ANGELA BIRD'S

 

 

The
Vendée 

 

 



 

 

Vcover2011small.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

The 2011 edition of the guidebook is now on sale in the UK and in France. 

 

In case it is helpful, I give below some of the attractions that did not make it into the new 2011 book, either for reasons of space, or because they are very recent.

 

I shall be updating this page as new attractions open, or if old ones should close.

 

Click here to order a copy
of The Vendée from Amazon!

 

 

Note that entries in this section have not all been checked out as thoroughly as those appearing in the book. Opening hours and admission charges where given are not guaranteed.

 

GENERAL

 

MEDICAL TREATMENT
Note that now it is no longer the E111 form that is required for reciprocal medical treatment, but a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
You can order this from the Post Office in the UK, or through the NHS website

Note, there are other sites that offer to obtain the EHIC for you, for a fee.  This is not necessary.  Using the NHS link above, the EHIC is free of charge.  Check the expiry date regularly on your card; unlike the old paper-based E111, the EHIC cards are not valid indefinitely.

 

MOTORING
It is now compulsory to carry a high-visibility vest INSIDE the car (not in the boot), while driving in France.  It is also compulsory to carry a warning triangle in case of breakdown.
UK credit cards with microchip do now usually work in French unmanned petrol pumps – though best to try yours out for the first time at a garage when there are staff on duty, just in case it doesn’t!

 

 

In the book I have divided the Vendée and surrounding area
into six sections, running anticlockwise

Abbreviations used:
HHH=wheenchair access;

 LLL=open long season; MMM=open spring to autumn; SSS=open July/August

 

1 St-Jean-de-Monts, Challans, St-Gilles, plus islands of Noirmoutier and Yeu

BEAUVOIR-SUR-MER
A statue of St Philbert, by Vendean sculptor Arthur Guéniot, stands in a square near the church.

 

BOUIN
Champ des Fusillés  A sombre monument on the D21, some 2km south-east of Bouin, marks the place where 33 of the inhabitants looked their last across the marshland one January day in 1794, before being shot by Republicans. LLL HHH
Parc Éolien  There is no missing the eight 62-metre-high masts of Bouin’s wind farm, topped by their 40m blades. Installed in a windy spot just north of Port du Bec, the turbines have an output of 19.5 megawatts, providing electricity for 20,000 homes. Panels on a small building about halfway along explain these and other facts–such as that the 55dB noise output is the equivalent of a “quiet house interior”. LLL HHH Port du Bec.

 

CHALLANS

Église St Martin de la Rive  The town's imposing, neo-gothic 19th-century church–strangely, divorced from its bell-tower, which stands opposite in a leafy square on the site of an earlier church–contains two magnificent rose windows, a 13-metre-high modern pipe organ installed in 2003, and a chemin de la croix, or Stations of the Cross, composed of life-sized, snowy-white statues that won for their creator (Maison Beau, of Nantes) a first prize at the great Paris Exhibition of 1900.  There is a fantastic, modern, 20m-high organ, too. LLL Mass: Sat 7pm, Sun 11am. Place des Marronniers.
Auberge Louis XIII  Just to the west of the post office, on Rue Carnot, stands one of the oldest buildings in Challans, a 16th-century inn under whose ancient beams you can still take refreshment. Across the street, and slightly nearer to the town centre, is another venerable house–the Maison Louis XIII–where the French king is said to have spent the night of 14 April 1622 before his victory over Protestant forces in the marshland of St-Hilaire-de-Riez. Rue Carnot. LLL

La Trocante  Large junk shop off the Rue de Nantes. Tues-Sat 10-12 & 2-7.

 

COMMEQUIERS
Tanneur.
I read in 2006 that the tanner, Monsieur Bruno Bocquier, will soon be retiring, so this workshop and retail shop may be closing down in the not-too-distant future.  It was still going in 2011!

 

LA GARNACHE
In the church are some colourful Stations of the Cross in 19th-century mosaics, and a wooden figure of Christ, carved in 1938 by Vendean sculptor Arthur Guéniot.

 

NOIRMOUTIER
The Musée de la Construction Navale has had to close its doors and undergo major refurbishment to meet present-day safety norms. It won’t be open again till at least 2012.

 

NOTRE-DAME-DE-RIEZ

Église de Notre-Dame-de-Riez  The church of this little village 5km north-east of St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie is proud of a gilded ostensoir, or monstrance, donated in 1622 by King Louis XIII after his victory nearby over the Protestants. Although the treasure itself is not on display, you can see it depicted in a painting by local artist Henry Simon. If you should pass this way in January, be sure to drop in for a look at the church's Vendean-style Christmas crib. LLL

 

ST-CHRISTOPHE-DU-LIGNERON
Market: St Christophe now has a Saturday-morning market, behind the church.

