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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 decaying, urban settings or ruins are actually “a thing”, even if amateur photographers like me 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 the fairy tale worthy, Neo-Gothic Chateau Miranda was (located near Brussels in Belgium, it was -sadly- demolished in 2016), or even Chernobyl (of the infamous nuclear disaster), though Oradour-sur-Glane is much easier to reach, doesn’t require bribes or radiation meters, and once you arrive doesn’t require breaking and entering. After a leisurely …

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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? Trizay Abbey, an old Cistercian abbey founded in the XIIIth century by the monks of Pontigny Abbey, although the abbey stands on a foundation that is …

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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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Summer in the Vendée

1. If music and other cultural entertainment is your thing, the Vendee delivers throughout the summer months. Finding information online might be a bit tricky, so here are a few suggestions to help you on your way. On the Atlantic coast from St. Brevin les Pins right down to La Tranche sur Mer you can enjoy an absolute smorgasbord of free entertainment, with an eclectic mix of music, dance and street theatre which includes everything from African story telling, Burlesque dancing, rock and roll and blues and quite a lot more as part of La Deferlante, a family friendly and free cultural event with a distinctive and international flavour. Website But there are many more nights of music organised by cultural organisations around villages and cities, e.g. Niort holds “Jeudis Niortais”, free concerts in the park on Thursday evenings in July and August. You can also head down to St. Gilles to enjoy several free …

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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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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 …