ANGELA BIRD'S

 

 

The
Vendée 

 

 

 

 

 

PRACTICAL DETAILS ABOUT THE VENDEE

Check this section out for:
Camping / Cottages / Hotels
and B&Bs / Money / Telephoning / Maps

 

 

 


WHERE TO STAY

 



 

MCj02999490000[1]

 

 

CAMPING

 

 

The Vendée has almost 400 classified camp sites, plus numerous "campings à la ferme" - small sites (see Gîtes de France Vendée web pages) on working farms - for the independent camper, where children can often play in the fields or help to feed the animals.

Many British companies offer luxury camping in mobile homes or ready-erected tents at four-star sites both on the coast and inland, backed up by the services of cheerful couriers.
Prominent among these are:

 


Eurocamp

Canvas

Carisma

 

Keycamp

EuroSites

Matthews

 

 

 

 

Siblu


 

I-Spy Camping is a site on which you can make price comparisons at sites across Europe. 
This link takes you to look at sites in the Vendee

 

 

 

 


Camping France Direct is another company that offers a range of upmarket camping holidays (and has a very well laid-out website!).

Le Pas Opton is a four-star site near the attractive resort of St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie. It is owned by Spring Harvest, a British company with a strong Christian ethic.

Peter and Shelagh McClearns run the attractive Val de Vie campsite in a tranquil setting above the lake at Maché, just 12 miles from the coast (tel/fax: +33 (0) 2 51 60 21 02).

* Other useful links for campers and caravanners
Alan Rogers' Good Camps Guide - this link leads to the Alan Rogers site where you can order this popular campsite directory.
The Camping and Caravanning Club
The Caravan Club has a useful page of advice for would-be overseas caravanners, with downloadable leaflets.
Go Caravanning - has a useful site directory (click on Site Directory in left-hand column, then look on the main panel for the word France, then click on Western France for Vendée sites)
UK Campsite has a good forum for foreign camping, with experienced users offering a wealth of advice.
Holiday Vendée - an English welcome to mobile homes at seaside locations near St-Jean-de-Monts.
Voilà is a French search engine. Type into the slot the two words
vendee and camping, click on the word "trouver" and among the pages that come up are many of the region's campsites.


 

 

 





COTTAGES

 

 

 


See below, or click
here for a separate page on accommodation around the Vendée.


Holiday cottages can be rented through the Gîtes de France organisation (Vendée office tel: +33 (0)2 51 37 87 87; fax: +33 (0)2 51 62 15 19) - you can order the current Vendée directory on-line, by credit card. Another well-known rental organisation in France is Clévacances.
Among British organisations that also offer self-catering accommodation are Brittany Ferries and Chez Nous.
Or visit Holiday Vendee for properties in the north-west Vendee, Vendee Gites for a selection of rental property throughout the Vendée area, and Holiday Home Pages for a comprehensive list of companies offering houses of all types. Or visit Roland Oziel’s site vendee.biz for a large selection of holiday accommodation.
For the South Vendée, the Mélusine Accueil association offers accommodation in gites and B&Bs.
For a selection of some other attractive properties for rental, click here.

There’s a wealth of tourism information, as well as some delectable gites for rent, at the Holidays in Vendée website.

If you're hoping to bring any pets with you from the UK, make sure (a) that the property you are intending to rent will agree to accept animals, and (b) that you comply with the strict regulations laid down by the UK's DEFRA . It is particularly important to note that you have to start the whole process at least 6  months in advance.
Don't forget that dogs are not allowed on town beaches during the summer months, and that they are sometimes also banned from more out-of-the-way ones.


 
Renting a French-owned house ?
In a French-owned house, you may find a few of the things supplied are a bit different from what you expect.
There may be no electric kettle (though these are becoming more common in French homes), in which case you can boil water in a saucepan, of course.
You may find dainty cups rather than mugs for tea or coffee. Hearty breakfasters in France tend to use a ceramic bowl for coffee and hot chocolate, and drink out of that instead.
If you're puzzled by an excess of what appear to be tablespoons, note that the French use these for soup, cereals etc rather than soup spoons or dessert spoons.
Beds may be supplied with bolsters rather than pillows; standard French practice for covering these is to lay the bolster on top of the bottom sheet, and then curl the sheet forwards over it before tucking the sides in tightly. If there are pillows, then they will probably be of the square rather than the familiar rectangular British variety.

