In the west of France on the Atlantic Ocean lies the department Vendée. Known for its stable climate, good weather and the friendly population. The coastline offers over 200 kilometres of beautiful sandy beaches. So it should not come as a surprise that tourism is an important factor in the Vendée economy. But this region has much more to offer than just beach fun.
The coastal strip of this department is characterized by a flat area, ideal for cycling, with beaches, rocks and salt marshes. Inland from the coast you will find a lovely landscape of hills, lakes, rivers, forests, fields and hedgerows. Most of the landscape is undisturbed by industry and the wide views show mainly agricultural activities. The air is clean, traffic is low and congestion and traffic jams are very rare. At night the starry skies will amaze you for there is hardly any light pollution. So far the Vendée offers all we need to unwind.
La Roche sur Yon
The capital of the Vendée is La Roche sur Yon. It is a very relaxed town with a popular indoor market. In the centre of the town lies Place Napoléon with a statue of the emperor on horseback. Recently the square was completely renovated. Place Napoléon refers to 1804 when Napoléon decided to appoint the town as the new préfecture of the Vendée. Thanks to this appointment the city of La Roche sur Yon expanded enormously.
Les Sables d’Olonne
If you are a person who likes to visit authentic towns in a rural environment, you should pay a visit to the seaside resort of Les Sables d’Olonne. Apart from the large beach, the beautiful market halls and the famous Shell street are worth a visit. Once in every four years the harbour is home to the Vendée Globe, a non-stop solo-race around the world for sailing boats. An extra surprise is the Musée de l’Abbaye Sainte-Croix. Specialized in modern and contemporary art it has lots of works by Victor Brunner and the colourful paintings of Gaston Chaissac.
Puy du Fou
A phenomenon in the Vendée is Puy du Fou. This is a historical and interesting theme family park. In 2012 proclaimed the best theme park in the world. Mind you, it is more than a theme park and you will not find rides or coasters here. One will enjoy several beautiful shows that depict historical periods in the history of the Vendée.
A unique nature reserve in the south of the Vendée is the Marais Poitevin. Entirely man-made as this area was reclaimed from the sea by the Dutch. It consists of polders with many canals that are perfect to be discovered by boats. This area is also very suitable for cycling.
From the south of the Vendée it is possible to do some island hopping. There are four islands to be visited, each of them with its own atmosphere. From the north to the south the four islands are:
- Ile de Noirmoutier, a flat island with the famous Passage du Gois, a road that is under water at high tide. This island can be reached by a short bridge to the mainland. You can also find salt pans and the lovely town of Noirmoutier en Île.
- Ile d’Yeu, an island with rugged cliffs and hills. Only accessible by boat. Calm and beautiful scenery. Ideal to discover walking or cycling and enjoying a picnic with a stunning view.
- Ile de Ré, one of the Charente Maritime, flat and crowded island, popular with tourists. Connected via a (toll) bridge to the beautiful old city of La Rochelle. You will find beautiful places, the lighthouse and salt pans.
- The island of Ile d’Aix (Charente Maritime) can be reached by a short boat trip. It is a tiny island near Fort Boyard. Ideal for exploring on foot, or possibly by bike. Make sure to bring a picnic!
Culinary the Vendée has enough to enjoy, including a private wine, the Fiefs Vendéen, available only in the Vendée. Heart of this wine region is the town Mareuil sur Lay, well worth a visit. This region on France’s Atlantic coast is also famous for its oysters (huitres), mussels (moules) and fruits de mer.
Place to stay: Campsite L’Etournerie
When visiting the Vendée during the summer season it is important to find a quiet place to stay as the coastal area and the city of Les Sables d’Olonne can be quite busy with tourists. The perfect place to avoid all that is camping L’Etournerie. This well run campsite is managed by a Dutch family that decided to follow their dream to go abroad.
The camping is small – only 5 to 6 pitches – and has a proper in ground pool. The campsite is for adults only and loud music and parties are not allowed. In addition to the camping, L’Etournerie has two gites that can be rented all year round and a wooden chalet available for rent from end of April to mid October L’Etournerie is perfectly located in the midst of the farmland, not far from the beaches, at walking distance of the largest lake in the Vendée.
L’Etournerie is also the perfect location to stay if you enjoy walking and want to participate in the 4-day walk in Chantonnay, organized by the International Marching League, held each year in May. The campsite can easily be reached by car since the distance to the Autoroute is a mere 13 kms.
Click here for more information on campsite L’Etournerie and its surroundings »