On 7 July 2018, more than 150 of the world’s best road cyclists will depart from Noirmoutier-en-l’Île in Vendée for the 105th edition of Le Tour de France. The Grand Depart will be an incredible sight, with hundreds of spectators supporting the 22 teams as they begin the challenging 3,329 km race.
Located in the Pays-de-la-Loire region in west-central France, on the Atlantic Ocean, Vendée is home to sweeping sandy beaches, sparkling salt flats and fresh delicious oysters. Because of its position in west-central France, it’s easy to reach: Vendee is less than 90 minutes’ drive from Nantes Atlantique Airport. Although Le Tour de France will entice enthusiastic fans to Vendée, the region has a wide range of interesting activities available that attract visitors to its tranquil shores each year.
Summer France has seven self-catering holiday resorts in Vendée, all well placed to enjoy Le Tour de France and the surrounding area. Bicycles or electric bikes can be hired from three (of the seven) properties, meaning keen guests can cycle part of Le Tour, plus the 1,800 km of cycle ways in the region, easily. And with accommodation prices starting from as little as £47.75 pp per week* this summer, it’s hard to find better value…
Read on to find out about the many vibrant and varied activities in Vendée below…
Discover the Atlantique Oyster Route
With its long coastline, it is no surprise that seafood dishes feature regularly in Vendée. Spread across 80 km of shoreline, 13,000 tonnes (approximately) of oysters are produced each year from the Loire estuary to the Bay of Aiguillon. Head to the Atlantique Oyster Route and learn about these fascinating molluscs. On the tour, farmers will take visitors to the oyster beds, maturing ponds, sheds and buildings and explain how oysters grow and develop, and what makes them so unique. Plus, sample the oysters by grilling them with finely chopped shallots, a knob of butter and freshly-ground pepper. The Oyster Farm is open for visits every Wednesday, at either 10 am or 4 pm, with tours and oyster tasting costing €9.50 pp and lasting an hour.
Visit the incredible Puy du Fou theme park
Forget the 21st century and journey back through time when visiting the phenomenal (and slightly bizarre) Puy du Fou rural theme park. What started as an open-air dramatics night in 1978, when volunteers re-enacted the history of the Vendée, has turned into the second most visited theme park in France, after Disneyland Paris. Puy du Fou is known for its spectacular extravaganza shows when thousands of actors and animals recreate high drama, from Roman gladiators to King Arthur, with mind-blowing special effects. This year, two new stunning innovations can be found: Le Mystère de la Pérouse catapults visitors straight into the adventures of the famous 18thcentury explorer, Jean François de Galaup– a French Naval officer who vanished with his expedition group in Oceania – and Le Café de la Madelon offers a fun and unique dining experience, just imagine a wedding where everything goes wrong… Plus, for the first time, Puy du Fou will remain open through the October half-term holiday. Day tickets cost from €35 per adult and €25 per child.
Explore the Marais Salants
Shaped by humans since the seventh century, the harvest period for ‘white gold’ takes place from mid-June to mid-September every year. However, salt workers keep an eye on their pools during all seasons: in the winter, they make sure the marshes are left under a shallow covering of sea water to protect them from the rain and wind, and in early March, they evacuate the water and clean the curbs and carnations (where the salt will crystallise in the summer). All this work is done with a shovel and involves tough, but careful, manual labour to make sure the sea water will nourish the swamps properly to produce enough salt. When the weather warms up, the salt workers are keen to highlight and explain their work to visitors. Tours cost from €5 per adult and €3 per child (age 6-18). Children under six are free.
Ride a horse though the region
Horse riding is an ideal way of taking in the hidden treasures, diverse landscape and dramatic coastline of Vendée. There are numerous establishments that cater for keen horse riders, whether they are experienced in the sport or fancy a relaxed time with friends and family. With Club Hippique, Havre de Vie, complete beginnings, intermediates, and advanced riders can canter through the forests, learn how to groom and care for the horses and hack through the beautiful countryside. Those more experienced can also gallop along the sweeping beaches and into the shallow sea, weaving in and out of the waves, kicking up sand and spray and enjoying the great outdoors. Sessions cost from €24 per adult and €21 per child (under 10). Half hour shorter promenades are also available for children for €11 pp.
Jump in a kayak and go fishing
Enthusiastic paddlers wanting to learn how to fish, or eager anglers looking for a sporty and ecological approach to the sport should try kayak fishing. Combining modern fishing techniques (soft lures, shads, metal lures/jigs and minnows) with kayaking is very efficient and allows guests to explore the many different eco systems in the ocean. Food from the sea takes pride of place in many restaurants and houses, and aside from the renowned oysters, keen fishermen (and women) will find sardines, sole and bass. After a successful day on the sea, head back to Summer France’s accommodation and enjoy the catches of the day ‘meunière’ style; coated in flour with butter and lemon juice. A day’s kayak-fishing trip, in July and August, costs from €180 pp and includes a fishing and kayak guide passing on technical tips, material hire and a picnic lunch. Adults and children welcome, minimum age 10.
Summer France has seven self-catering holiday resorts in Vendée: from private villas with pools to spacious apartments and houses near golf courses, detached holidays homes near the beaches to seaside villages nestled between the dunes and the forest.
Stay at La Domaine de Vertmarines, whichare located in 16 acres of preserved parkland just minutes from the sandy beach. Guests can enjoy easy access to the shops, bars and restaurants of Saint Jean de Monts, which is known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities. Each self-catered villa (sleeping four to eight people) has its own garden with a private pool; ideal for those wanting to escape the hectic pace of everyday life and for young children learning to swim. Alternatively, Les Mas de St Hilare’s cottages (sleeping up to six people) are situated in the heart of a tranquil 600-acre pine forest, a short walk from the sea. Each villa comes with a private garden, giving guests the chance to relax after an active day in the region. Plus, there are two communal pools, one of which is specifically for children, meaning kids can play and make friends while the adults chill nearby.
Leave the car and make the most of the beautiful surroundings by bike (which can be hired at three, of Summer France’s seven, properties). Pedal to the coast, roll past the fishing ports and cycle to one of the many restaurants serving delicious local produce for a bite to eat.
Summer France’s self-catering accommodations give guests the flexibility of dining in or out at whatever time takes their fancy and gives them freedom to explore Vendée. In addition, visitors can enjoy flexible arrivals and stays, allowing them to save money and time on flights and transfers. And all accommodations allow pets (for an additional cost of €25 per week), meaning visitors need not organise kennels or catteries for their fluffy companion(s).
Prices start from £47.75 pp this summer (for a one-bedroom apartment sleeping four at Les Appartements de Fontenelles). Summer France can also help book and give advice on the many activities in the local area.
For more information about these properties, visit: www.summerfrance.co.uk/holiday-rentals/france/vendee/
*A week’s stay, at Les Appartements de Fontenelles, during summer 2018, costs from £47.75 pp (£191 total) for a one-bedroom apartment sleeping four people.
For more information, visit www.summerfrance.co.uk or call 0203 475 4756.