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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 …

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We asked some campers why they love the Vendée!

A beautiful destination – The Vendéen gites, B&Bs, hotels and campgrounds welcome an average of 5 million tourists annually. 2017 marked the 40th anniversary-year for theme park Le Puy du Fou , with a reported 2.26 million visitors! Camping remains one of the favourite ways to spend family time in the Vendée. We spoke with a few campers this season, asking them to share why they love the area, how they chose the destination to begin with, and why they keep coming back. In their own words, here are Sally-Ann from the Lake District in the UK; Margaret and John, who retired from their transport business in the UK; and Harry and Cathy, retired dairy farmer and Cadbury’s chocolate maker from Ireland. Images – by webservices.dramatis I have come to France for working summers for four years now but this is the first time with my very own camper van and the first …

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Five Reasons to Visit the Vendée

Offering wildlife, tropical flora, ancient windmills and medieval history, old customs, and many outdoor activities, the Vendée is a place the entire family will want to explore. Superb vacationing – The Vendée pleases the eye, feels good on the skin, and with evidence of civilization from prehistoric times onward, chances are you’ll encounter something amazing around every corner. Because of this, the Vendée was prominently showcased in the 2018 Tour de France. The local cycling team, Direct Energie, proudly represented the area. For four wonderful days, the Vendée was front and center on the world stage and tourists flocked to experience the event and the area. Summer and winter – Certainly, even after the leaves fall from the trees and many castles close for winter, there is no shortage of things to do. With the largest forest in France nearby, the racing bike is exchanged for a mountain bike. Ocean swims become languid walks …

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A Day Trip to Oradour-sur-Glane

Truthfully, it was a bit of a drive from where we live near the Marais Poitevin in the Vendee, but Oradour-sur-Glane had been at the top of my imaginary list of places in the world “to shoot”. A poor choice of terms, I realize, but photoshoots in a decaying, urban setting or ruin are actually “a thing”, even if amateur photographers must achieve their subject using dubious ways and the most unimaginable backdoors. The village, located in the Limousin area of France, is quite famous among photography enthusiasts. I’d say it is as coveted a subject as Chateau Miranda (located near Brussels in Belgium, if you’re curious), or even Chernobyl (of the famous nuclear disaster), though Oradour-sur-Glane is much easier to reach, doesn’t require bribes or breaking and entering, and once you get there, it’s open to the public. After a leisurely two-and-a-half-hour drive through occasional medieval villages packed among …

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Hidden Corners in the Vendée

Driving through endless farm fields across the rolling hills of the Vendée, adorable villages present themselves from a distance with ancient church steeples peeking over trees or clay rooftops. Why not slow down time itself to discover their hidden secrets? We do! In fact, we’ve been known to colour outside the lines. Prehistoric and Romanesque – How much do you really love history? Enough to ignore the incessant ‘recalculating’ voice of the GPS and park the car even at the slightest hint there may be something to see?  The hand of History – Have you ever heard about the age-old tradition of gathering to wash laundry in a village pond still being honored? Or discovered a centuries-old chapel in a picturesque valley? Have you ever touched a circa 4000BC Megalith? This walking circuit of 13km or 8mi begins and ends in La Bretonnière-la Claye, follows the circumference of what was an island in the Gulf of Pictons around 10,000 years …

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On your Bike: La Tardière to Mouilleron-en-Pareds

Lovely trails edged with bluebells and wild hyacinth in spring, small chapels, ancient windmills, and old customs… see how just 12km (7.5mi) of cycling through three Vendéen villages can WOW your sense of adventure. Superb cycling – whether you live in the area or you’re on holiday, with a love of nature, history, physical activity, and adventure, this cycling route in the Vendée is a perfect way to spend a day or two. Two of the sites in this article are perfect for mountain biking in every season. Cycling time between the locations in this article is just 46 minutes, over a distance of 12km. A dash of mystery for any age group – Don’t love cycling? No worries! These sightseeing spots in the Vendée have ample (free) parking, offer many kilometers of marked walking paths, benches, picnic tables, and other nearby activities. And who doesn’t love a little mystery? Have you ever heard …

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Abbeys in the Vendée

Stunning in their dimensions, tranquil locations, state of ruin or architectural beauty, the abbeys  offer intrigue with a significant glimpse into French history and geography. Build an Itinerary – It would be difficult to see all of the abbeys in one day, but some could be looped together. Fortunately there is enough to find nearby them to venture out, perhaps with a picnic basket or beach toys, and definitely a camera, creating memorable days in the Vendée. In more good news, three of the abbeys are included in the Pass Vendée. Pass Vendée – the Vendée Pass is a cultural pass for €21 that allows you to visit 9 cultural and 2 nature reserves, as many times as you like for a year. It is available online (currently the site link is not secure, be aware of this) or in each of these locations where you can also use it:  Historial de la Vendée, Logis de la …

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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. For a summary of markets in the Vendée, please keep scrolling. The markets highlighted here are organised either in or around the Vendée. They are worth your time due to their seize, focus, or interesting location to perfectly combine shopping and sightseeing. 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 centered around the daily covered market in Les Halles, the castle or donjon is worth a visit.  Also the views from the castle rooftop over the city and Sèvres rivers is quite stunning. In addition, the market swells into the market square on Thursday mornings. While the Nantes Christmas market on Place Royal and Place …

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Day trip to Mont St. Michel by night

We may be semi-permanent travelers these days so it’s probably a little snooty to admit that we don’t enjoy huge masses of tourists. But we do avoid those hot spots where possible. We can’t help it. Our introverted nature means we seek tranquility. Tranquility is one of many reasons we chose to live in the Vendée. Another is the fact that Le Mont-St-Michel, one of our favourite spots on the planet, is just an easy drive away. With October and Halloween just around the corner, I have been thinking about the last time we visited The Mount. We left late in the day for a romantic dinner there, and were surprised to discover that between 8pm and 8am (20h00 and 08h00), the famous Unesco World Heritage site folds itself back in time all the way to its pilgrimage roots. Before our first daytime experience at Mont-St-Michel, we purposefully read nothing about it. …

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Images of The Great War

Our very own resident historian, Lawrence Dunn, has released a new book titled “Images of The Great War”, a thought provoking account of British artists and the Great War of 1914-1918, including accounts by many soldier-artists who had previously been written out of the cultural history of England. Many of the explanations are in the artists’ own words, and where applicable there are excerpts from Official British Army diaries. This book makes the perfect memento of the Great War. It is available on Amazon, and can also be purchased at the following bookshops in the UK:  Blackwells, Foyle’s, W. H. Smith and Waterstones. Lawrence also wrote the popular “Vendée Wars” page. He divides his time between L’Hermenault in Vendée, and Essex. Posted April 1, 2015 by admin Share this Post

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In the Echoes of History

In our first six months in the Vendee, we lived near a beautiful abbey called the Prieurie de Grammont. Sitting like a romantic cube in a vast stretch of farmland, the abbey is built of stacked golden sandstone and oozes an air of mystery in the off-season. There are few windows and the sun-bleached doors are firmly shut for most of the year. Several times a week we took our dogs to run around in the garden, and to walk the dirt roads slicing through surrounding fields for some thorough exercise. We loved it, savoring the wind in our faces and snoots, and relishing the changing colors of farm life. The fields went from brown, to green, and sprung bright yellow with colza flowers. We greeted sheep and cows, making note that the fences moved to other pastures with the livestock, so there was always wide open space to take …