*         Thinking of buying a house of your own ?
 Fluent-English-speaking Frenchwoman Sandra Joyau helps people to find houses, schools etc. She can also troubleshoot on clients’ behalf in dealings with everything from builders to the byzantine French administration system, and is prepared to give lessons in French cookery and culture in the Challans area. Sandra has been an expatriate herself – so knows what it’s like to live in a foreign land. Visit her Okeydoc website for more information and contact details.

Here are some pages for the notaires' office in Challans, where you can also find some properties for sale. Farther east, a reader has recommended an agent in the Chantonnay/Pouzauges area .
Click here for a list of notaires in the region - they deal with selling property as much as estate agents do.

Or order a copy of the monthly UK-based paper French Property News.

 

 

 

 

 




 

 

 

 


HOTELS AND BED-&-BREAKFASTS

 

HOTELS
There are several family-owned hotels in the area that are part of the Logis de France group.

Among some other delightful independant establishments are:

 

 


...a lovely spot on the island of Noirmoutier, the 3-star Fleur de Sel hotel on the edge of Noirmoutier town.
The most romantic way to approach the island is at low tide, across a 4km-long causeway near Beauvoir-sur-Mer (otherwise there's a bridge to the island, from La Barre-de-Monts, a little farther south).

 


... the peaceful Hotel de l'Antiquité , located in the heart of Challans - a pleasant little town in the north-west Vendée, known for its fantastic Tuesday-morning market.
As the hotel's name implies, the place is furnished largely with cherished antiques; it also has an outdoor pool.






The Domaine de Brandois, near La Mothe-Achard, opened in 2007.  Stunning modern interior decor for this 3-star hotel in a small 19th-century chaâteau. Check out the website for pictures of the rooms and the rural setting.  3-star rooms from 90€ per night; menus 35€. (Member of Châteaux et Hotels de France)
.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BED AND BREAKFAST
Bed-and-breakfasts (chambres d'hôtes) are carefully graded with between one and four "épis" (ears of wheat) by the Gîtes de France organisation (tel: +33 (0)2 51 37 87 87; fax: +33 (0)2 51 62 15 19), or according to the number of "clés" (keys) by CléVacances.

 

Chantal and Jacqueline Grolleau have eight attractive B&B rooms in a comfortably converted barn, in a rural setting between Chantonnay and Pouzauges, and conveniently located for the Puy-du-Fou. With shared pool and pretty garden.

 

 


 
For added style, try bed-and-breakfast in one of the region's historic, family-owned châteaux.

Château de la Verie, nr Challans;
Castel du Verger, St-Christophe-du-Ligneron (tel: 02 51 93 04 14/fax: 02 51 93 10 62);
Château de la Millière, St-Mathurin, near Les Sables-d'Olonne (tel/fax: 02 51 22 73 29);
Logis de la Cornelière - a beautiful web site for an elegant house on the edge of Mervent forest (tel: 02 51 00 29 25);
Manoir de Ponsay, nr Chantonnay;
Château de la Cressonière, Cezais, near La Chataigneraie (tel: 05 49 59 77 14);
Château de la Cacaudière, Thouarsais-Bouildroux; near La Chataigneraie (tel: 02 51 51 59 27/fax: 02 51 51 30 61);
Château du Boisniard, Chambretaud, near Les Herbiers;
Le Château de l’Abbaye, Moreilles, near Fontenay-le-Comte (tel: 02 51 56 17 56/fax: 02 51 56 30 30);
Château de La Flocellière, nr Pouzauges (tel: 02 51 57 22 03/fax: 02 51 57 75 21);
Château du Breuil, St-Denis-la-Chevasse, near La Roche-sur-Yon (tel/fax: 02 51 41 40 14).

