17th-century country house, famous as the place where the Vendée Wars came to
an end with the capture of General Charette in 1796. Plenty to look at on
your way around the house, garden and multi-media Vendée Wars trail. Wed-Mon
10am-6pm. Tel: 02 51 42 81 00. Closed last three weeks in January.
Large shopping centre along the Route de
Nantes, to the north of La Roche-sur-Yon. Ideal place for DIY shopping; and,
unusually, most of the shops are open over lunchtime (McDonald's fans can
tuck into their favourite dishes at a burger house on the edge of the car
PASSAGE DU GOIS
The causeway, an undersea road leading to Noirmoutier
island, is a favourite at any time of year, but in winter you may find yours
is the only car in sight. Check out the tide tables ("horaires des
marées"), and cross only an hour before or an hour after "marée
basse", or low tide.
Guided tours of a lovely little museum of local life and
customs at the centre of this peaceful village, in the shadow of an imposing castle
keep. (There’s a good restaurant, too: the Auberge du Donjon.) Museum open Sunday 2-6pm throughout
winter. Tel: 02 5151 25 19.
Delightful village with two major attractions: the
birthplace - a typically furnished middle-class home - of the great Second
World War leader Jean de Lattre de Tassigny; and, in the former Mairie, a
museum comparing and contrasting de Lattre with Mouilleron's other famous
son, Georges Clemenceau (the fiery politician, who signed the peace treaty
with Germany at the end of the First World War). Wed-Mon 10am-noon &
2-5pm. Tel: 02 51 00 31 49. Enquire for both birthplace and museum at the De
South of Chaillé-sous-les-Ormeaux, follow signs to a
"gite d'étape" near the banks of the river Yon, then walk down a
track to the waterside and take an energetic ramble along the picturesque
riverbank to the right; the swirling, tree-filled river is studded with
crumbling vestiges of watermills.
On the eastern fringe of Aizenay forest (take the D948
towards La Roche, turn off following signs to La Genétouze on to the D4). A
memorial commemorates five of the 10-strong US bomber crew who died when
their Flying Fortress crashed into a field (now encroached on by the forest)
in March 1944. Among the trees you'll find, on modern aluminium shards, the
tale of the five survivors - two of whom escaped to Spain - and a
water-filled crater at the spot where the fuselage hit the ground.
Good sightings of migrating birds in the winter months on
coast and at inland reserves. Noirmoutier, on causeway and at Marais de
Mullembourg; Ile d'Olonne observatory, near Les Sables d'Olonne, open first
Sunday of month 2-6pm (tel: 02 51 33 12 97); L'Anse de l'Aiguillon,
L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer; Les Landes Genusson, near Les Herbiers (tel: 02 51 91 72
Winter is an excellent time to visit this city, only about
an hour's drive north of the Vendée (or why not take the train?). Go between
Wednesday and Saturday - too many shops close on Monday, and the museums are
often shut on Tuesdays. Poshest shopping streets are Rue Crébillon and Rue du
Calvaire, but look out for an incredible fabric emporium called Toto and, of
course, the town's branch of Galeries Lafayette.
A great seaside centre at any time of year, but in winter
you may have the vast beach to yourself. Unlike most nearby resorts, it's
still buzzing with life, and you'll find plenty of bars, cafés and
restaurants to provide a pleasant refuge from the cold.