ST GILLES-CROIX-DE-VIE
Noce maraîchine  Wedding feasts (and other themed evenings) staged each week in a barn/restaurant 9km north-east of St-Gilles, with food, dancing and lively entertainment in the traditional style of the surrounding marshland communities. Book your place in advance; it’s more fun to go with a group of friends, and you will share a table with other "guests", just like you would at the real thing. You need to be robust enough to cope with local dishes like calf's head and ox tongue, and be prepared to participate in the energetic dancing.
Feb-Dec. Fri 8.30pm-2am. About 43€ (includes wine). Le Pouct'on, Le Pas Opton, Le Fenouiller (tel: 02 51 54 00 42). www.lepoucton.fr/

 

ST-HILAIRE-DE-RIEZ
Fun Drive Quad. Adults and children can try driving quad bikes of all sizes on this sandy track in the dunes close to Atlantic Tobbogan. Avenue des Becs (tel: 06 10 66 12 67).

 

ST JEAN DE MONTS
Minigolf Le Marais. Two 18-hole courses, one themed on the life in the surrounding marshland, and the other based around characters from the Lucky Luke cartoon series, very popular with the French. SSS   Daily from 11am. 64 Rue Notre-Dame-de-Monts, on D38 (tel: 02 51 59 28 83). side of town.

Euro-Quad
DOREEN MUNDEN WRITES: This is a very well run place. The couple of times one of our boys came off the track, someone was there within minutes to help them.   They have separate tracks for children and adults and various strengths of quad-bikes.   My three teenagers had 125cc bikes which cost 24 euros for 20 mins (2008).   The little kids looked really cute on their mini-quads! On the St. Jean to Notre Dame coast road - 7km from St. Jean & 2km from Notre Dame (tel: 0688058403).  

 

 

2 Les Sables, Talmont, La Roche-sur-Yon area

L'AIGUILLON-SUR-VIE
Attractive village slightly off the beaten track, 8km south-east of St-Gilles, strung along the D32 north-west of La Chaize-Giraud.
Festivals: Village gaulois (a real Astérix atmosphere), third Sunday of July.
Foire aux Pinceaux (painting festival), second Sunday of August.

 

OLONNE-SUR-MER
Menhirs les Pierres Jumelles.
Two large prehistoric standing-stones lurk on the left of the lane between the Pierre-Levée château and the golf club.

 

LE POIRÉ-SUR-VIE
Grotte de Lourdes. If you take the road downhill, signposted to La Genétouze, you pass on the right an impressive grotto, created in 1934.

 

POIROUX
Lac de Finfarine.
Signposted off the D70, just south of the village, the edge of this lake is a peaceful spot for a picnic.

 

ST-REVEREND
Eglise de St-Reverend 
The village church holds a permament exhibiton of “treasure”, ecclesiastical plate, a reliquary, and two bronze bells from the former church here. Daily 9am-5pm. (tel: 02 51 54 61 11)

 

3 La Tranche, Luçon, Green Venice area

L'AIGUILLON-SUR-MER
Festival:
Courses des Baleinières (whaling-boat races), mid-July and mid-August.

 

ARÇAIS
Bicyclette Verte.
Rental bikes are sold off in September.

 

CHAILLÉ-LES-MARAIS
Ilot de Chaillezay. Behind the post office a narrow lane leads to a picnic spot from which you can walk to a mysterious mound, the site of a castle but now empty except for twisted yews and clumps of butchers' broom. Climb to the top for a wonderful view over the flat marshland.

4 Fontenay, La Chataigneraie, Pouzauges

FONTENAY-LE-COMTE
Factory shops
: Telor Tissus, fabrics for dressmaking and soft furnishing. Mon, Wed, Fri 2-6.30pm. Zone Industrielle, Route de Niort, Fontenay (tel: 02 51 69 70 71).

 

 

 

 

File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0

Photograph by Angela Bird

Horo-Quartz factory: A futuristic building, alongside the old main road leading south-east out of Fontenay, designed by an artist for a manufacturing company. Open occasionally on Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage weekend) in September, it is nonetheless easily visible from the road.

 

 

LONGÈVES
Musée Belliard  
A small museum devoted to Augustin Daniel Belliard, one of Napoleon’s most loyal generals. Belliard’s career includes posts as Governor of Cairo and of Madrid, and French ambassador in Brussels. He was also instrumental in developing agriculture in the Vendé after the Vendée Wars. The museum is located in Belliard’s former house, which is now the Mairie of this little village 2.5km to the NW Fontenay-le-Comte. It may be visited during the opening hours of the Mairie.

 

MERVENT
Château de Mervent  
Work is under way to reveal the old walls of the ancient fortress that once dominated the Mervent countryside.

 


5
Clisson, Montaigu, Puy du Fou area

MONTAIGU
Chateau de la Sénardière.
The undergrowth has been cleared to reveal the ruins of two sturdy towers, once part of a castle 2km west of Montaigu, just south of the D753.