 

  French a bit rusty?
Why not ease the language problem by staying with a British family? See suggestions below...

 

 

 

 





At La Frelonnière, near Chantonnay, Richard and Julie Deslandes have two lovely first-floor B&B rooms in a wing of their beautifully-restored 18th-century farmhouse. Guests can use the open-air pool in the grounds, which overlook the rolling bocage countryside and take breakfast on summer mornings in the pretty knot garden. Julie also offers evening meals, by prior arrangement.
La Frelonnière is graded “3 clés” (3 keys) by the Clévacances organisation.

La Fraternité, left, is a working farm and B&B located near Apremont and Aizenay. It's run by Ian and Janty Pike, a charming English couple who offer a couple of super first-floor rooms, both with immaculate en-suite facilities, beneath the beamed roof of their traditional Vendean family farmhouse. May aso be rented as a self-contained apartment. Open year-round. Tel: +33 (0)2 51 55 42 58 .
 

Or - if you are looking for somewhere outside the Vendée, yet within reach of the picturesque Marais Poitevin - why not try an old watermill? Jason and Marie-Laure Satterthwaite offer B&B at the Moulin Lacombe, 28km south-east of Niort and just to the south of Melle.

 

 


OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION




 


ACCESSIBILITY

 

 

Here’s a useful link to the site for the town of Moutiers les Mauxfaits, where a local British resident has compiled a list of tourist attractions, restaurants and some hotels that are accessible to wheelchairs, noting also whether they have WC facilities for the disabled.  Mr Hubbard also lists beaches that have “tiralos”, a kind of beach buggy on which a person can by pushed into the sea to “swim”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DRIVING

 

NEW RULE FOR MOTORISTS

Since 1 July 2008 it is compulsory for any vehicle being driven in France
to be equipped with a warning triangle, to be placed
30 metres behind the immobilised vehicle after a breakdown.
Emergency flashing lights must also be used.
The law also requires that there should be at least one high-visibility reflective jacket stored in the passenger compartment of the vehicle (not in the boot), for use by the driver on exiting the immobilsed vehicle.
Here is a link to the official French government website on the matter.
From 1 October 2008 a fine of 135€ will be imposed
for non-possession of these items.

TIP  Buy these items before leaving home!  
The triangle, especially, was impossible to find in the Vendee in July 2008.

 

 

 

INSURANCE

 

 

Good travel insurance is vital for peace of mind on holiday.

Health cover: A good start, if you are ordinarily resident in Britain, is to apply for the FREE European Health Insurance Card (which has replaced the old E111); click here for more information. Application forms are available from most UK post offices, but for speed, you are advised to apply online. Do this several weeks ahead of your journey; it remains valid for several years. You need a separate one for each member of the family.
This covers you for about 80 per cent of medical costs in France (the same as for French nationals), so you will still need to top this up with extra insurance, or pay the difference, and does not include things like repatriation, personal liability, possessions, cancellation costs etc.
Choice of an insurance company is a very personal matter, so it always pays to shop around. (You may even already have cover you did not know about through some special credit-card or bank scheme, and your possessions when travelling may already be covered by your household insurance, so check those first.)
Here is a link to pages of medical vocabulary in different languages.  Print off the French and English versions, and you will have the exactly corresponding phrases in both languages that a doctor might use during a consultation.

Vehicle cover: Most UK insurance companies no longer issue Green Cards - which is a pity, as French police seemed to be reassured by being shown a document that resembled insurance documents issued in France. However, there should be a French phrase printed somewhere on your UK Certificate of Insurance to the effect that you have adequate cover, so you should take that with you and show it instead. You still have to advise your motor insurance company of your dates of travel, even if they no longer issue Green Cards. Again, there are many vehicle breakdown schemes on the market, so shop around for the best package for you.

