Mention the department of the Vendee to most visitors to France and they will probably think of the 100 mile stretch of glorious sandy beaches facing the Atlantic tides.
The smart resort of Les-Sables-d’Olonne has shops, markets and regular regattas.
In November 2012, sailing enthusiasts can see the start of the notorious Vendee Globe Challenge which begins every 4 years from the Port Olona Marina.
Along the coast, parents can relax at St Jean-de-Monts with its beach clubs and life guards and St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie is the place to buy fresh sardines for a barbecue treat.
Leave your car and catch a ferry to Ile d’Yeu to explore its rocky coves and lively fishing port of Port Jonville or use the toll bridge to larger Ile de Noirmoutier where tourism takes its place alongside working salt marshes, fishing and farming.
Inland, the bocage countryside of the Vendee paints a different but equally attractive picture. A rolling plain gives way to wooded hillsides, rooted in the same granite foundations as those of Brittany, and here Vendee’s incredible medieval theme park can be discovered.
Puy du Fou near Les Epesses has 35 hectares of fun for all ages including stunning battle re-enactments. Less active history lovers will enjoy museums and memorials in nearby Cholet and also Challans detailing events from the notorious eighteenth century royalist uprising following the French Revolution.
For lazy days by the river, visit the canal-crossed marshlands in southern Vendee - part of the Marais Poitevin or ‘Green Venice’. Hire bicycles or a punt to explore this incredibly peaceful paradise of fauna, flora and bird life, stopping to picnic on local charcuterie, Noirmoutier new potatoes and brioche Vendeene, under a canopy of poplars and oak.