The Vendée is on the Atlantic coast of France, south of Brittany and north of La Rochelle. It takes its name from the river of the same name running through the South East of the region and is an extremely popular holiday destination.
The Vendée has had a bloody history with great suffering during the Hundred Years War against England and the Wars of Religion between Protestants and Catholics. After the French Revolution, the Vendeans resisted efforts to make them join the new army and armed with crude weapons formed a resistance movement which took its toll on the Republican forces. However, relations today are a little more peaceful!
- La Roche sur Yon
- Fontenay le Comte
- Les Sables d'Olonne
- St Gilles Croix de Vie
- Les Herbiers
Average temperature in Vendée
With 40km of beaches, you will be spoiled for choice. Some have life guards in the summer and many have the European Blue Flag for cleanliness and water quality. The beach at the popular resort of Les Sables d'Olonne is 3 km long and has the advantage that if you tire of the beach, you can take a boat trip to L'ile d'Yeu, a rocky island an hour from the coast. The beach at La Tranche-sur-mer faces south and is therefore more sheltered than those facing west. The Atlantic breakers can be rough on all beaches so children must be supervised at all times.
The Marais in the south of the Vendée is a large area of wetlands, home to an amazing variety of flora and fauna. Boat trips can be taken from Coulon and Maillezais. There are many châteaux in the region, but the two most important are the Château de la Guignardiere, a fine example of Renaissance architecture, and Château Tiffauges, built between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries and home to the infamous Bluebeard. Les Sables d'Olonne is a popular resort with plenty of shops, nightlife and even a casino. Pornic is also worth a visit: a fashionable resort with a marina but retaining its old streets and working harbour.
There are a number of adventure parks in the Vendée. The Parc de Pierre Brun can be found in the forest of Mervent and has a range of bouncy castles, bumper boats and trampolines. The Indian Forest at Montiers les Mauxfaits has an elevated obstacle course, maxi-bungee and paint-balling.
If you like your theme parks a little less physical, the Puy du Fou is one with a difference and makes a great family day out. It re-enacts the history of the Vendée using actors, horse-men, falconers and stuntmen and is truly spectacular. The beautifully kept Palmyre Zoo is also worth a visit, housing some 1600 animals including rhinos and polar bears. For water slides and pools, visit the Atlantic Toboggan at Les Becs.
Museums, galleries and culture
Fontenay le Comte, birthplace of Rabelais, is home to the Vendée Museum and the Château de Terre Neuve with its collection of 18th and 19th century clothing. Eleanor of Aquitaine's Abbey in Neuil-sur-l'Autise has beautifully preserved cloisters and a multi-media museum.
Wine has been grown in the Vendée since Roman times. The wine from the vineyards of the Brem Fiefs is distinguished by its taste of apples. At Beaulieu sous la Roche the Cave de l'Atrie produces good vin de pays in red, white and rose whilst the wine from Mercier Frères is said to be served at Buckingham Palace. Their whites and red are sold in 10 litre boxes at a very reasonable price.
The Vendée has over 600km of marked paths, including two long distance Grande Randonnees (GR8 and GR364). The paths cover a variety of scenery and many are suitable for buggies. Whether you want cliff-tops, forests or country lanes, you will not be disappointed.
There are five 18 hole golf courses: Golf des Fonterelles, Golf de St Jean de Monts, Golf des Olonnes, Golf de la Domangere and Golf de Port-Bourgenay. The course at St Jean de Monts is particularly attractive, taking you through pine forests and close to the beach with beautiful views over the sea to the Island of Yeu.
Many of the Vendée's minor roads have little traffic and are suitable for cycling but there are also hundreds of kilometers of cycle tracks including very attractive terrain in the Forest of Mervent. Windsurfing and body boarding are very popular on the coast, with one of the best areas for surfing being between La Tranche and Longeville. If you fancy trying something different, there are several go-kart centres at Chalans, La Roche-sur-Yonne and St. Reverend. At Apremont Lake you can hire dinghies, pedalos, canoes and rowing boats.
Food and drink
Being a coastal department, the Vendée is famous for its seafood; everything from Dover sole, sea bream, bass and sardines to oysters, mussels, cockles, whelks, razor clams and crabs. A plateau de fruits de mer is a real treat, with all sorts of shell fish piled high and costing a fraction of what you would pay in the UK. The regional dish mouclade is well worth trying - a mixture of mussels, white wine, eggs and crème fraiche. The inland waters provide eels, pike and zander for the more adventurous.
The Vendée is also renowned for its poultry, particularly the free range chickens, noire de Challans - you will never buy another frozen chicken again! The lambs from the salt marshes in the north of the region have a delicate and unusual flavour, while a wide range of game is also popular, including wild boar, venison and even coypu.
Cheese is produced locally from both cow's and goat's milk and the mizotte and halbran are particularly popular. As always there are restaurants to suit all budgets but, if you want a treat, details of some of the smartest restaurants can be found at Toques Vendeennes
Ease of access
The Vendée can be reached in a day from most of the ports. The most convenient is St Malo (3 hours to the Vendée) although being a long sea crossing you may prefer Caen or Cherbourg (4 hours and 4 hours 30 mins respectively to the Vendée). If you want to minimize sailing times, Calais is 7 hours drive. It is also possible to fly to Nantes with some of the budget airlines and hire a car.
Value for money
The Vendée provides a good value for money holiday destination. If you wish to keep costs down consider camping, there are many attractive sites, some on the coast which are well equipped with swimming pools and other facilities. Alternatively renting a gite (holiday cottage) inland can be cheaper than staying on the coast.
With its microclimate, the Vendée enjoys almost as much sunshine as the South but never becomes oppressively hot. It therefore makes an ideal destination for those who want a beach holiday combined with opportunities for sport, culture and family oriented activities.