Hospitals in the area: a newspaper survey of casualty departments (Urgences) in late 2000 showed excellent centres at the hospitals of La Roche-sur-Yon and Cholet (the latter being useful for anyone on the north-east of the département). Nantes or Niort would obviously be a good bet, too for those on the north or the south-east borders of the Vendée, respectively.
Challans and Les Sables-d’Olonne came out well, though both lack intensive-care facilities. Luçon and Fontenay were not investigated (though a correspondent tells me that one of their family had good treatment at Luçon hospital). Montaigu still had casualty facilities, though strictly for small injuries.

Here is a link to the “Urgences” (hospitals with A&E departments) of the Vendée, shown in decreasing order of size (largest first).
If you want to see A&Es in other areas, go to this page and, on the left, on the “Hopital tab, type in the first two figures of the département index (i.e. 85 for Vendee; 79 for Deux-Sèvres; 44 for Loire-Atlantique; 49 for Maine-et-Loire; 17 for Charente-Maritime), and then the word urgences in the second box, and then click on “Rechercher”. A box opens with a map showing the locations of the hospitals, as above.

2005:  After an agonising bout of toothache, Sarni writes:
“As I couldn’t get my local dentist till the Monday, I got in touch with the SAMU emergency medical service (dial 15). There was no emergency dentist,
but they advised me to go to the hospital in Fontenay-le-Comte where I was put on a painkilling drip, then given a prescription for some super strength drugs!
I feel NO pain and I can finally just sit and wait for the dentist to be
open on Monday! Maybe you can put that as advice on your site, because it
certainly helped me and the people at the hospital were lovely. They even
spoke a combination of French and English, which helped me enormously and
would be a benefit to anyone English whose grasp of French isn't the best as
yet!”

 

 

 

 

 


MONEY

 

 

Of course, it's wise to take money in several different forms with you when you go on holiday. On 1 January 2002 France switched to the Euro, so obviously this is the only currency to take now.
NOTE: 2002. Since the advent of the Euro, banks have wound down their foreign exchange desks, and it is now extremely difficult to exchange non-Euro currency (i.e. UK pounds) or foreign-denomination traveller's cheques (i.e. pounds or dollars).
Credit cards are accepted in almost all but the smallest shops and restaurants, and in just about all petrol stations. (Eurocheques are pretty unwelcome anywhere, so forget those.) A word of warning, however. Although many petrol stations bear a sign that boasts 24/24 (i.e. 24-hour service), this is based on inserting into the pump a credit card carrying a "puce", or microchip, as used by the French. Unfortunately, although our newer British ones now have a chip, it’s not compatible with these French petrol machines, so – although you can use it to pay for items face-to-face with the attendant - you won't be able to fill up out of hours when stations are unmanned. Don't let your tank run low at lunchtimes, late at night, or on Sundays.

You may not have realised that your UK cashpoint card - the one you use to extract money from holes in the wall back home - will often work just as well abroad, providing that the machine you use bears a logo similar to the one shown on your card. Just stick your card in - the machine usually recognises that it is British and brings up the instructions in English. Tap in your PIN, and state how much you'd like to take out (withdrawal amounts are usually pre-set choices). If your account back home can stand it, you should have no trouble getting money out, which can be very useful on Mondays or on unexpected bank holidays. Note: there is a charge made for this, which will appear later on your bank statement.

THE EURO
The euro is the currency of France, and of most other European countries.

In early 2010,
1 € (euro) was the equivalent of
89 UK pence.
£1 UK was worth about 1.11€

So calculate roughly £1 to 1€ and you will not be too far out.


Euro notes are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 (this last is worth a whopping £450!).
Euro coins are in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 cents;
and 1 and 2 euros.

The French franc (the currency till January 2002) is no longer accepted in shops or banks.
Travellers’ cheques are not widely accepted either.  With the advent of the euro, most banks have run down their foreign-exchange desks.

So you could either

- simply use your UK cashpoint card in cashpoints bearing the same logo as that on your card (though this involves a transaction fee each time – check with your bank to see whether this is acceptable to you)
or
- use one of the pre-loadable cash cards that are offered by several companies.

  Useful money link
You can see the latest exchange rates here.

