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?

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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 ago. Beginning in the Xth century, monks from nearby (and then coastal) abbeys began to transform the gulf into a varied landscape of marshland. The marriage of time-deposited sediments, and arduous manual labor by the monks form the large expanse that is called the Marais Poitevin today.

On this easy walk between the cultivated farmland and lovely green meadows, enjoy the wide horizon of the Lay and Yon river valleys with its bridges and age-old sluices, hydraulic systems, and dikes that regulate the water levels in the marshes.

Open  all year 
Tip – tranquil fishing and picnic area at the start of the trail. Bring water (no shops in the village) and supplies needed for the hike.
Address  85320 La Claye
GPS coordinates –  46° 28′ 44″ N, 1° 17′ 03″ W
Nearby Sightseeing – Church Église Saint-Hilaire, La Crypte de Curzon - where there is also canoeing and touring of the Marais by boat.
Dog walking – superb
Images – by webservices.dramatis

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Sinister history in a well-hidden chapel

Literally off the beaten path in an idyllic little valley just outside the village of La Tardre, lies a small chapel called Our Lady of Brossardière. The chapel has a sinister origin: on August 3rd 1595-near the end of the Wars of Religion- 31 protestants were massacred in a barn-cum-temple at this location. Built in devotion to Our Lady of Recouvrance (recovery), the event is remembered yearly in a pilgrimage on August 15th, a Catholic holiday (the Assumption of the Virgin Mary)  People often ring the chapel's bell when visiting.

Open – Year-round
Tip – the chapel's location is practically unmarked. Find it  
Address  La Brossardière, 85120 La Tardière
GPS coordinates –  to the village 
46°39′41″N 0°43′56″W
Nearby Sightseeing –  Base de l'Etruyère (swimming, horse riding and other activities), Vouvant (medieval village), grocery stores in neighbouring La Châtaigneraie 
Images – by webservices.dramatis

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Hidden in obscurity

There is nothing like getting your sense of adventure ignited and this spot does just that. Hidden beneath a church 'like so many others' (anno 1873) it might be easy to ignore the signposts to this historic location. Don't. The entry to the crypt lies near the altar beneath trap doors. Navigating the steep stairs is awkward, but at the bottom is a  beautiful room from the XIth century, with exquisitely carved pillars supporting nine vaults. The area shows Roman activity since 58BC.

The north wall in the church is the only one that survives from before 1873 when the church was restored to what it is today. The painting on wood depicting a scene of the crucifying of Christ that adorns it was discovered in the sacristy anno 1995-1996, and restored.

Open – Open all year
Tip – Les Ponts de la Claye, are two historic bridges a cross the river Lay (three arches) and the river Petit-Lay (two arches). The bridges first show on maps made in the 18th century, and made of granite (engineer Etienne Raimbaud.)

GPS coordinates – 46°26′54″N 1°18′29″W
Nearby sightseeing the Marais Poitevin can be explored from this village.
Image credits
 by webservices.dramatis

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The oldest megalithic monument in the Vendée

Since 6000BC there is evidence of settlement around the village of Bazoges-en-Pareds. La Ciste des Cous, the oldest megalithic monument in the Vendée, is located in the rolling farm fields outside the village. Find the dirt-road off the D43 direction Miteau-les-Champs, marked only by a faded signpost.

The restored Neolithic dolmen is an unusual polygonal chamber is shaped by a stepped circular cairn. The ancient grave-site was first excavated in 1913. Just a short distance away from it lies the largely destroyed dolmen of Pierre Folle des Cous

Open – Year-round
Tip – visit the Donjon de Bazoges (a beautifully preserved castle keep) and its medieval surroundings, including a pigeon coup and gardens. Always there to view, the keep is open only in the summer. A nighttime event 
in July celebrates the chateau's medieval heritage.
Address – Les Cossonnières
85390 Bazoges-en-Pareds

GPS coordinates –  46°39'30,6"N , 0°56'2,8"W 
Nearby sightseeing Musee Maison Clemenceau (Opened by President Macron in June 2018) Musee 
Clemenceau-de Lattre, La Colline des Moulins (see above)
Images – by webservices.dramatis

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We couldn't keep these from you!

As mentioned in the blog post about our day trip to Oradour-sur-Glane, there are times (amateur) photographers will go through great lengths to get the images they want, indeed for adventurers to satisfy their curiosity! Two images are an old chateau. Its floors are missing and it's absolutely beautiful! The next two images are of an old windmill.

Open – No
Tip – We'd never tell you not to be adventurous. But do be careful if you're going to trespass. You don't want to get caught... and you must take care to protect your eyes and head. Keep protective eye-wear and a construction helmet in the car.
Address – Our lips are sealed!
GPS coordinates –  Not even that!
Nearby sightseeing You can't trick us!

Images – by webservices.dramatis

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Finding hidden spots in the Vendée is not difficult.

With history spanning from 4000BC, through medieval times and beyond the wars that plagued the Vendée area for so many centuries, there must be tons of places that have yet to be discovered. We hope! Don't be afraid to veer off the beaten path, ignore the little voice in you that says not today. One of the coolest things in this beautiful region of France, is that once you make the decision to ignore the GPS, you'll arrive at a spot that is rarely visited and there will be time to explore in a very peaceful setting.

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