were an effective communication tool, including in the Vendée. A brief history – A windmill is a structure that converts wind power into a rotating energy through a series of  toothed wheels, mechanisms and millstones, grinding various grains into usable products like flour. The earliest known wind and water powered grain mills were used by the Persians (Iran) from the 6th to the 10th centuries as well as by the Chinese in the 13th century. The vertical windmills seen in Vendée use a mechanism with sails that rotate in a horizontal plane around a vertical axis. The first mentioned “vertical windmill” in Northern Europe dates to the late 12th century.  Bread in its countless variations has always played an important role in cultures around the world. …

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A walkabout Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre

The beautiful Eiffel bridge across the Sevre-Nantaise river, is but one of many interesting historical monuments to see in the quaint village of Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre. We’ll take you exploring some of them in this prequel to your own Vendée adventures. I love my job! When through inthevendée.com’s Facebook page and group our readers were invited by the tour guide students of Val de Sèvre Formation for an English language guided tour of the village known as the Holy city of Vendée, Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, yours truly seized the opportunity to sneak away from her desk for a few hours. There’s nothing like exploring another corner of France and the Vendée… and sharing it with the rest of the world. Located idyllically on the banks of the Sèvre-Nantaise river, a tributary of the Loire, this is village ideal for a lovely stroll among French heritage. On the morning of the tour it was quite cloudy …

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Winter sightseeing: Logis de la Chabotterie

A story through the ages –  The story of le Logis de la Chabotterie reaches far beyond the realms of the architecture of a Vendéen castle and its surrounding farm buildings. Its reputation as the best preserved manor of the Bas-Poitevin rests in the very hands of history. Not only was it restored to perfection, but Gerneral François de Charette was wounded and captured in the gardens of the domain in 1796. At its inception in the late XVth century, the layout was typical of a manor house in the area. In an exhibit on the first floor, there are a dozen or so examples of other such homes in the Vendée, some of which still exist. Much like the abbeys, these types of homes were at one point abandoned which left them vulnerable to being stripped for their beautiful stones to build houses. That didn’t happen here. In the …

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Prehistoric Vendée

One of the most unique features of the Vendée is the opportunity it lends to travel from time period to time period throughout history, and even pre-history. With evidence of life in the area dating back to Neolithic times, the Vendée proves ideal to take the entire family on a fun learning expedition away from school! The graph below left shows early neolithic movement originating from the south-east of Europe. There was a gradual progression of behavioral and cultural practices such as the creation of settlements, the use of wild and domestic crops, and of the domestication of animals. Crops included lentils, einkorn wheat, millet, and spelt, By about 6,900–6,400 BC, in addition to the keeping of dogs, sheep and goat, farming also included domesticated cattle and pigs. The center graph shows a map of prehistoric locations in the Vendée today.  Scroll down for a comprehensive list (not including the monuments that were removed or destroyed or became a part of …

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Make it a Saturday in Fontenay-le-Comte!

Located on the banks of the Vendée river and historically the former capital of the Vendée, Fontenay-le-Comte is picturesque at any day of the week. But on Saturday mornings there’s a popular market we don’t want you to miss! A brief introduction to the architectural pearl of the Vendée… City of Art and History  – Like the rest of the Vendée, the area of what is today the beautiful city of Fontenay-Le-Comte has seen settlements since prehistoric times. The land was rich with game for the hunting, and at the time the area bordered the Gulf of Poitou which meant abundant fishing. For a long time, Fontenay was a port on the ocean. On the small islands dotting the Gulf, abbeys were taking shape under Roman rule. Throughout the next centuries, monks used an ingenious way to claim the land and make it fertile, creating a vast landscape of canals …

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Connecting people and places

Curious about everything and always sensitive to cultural expressions, I have developed a career path that focuses on heritage, ancient and contemporary art and the performing arts. Much more than a love of “old stones” (I don’t like this expression), attachment to heritage is for me the first step in creating a link between a person and the territory in which he or she is located. My playground is the Vendée, Brittany, Anjou, Charentes or Poitou. it is a permanent curiosity that feeds me wherever I go. I was 14 years old when I took my first guided tour. It was the continuation of a personal investment that started a few years before with archival research outside of school hours. An artist I like very much, Nicolas Schöffer, used to say: “To explain is to involve oneself and others.” It sums up the approach I am trying to apply in my work as …

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About Les Journées du Patrimoine de Pays et des Moulins

The Heritage Days of Land and Mills are a national event highlighting the heritage of the French countryside and its diversity takes place every third weekend in June. Perhaps less known than its Journées Patrimoines sister-event which takes place every 3rd weekend in September, Les Journées du Patrimoine de Pays et des Moulins was created to honour, celebrate and share heritage, landscapes and traditional know-how. Too often, history is presented as an abstract, depicted on a national scale. Living in an area so culturally and historically rich as the Vendée, it’s sort of normal to drive through the landscape without seeing it. We become conditioned to the vast contours of an ancient castle, or the wings of a windmill frozen against the horizon. But if history were presented as a puzzle, its many individual pieces are the parts that form the whole picture and they were created not in a …