 

 

 

 

 

SHOPPING

 

 

The Vendée has plenty of mainstream supermarkets and hypermarkets: Leclerc, Super-U, Intermarché and so forth. Most have websites so you can check out where the nearest one is to the place you are going.
To locate Leclerc stores in the Vendée, visit the Leclerc site, and then enter the figures 85 in the little box called "Département" and click on the word "Rechercher" and you should be taken to a list of the Vendean towns with branches; click on individual names to see maps of where each one is.
To track down Super-U and Hyper-U stores, visit the Système U site , then type 85 in the box marked "Commune", and click on Valider. You'll see a long list on the right, with a link to the next page ("suivant") at the top of the list. You can click on those that interest you to see the maps.
The Intermarché chain is slower setting up a web site, though there is a promise of having one soon if you click here
There is a branch of Géant at Chateau-d'Olonne, between Les Sables d'Olonne and Talmont; branches of Carrefour on the north and south sides of La Roche-sur-Yon and in other towns.
Finally, the branch of Ecomarché at Moutiers-les-Mauxfaits (just north of La Tranche-sur-Mer) has a large section of “English” foods - from stuffing to baked beans, worcester sauce to golden syrup - if you are looking for that elusive British ingredient…

There are also more and more branches of Lidl and Leader-Price, and of Netto (stores that the French call “hard discount” – pronounced “ard-disscoont”)

 

 

 

 

 

TELEPHONING

 

 

Telephoning within France: French telephone numbers now have 10 digits, so if you have an old eight-digit number it needs a prefix. Vendée phone numbers (most starting with 51), Maine-et-Loire (41) and Loire-Atlantique (40) have been prefixed with 02; Deux-Sèvres (49) and Charente-Maritime (46) are prefixed with 05.
Telephoning from another country to France: dial your international code (from UK: 00), then the French country code (33), then a nine-digit number (dropping the initial zero). So to call the Vendée Departmental Tourist Office in La Roche-sur-Yon from Britain, you would dial 00 33 2 51 47 88 22.
To make an call from France to another country, first dial 00, then the country code (UK country code is 44), then the UK number without the initial zero.
To reverse the charges to a UK number from France, call an English-speaking BT operator on 0800 99 00 44.

Mobile phones work well, though if you have not used yours abroad before you may need to check with your supplier whether any further formalities are needed before it will function overseas.
In case you are confused over whether your UK-based handset thinks it's in France or England, we have worked out the following on our own phone:
Outgoing calls:
To dial a French number on your British-bought mobile from within France: Dial just the 10-digit French number.
To dial an English number: Dial as if from a French phone: i.e. 00 44 plus the UK number (minus its initial zero).  NB If you are relying on numbers programmmed into your phone’s memory, be sure that you entered them with the international prefix, otherwise the call will not connect.
Incoming calls:
A person ringing your mobile from within France must treat it as if it was a UK number (in other words he must dial 00 44 first, then your mobile number without the initial zero).
A person ringing your mobile from England must also treat it like a UK number, and just ring it as if ringing you on it back home.
TIP 1:  On a UK-bought mobile, you pay an extra charge to your UK operator on incoming calls while you are in France, so don't encourage people to phone you too often or for too long! Receiving tests is free, and sending them not outrageously expensive, so try and persuade your friends to communicate with you in that way...

TIP 2:  LIN SMIT WRITES
I
've recently bought myself a sim4travel sim card.   It cost about £15 and gives you a UK mobile phone number.   I bought mine through one of the mobile phone shops in High Wycombe and got a £5 credit put on.   Calls aren't that cheap - I think 25p/min. with texts at 25p each, BUT you don't get charged for receiving calls/texts and the rate is pretty universal across the EU.   There is no time limit on the credit, and you top your credit up on-line, using a credit card.   I find this useful because I've usually got access to the internet when I'm away and it saves having to buy whatever top-up cards are available wherever you are.  Information on  www.sim4travel.net.  

 

 

EMAILS

 

If you have your laptop with you, you will find wi-fi hotspots throughout the Vendée, usually adjacent to a tourist office.  You can connect free to check out local tourism information; however any further surfing, collecting emails etc has to be paid for.  This is at the astonishingly reasonable rate of 1 euro for 24 hours’ use – which can be paid online by credit card in a very simple process.

