Western Loire Places To Visit On Holiday

Puy du Fou

Puy de Fou, near Poitiers, Vendee, Western Loire, France

Vendee’s incredible medieval theme park near Les Epesses. 35 hectares of fun for all ages, featuring a 6,000 seat Roman coliseum complete with chariot races, gladiators and lions. Watch stunning battle re-enactments. There is also a massive medieval fort and water theatre.

 A must is a visit after dark to watch the spectacular Cinescenie show.

Pornic

 

This charming, ancient fishing port on the beautiful Cote de Jade - Jade Coast - was once important for trade with Newfoundland; it was even renowned as a pirates' haunt. Nowadays, Pornic is a fine sailing and watersports venue, perfect for exploring the Baie de Bourgneuf and this exceptionally picturesque stretch of coast.

For visitors who prefer to remain ashore, there is much to see and enjoy. A stroll around the medeival quarter will reveal a picturesque, architectural labyrinth plus an ancient market hall (market days are Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday). Pornic has an excellent selection of restaurants and shops where you can seek out specialities such as 'cure Nantais' cheese, artisan beers, strawberry based products and local ceramics. For fresh air and excercise, not only is there an 18 hole golf course but an equestrian centre, bike hire plus coastal path with an array of beaches and coves.  And, to tempt you to linger even longer, Pornic is a well known centre for thalassotherapy and has a full calendar of festivities and guided tours to enjoy its culture and history to the full.

Le Mans

Famous for the 24 hour motor race which has taken over the town each year in June since 1923.

The smaller Bugatti Circuit has racing all year including go-karts and motorcycles. Discover the history of car racing at the Musee de l’Automobile along with a superb collection of cars and a simulated high-speed track.

Le Mans is also lively at other times of the year and has a beautiful old quarter of Renaissance medieval houses - ‘Vieux Man’. Visit Gothic Cathedrale St-Julien and Roman remains near the river.

Situated between Normandy and the Loire Valley, the journey to Le Mans is only just over 2 hours by motorway from Caen’s ferry port of Ouistreham.

Saumur

Extending across both banks of the River Loire, Samur is the ideal base for discovering ancient troglodyte houses carved from the local limestone (tufa) cliffs.

Long tunnels hewn in the tufa are used to mature the sparkling wine for which Saumur is renowned and to cultivate mushrooms. The Musee du Champignon (mushroom museum) offers guided tours.

Visit the Chateau de Saumur, once under English control and a fortress since the eleventh century; the distinctive towers were added later. It houses a decorative arts museum and Musee du Cheval (Horse Museum) reflecting its association with the elite cavalry school based here.

Nearby St-Hilaire-St-Florent stages wonderful riding displays by skilled army horsemen.

Angers

The ancient capital of Anjou, Angers on the River Maine is the gateway to the Western Loire Valley and also birthplace of the House of Plantagenet.

Chateau d’Angers dominates the town, a must to visit for its fine views of the city and magnificent ‘Apocalypse Tapestry’ woven in the fourteenth century. Parts of the original 70 large panels were used as blankets and doormats in the French revolution but amazingly a great deal survived.

The old town is rich with museums, cafes and elegant shops. Around the river is a district known for its nurseries and market gardens, growing early vegetables, fruit and flowers.

The popular orange liqueur - Cointreau - is only distilled in Angers and the surrounding district. Tour the distillery set up by Adolphe Cointreau in 1849 but note, photography is restricted - the recipe is still a family secret!

Les Sables d’Olonne

The smart resort of Les-Sables-d’Olonne has shops, markets and regular regattas. On Sunday 11 November 2012 at 1400, sailing enthusiasts can see the start of the notorious Vendee Globe Challenge which begins every 4 years from the Port Olona Marina.

Long stretches of fine sand, golf course, casino and the marina which has berths for over 1,000 vessels make this a popular resort year-round.

Ile de Noirmoutier

Linked to the mainland by a toll bridge, you’ll find sandy beaches, pine and oak forests alongside working salt marshes, fishing and farming.

Tourist offices can provide walking and cycle routes through the oak and pine forests where the island’s emblem, the mimosa, flowers in the heart of winter.

Look for rare sea pinks and purple wallflowers along the fragile dunes and see protected birds at the Mullembourg Marsh Nature Reserve - open 1100 - 1230 and 1730 - 1900 in summer for guided tours.

Watch salt gatherers on the road from Noirmoutier to l’Epine. The island has several marinas and sailing schools and sailing trips in old fishing boats are popular with tourists. There is a twelfth century castle, Romanesque church and excellent market in the town of Noirmoutier.

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