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In the footsteps of Georges Clemenceau

When Georges Clemenceau left his birth village of Mouilleron-en-Pareds to take him to great heights and across the world, the Vendee stayed forever in his heart. We have lined up the places that were important to this very unique French president. Who was Georges Clemenceau? –  The enigmatic and much adored Vendéen-born Clemenceau was a controversial figure strong in journalism as well as politics. After spending his childhood here, he went on to Nantes where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Letters (1858) at the Lycée. After this achievement, Clemenceau went on to Paris to study medicine, (graduating in 1865) where he became a political activist and author. At the onset of his career as a senator, Clemenceau was a radical socialist in an extremely conservative senate. However, it wasn’t until after he broke away from the socialist party in 1906, that he became premier or prime minister of France …

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To the Vendee with children: a DIVERSE 5-day itinerary!

The Vendée offers sightseeing and adventure for the whole family. This beautiful area is also ideally located for travelers looking for a more all-round vacation in France. We have a ready-made travel route for them, with at the heart of it … the Vendée! A 5-day itinerary with a purpose  – Any number of  activities in the Vendée could fill weeks of travelling fun with the family. Not everything is history orientated. From water parks to karting, paintball, amusement parks, rock climbing and sports on and off the water, really, it’s no wonder so many visitors choose to return to the Vendée again and again… or simply stay an entire summer. A taste of France through Paris, the Vendée and its medieval history, island life, and the Loire Valley – Unfortunately this is not an option for everybody: those who travel a great distance at significant expense, with a curiosity …

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Getting to the Vendée

Travelling to the Vendée is easy thanks to the proximity of airports, railway stations and well-maintained access routes. If your destination is Le Bocage Vendéen (the countryside) or the Marais Poitevin, narrow country roads add another dimension to the charm and authenticity of the area. No matter your point of departure or mode of transportation, we hope to see you soon in the Vendée! With some planning ahead you can get very affordable flights from within Europe. to Nantes or La Rochelle airports. Planning itineraries from elsewhere in the world to these airports can be expensive but allowing yourself enough time and by splitting the itineraries, it could be done. Research to find best options! Please note: reduced schedule in winter! TRAVEL TIP from Gerry M. via our Facebook Group:  I take the #290 bus to Nantes at Mouilleron-en-Pareds stop. It takes a couple of hours, but it’s only a little …

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6 Reasons to visit the Vendée in winter

Vendee Tourisme is lobbying for this beautiful area to be a year-round destination. Whether you’re living here or you’re tourist, there are plenty of reasons why, and we’re listing them here! Behind closed shutters – Like the rest of the French countryside, the Vendée tends to batten down the hatches from the end of October through the end of March. Many  donjons, chateaux and abbeys retreat into tranquility, even famous Puy du Fou closes its doors. With the scent of smoldering hearths wafting gently over the villages, and countryside hamlets huddling behind closed shutters, the Vendée wraps itself in a blanket of cosiness. Winter activities – But it’s still the second sunniest area in France, also in winter time! As fall explodes in a multi-layer colouring book, and falling leaves blanket the rolling hills of the bocage in a winter hush, there’s no need to hibernate like bears! Several of summer’s most interesting …

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8 Must-see Loire Valley châteaux

Beyond the opulence of the Loire Valley castles lies a deep seeded history of feuds and craftsmanship alike. We have made a list of the chateaux you should see while spending your holidays in the Vendée. Why are there so many castles located in this area of France? What makes the Loire Valley so special? – The answer is not simple and spans many centuries. In an effort to be brief, we have boiled it down to three major reasons why the Loire Valley is an area of such great natural and cultural wealth. 1. The Loire river and its tributary branches mark a sort of natural barrier between the colder climate of northern France and the warmer climate of the south. The presence of the rivers cause the area to be a few degrees warmer, and provides irrigation. There is evidence of settlements dating back to the Stone Ages. Different types …

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Tried and Tested: 2018 Journées Européennes du Patrimoine in the Vendée

OUR verdict is IN! Les Journées Européennes du Patrimoine are awesome! All it took was a little research & planning, a full tank of petrol, and our trusted GPS. Oh, and the alarm clock to rouse the family. What are the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine or European Heritage days? – Created by the Ministry of Culture in 1984, national museums and historic monuments are opened to the public for free or at a reduced rate on the third weekend of September every year. All weekend long, well-organized guided tours, animated demonstrations of old techniques, concerts, theatrical performances, and more, shed a special light on French heritage. We were intrigued by the notion that sometimes the public is given access to things that are not normally open. This year we tried and tested it for you in the Vendée. We’ll tell you where we went, what worked and what didn’t, and… how much …