 

ROCHESERVIERE
Pierre-aux-Lutins. Just off the D7 south-east of the town is a picnic spot beside the Boulogne river. You can see a cave with an altar inside and, nearby, a large piece of rock known as the Goblins' Stone.

 

ST LAURENT-SUR-SEVRE
Parc de la Barbinière.
Large park on the wooded slopes above the meandering river, just to the west of the town. Little islands dot the water, and by the bank is a restored watermill (however, although the wheel turns picturesquely, there is nothing worthy of visit inside). On summer afternoons you can see the Les Épesses-to-Mortagne steam train puff over the viaduct.
Illuminations on the A87   The viaduct of Barbin, that takes the steam-train across the Sèvre river, is magically illuminated at night.

 

SALIGNY
Village 21km south-west of Montaigu: a clue to its claim to fame is the concrete wheelbarrow outside the Mairie.
Festival: Saligny hosts each year, on 15 August, a wheelbarrow race, or course des brouettes, for which hundreds of contestants - teams from all over the world - dress up in crazy costumes and compete for more than £1,000 prize money.

 

 

6 Loire-Atlantique: Nantes, Clisson, Muscadet country, and Bay of Bourgneuf

LA BERNERIE-EN-RETZ
Panorama
. If you take the D97 north of Moutiers-en-Retz towards the somewhat more strident resort of La Bernerie, you get a wonderful view over the Bay of Bourgneuf from Crève-Coeur cliff, just beyond the village centre. On the seafront are some cannons retrieved from the wreck of the Juste, a French warship sunk by the English off Le Croisic in 1759.

 

CHÉMERÉ
Village 10km east of Pornic.
Festivals: Christ-Roi, passion play performed by local actors, in the theatre of Sainte-Pazanne, 8km south-east of Chémeré, Feb-April.
Forêt de Princé. About 2km north-east of the village, if you turn left off the D66, you find yourself in a wooded area with a sinister past. Many children from the surrounding area were abducted by the evil Gilles de Rais in the 15th century; anyone who goes seven times on a moonless night around the menhir on the left near the junction is supposed to glimpse Hell; a little farther along the forest road, some 2,000 people massacred in these woods between 1793 and 1796 are commemorated by a tall monument.
Les Iles Enchantées  Woodland garden is now rather unkempt and forlorn.  Probably not worth a visit.

 

CORCOUÉ-SUR-LOGNE
The Logne river winds alongside the road on the south side of this quiet village, 28km south of Nantes. The evil Gilles de Rais owned a castle at nearby La Bénate.
Grissauland. Serious karting and off-road centre 3km south of the village.

 

LE LOROUX-BOTTEREAU
A hilltop village 18km east of Nantes, overlooking miles of Muscadet vineyards (ask at the tourist office for a map of some 35 producers in the area). Outside the cathedral-sized church, a monument commemorates 4,500 Lorousains (as the inhabitants are known) who died during the 18th-century Vendée wars.
Église de St-Jean-Baptiste. On the north wall of the church, beneath an 18th-century bas-relief of Moses and the Israelites, are a pair of frescoes rescued from an earlier church in the village. Dating from around 1200, they are thought to show episodes from the life of St Giles - a Greek who settled in France in the area of Nîmes. The top one, a hunting scene, recalls the legend of King Flavius of the Goths, who tried to shoot a deer that was under the saint's protection; the lower one is said to depict St Giles receiving from the Emperor Charlemagne the confession that he had made his own sister pregnant - on the left of the picture the girl, Gisèle, is being married off to a nobleman. Look out, too, for a 1926 wall-painting depicting a dying soldier of World War I, who sees scenes from his village flashing before him. You can climb to the top of the tower for a superb view over the surrounding vineyards (key obtainable from the tourist office).
Festivals: Brocante market, Place Rosmadec, second Sunday of the month.

 

LE PALLET
Chapelle Ste-Anne.
Romanesque chapel on the site of Abélard's castle; nearby is a fine view over the Sèvre Nantaise river.
Monnières church. In the village on the opposite side of the river, the importance of local Muscadet production can be seen in the depictions of vines and wine in the modern stained-glass windows that decorate the 15th-century church.

 

ST-BREVIN-LES-PINS
Forêt de la Pierre Attelée.
Unspoilt area of pine and holm-oak forest just inland from the Plage de la Roussellière, which gets its name from a large menhir located on the south side. A farmer is said to have harnessed (attelé) his oxen to the stone and tried - but failed - to pull it out. The oxen mysteriously died within 12 months, and their owner a year later. Paths are laid out to prevent walkers from trampling the fragile dunes, and plans are afoot to convert a former holiday centre into a Maison de la Nature, to explain the local flora.

 

© Angela Bird

 

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