 

Cybercentres are becoming more numerous, si if you do not have your own computer with you, ask the nearest tourist office for a place to check your emails.

Some four-star campsites offer their clients internet facilities, and many hotels and even upmarket gites and B&Bs have free Wi-fi access for guests. It may also be worth trying the "médiathèques" (media libraries) of small towns; some of which do have connexions.
TIP:  If you have not got a facility for “webmail”, and want to check your emails, once online, go to http://www.mail2web.com/ then, when requested to do so, type in your normal e-mail address and password - and wait. After a moment or two you are sent a list of all the mail that is waiting for you, and - while on-line - you can read, save or delete it. (NB You can't open attachments, though.) With mail2web, you can even reply to emails (though you have to stay on-line while doing so). Anything that you do not delete will stay out there in space, ready to appear on your home computer the next time to pick up your emails in your usual way.

TIP:  If you need to look up a French telephone or fax number try the on-line Minitel telephone directory-enquiry service from your computer. Pages Jaunes is of course Yellow Pages (businesses); Pages Blanches is White Pages (residential).

 

 

MAPS

It’s vital to use up-to-date maps for your holiday.  It’s a false economy to try and use 10-year-old maps and road atlases, because so many new motorways and bypasses open each year in France that you will end up thoroughly confused (and bad-tempered!).
There’s also an infuriating recent tendency to re-number motorway exits on certain stretches of route (between Calais and Boulogne, for example, and on a section somewhere between Niort and Bordeaux).  Many non-motorway roads have had their numbers changed, often from “national” N roads to “departmental”, or county roads with a D prefix and a modified number.  You really need a map no older than 2007.  If you are navigating on motorways, keep an eye on the name of the town you want, as well as what you think is the exit number, as the latter just might have been altered.

Most widely available outside France is the yellow-backed Michelin series (1:200,000): Number 316 (Loire-Atlantique/Vendée). It should be available in W.H. Smith, Dillon's, Waterstone's and other good UK bookshops;
Better still, but a bit more expensive, are the IGN (Institut Géographique National) maps. The new “D85” one (1:125,000) covers the entire Vendée – a great improvement on the time when you needed two or three to cover the whole county.
For even greater detail on an area you want to explore in depth, try the IGN blue series (1:25,000). The IGN also produces a red series (1:250,000): No 107 covers Poitou-Charentes, including the Vendée. The IGN green series is sometimes available in good UK bookshops, and may also be found at specialist travel bookshops such as Stanford's, 12-14 Long Acre, London WC2E 9LP (020 7836 1321).
TIP:  If you look up addresses in the French on-line telephone directory (see link in section above), you can also click on a link there and obtain a Google-earth-type view of the terrain, or a plan view.

Sat-nav
And if you feel like splashing out, go for a satellite navigation gadget! I have been using the TomTom ONE Europe, which comes with preloaded maps for Great Britain and other European countries from Andorra to Vatican City. It crosses international borders without a blink. Here’s a link to the latest version.
TIP 1:  Always check the suggested route against a map, in case the sat-nav has chosen a place of the same name that is 300 miles from the one you want...
TIP 2:  Always be wary of very narrow lanes that the sat-nav tries to take you down. I have taken quite a few with grass growing down the middle, and usually ended up at my destination OK, but recently was taken down one that became a very stony track, and my car ended up making horrific clanking noises. A look underneath at the local garage turned up a couple of very large stones wedged in the exhaust system.  So I am being a lot more sceptical of these “short cuts” from now on.
TIP 3:  Always remove the sat-nav from the car when you leave it!   It is as attractive to thieves in any country...

 


| index page |
| activities | beaches | calendar | cottage rental |
|guidebook | guidebook update | history |
| introduction to the vendee | links | markets |
|
practical info | property-owners' pages | restaurants | themed pages | wines |

| mail webmaster by returning to the bottom of the index page |