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A Place to Relax

The Vendee is a sun-soaked department alongside the Bay of Biscay. It is mainly agricultural, as Cider apples and fish are its chief exports. There are a number of resorts up and down the sandy coast, although if you explore a bit, you will find some more secluded beaches to relax on, commonly with a backdrop of pine trees.

Peasant Uprising

In 1793, a bloody insurrection began here, taking its name from the department. The peasants decided to fight back against the revolution when they realised it would not be respectful of the Catholic Church. It lasted only three years. A plan to move north and sweep round into Paris, while picking up fellow fighters along the way, was abruptly ended in Nantes.

A New Capital

In an attempt to prevent any further uprisings, the military stronghold of La Roche-Sur-Yon was built completely from scratch in 1804. It is situated on a plateau with fantastic views over the River Yon below. The town layout was clearly designed with the army in mind. The streets criss-cross in a grid pattern with a large square, designed to fit 20,000 soldiers, in it's centre. A wide assortment of neo-classical buildings line the outside. Round the corner, the town's museum is home to vast collections of archaeological finds as well as 19th Century and contemporary art.

Along the 'coast of light'

Les Sables-d'Olonne is a synonym for seaside holidays to the French. It is found along the Cote de la Lumiere and has a large, curved beach that stretches for 3km. Around this, there are a number of bars a casino and both a commercial port and a marina. Every four years a challenging boat race called the Vendee Globe sets out from here.

Leaving the Mainland

There are two main islands worth visiting. The first is the larger Ile de Noirmoutier, whose sandy beaches are surprisingly peaceful. In the past access was restricted to low tide but now there is a bridge connecting it with the mainland. It is 18 km long but only 2km wide. The town of Noirmoutier is located in the very north and has a splendid 12th Century chateaux, which is worth visiting.

Peaceful Paradise

The second island is not only smaller, but also considerably further out. There are boat services making the journey there from St-Gilles-Croix-de-Ville and Fromentine. The main economy is fishing and tourism, although the beaches are still incredibly quiet.

The 'Green Venice'

The 'Marais', the most impressive and beautiful marsh in France, is to be found near the River Sevre, just to the south of Vouvant. Here, the locals still use flat-bottomed boats and a poll to traverse this unusual landscape. You can hire one out on arrival, although you'll probably need a guide as well to show you around this mysterious waterworld. Nearby, you'll find farms for oysters and mussels, while in the forests you'll discover even more gems, including numerous ancient buildings and a number of pre-historic standing stones.

How to get there

To get there by air you can fly to Nantes or La Rochelle. Poitiers airport is another option. If you'd rather travel by land then the TGV trains are recommended. They have stops in Angers, Nantes, Poitiers and La Rochelle. Eurolines also offer a coach service from Paris, which stops in La Roche-Sur-Yon.

Vendée property prices

The region as a whole has a healthy market due to the rise in budget airlines and the saturation of more northward regions such as Brittany. Les Sables d'Olonne and La Roche-Sur-Yon are both excellent destinations for families. Prices near to the coast are being pushed up by a rise in interest from Parisian buyers.

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