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Daytrip from Vendée to Clisson & Hellfest Park

Clisson offers a curious panorama of French-medieval history seen through a Tuscan window. Or vice versa. Is it France? Is it Italy? The short answer: it’s a combination of the two. This small village with its imposing castle perched atop a lovely valley where the Sèvre-Nantaise and La Moine rivers merge, was set on fire by the Republican General Kléber during the Vendée Wars. Located on the edge of the Vendée (Poitou) and Loire-Atlantique in an important strategic position, Clisson was home to the Lords of Clisson since the XIth century, from 1089 to 1789! Today, this small town is not only famous for its position in French history and its interesting architecture. For one weekend a year, its just over 7,000 inhabitants grow by about 180,000. The reason? The biggest and roughest rock music festival in Europe…. Hellfest. An eventful history – Clisson’s history and that of the Vendée …

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The days to avoid driving in France summer 2021

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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Château de l’Hermenault and Garesché: connecting Vendée to world history

Chatting with the current châtelaine of Château de l’Hermenault, it came to light that the person who sold the beautiful castle to her forefather in 1806 had been Daniel Garesché, mayor of La Rochelle in 1791-1792. In our pleasantly lengthy conversation, the kind châtelaine said “Garesché family is fascinating. You should look it up.” … So, we did. We found in Daniel Garesché a man who was part of a veritable dynasty. A family that, to put it mildly, left their at times muddy boot prints on the history of France, Haiti, and the United States of America. With the motto “Jamais sans Espérance” (Never Without Hope) to lend a strong hand, it is the story of close-knit family built on patriarchal opportunism and survival spanning centuries, and touching the Vendée along the way. To truly understand the opportunistic make-up of this family it is necessary to travel back to …

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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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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. A guided tour with Centre Val de Sèvre Formation – 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. …

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Winter sightseeing: Logis de la Chabotterie

Largely regarded as the most important historical monument in the Vendee, the beautiful Logis de la Chabotterie presents an opportunity for sightseeing year-round. Spring through summer, the gardens thrive with colour and fragrance. But the Chabotterie manor and its surrounding park are especially charming in fall and winter, ideal seasons for an invigorating walk and to warm the soul with the beauty and knowledge of history. 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 …

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Journées du Patrimoine 2019 Vendée – EVENTS

Welcome to the European Heritage days anno 2019! On the 3rd weekend of September, everywhere in Europe including our lovely Département du Vendée, we are given a great opportunity to visit popular historical locations and monuments as well as sites that are rarely open to the public for free or at a reduced rate. 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 the events were united as European Heritage Days at the initiative of the Council of Europe. Why do …

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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! A brief history – What is prehistory? It is the period of time that begins with the appearance of human beings (approx. five million years ago) and ends with the invention of writing(approx. 6,000 years ago). The prehistory is divided into three stages: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. These consecutive periods are determined by the human sociological progression and evolving e.g. in survival practices, tools and the use of pottery.  What is Neolithic and which prehistoric time period does it span? The Neolithic transition (when human beings made the …

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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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Fête de la Musique: a worldwide phenomenon rooted in France

Let’s be honest… what better way–major sporting events, war or natural disasters aside–to find solidarity and companionship, other than experiencing [live] music?! Don’t you agree? Should it be any surprise that the Fête de la Musique (or Music Day, or Make Music Day or World Music Day), has grown to be a world-wide phenomenon each year on 21 June? Music is so many things! To the ears, to our sense of rhythm and self-expression, to our emotions and need for togetherness, to being lost in a performance, music speaks a common, universal, language. But to what do we owe the annual celebration of music and why is it on June 21st? American musician Joel Cohen came up with the concept it in 1976 when he worked at Radio France-Musique in Paris. Celebrating music on the longest day of the year was his idea to give the station a boost. It was the first and …

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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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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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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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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. …