What is there to do in The Vendée? (Part 1) - Al Fresco Holidays
I thought I’d write a bit of a blog about our (my husband and myself) experiences of the Vendée. You never know – you might find something useful in it that you didn’t know.
When our children were little, we spent a few 2-week holidays in The Vendée. We love the scenery of Brittany, and the climate of the Med, but found the distance and the weather of The Vendée to be very good with young children. The long, sandy, safe beaches are ideal for sand-pies and paddling. More recently, however, we worked as there as campsite reps. As Francophiles, we had expressed no preference for an area, but suddenly we weren’t so sure about spending the summer there. Yes, we had enjoyed fortnight holidays, a glass of rosé in our hands accompanied by Camembert etc, while the children played merrily with their new-found friends. But 3 months? – as a “more mature”, not-beachy couple?
Thankfully, our worries proved unfounded. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience, and found many things that you don’t discover on a short holiday. I’m hoping that it might give you a few ideas so you are better prepared. Of course cost tends to be an issue, especially with a family – and also as a rep! So there are varied activities here. As I’ve been writing this, I’ve jumped back to here to tell you I’ve realised I have far too much to say (OK, I get told that quite often) and I don’t have time to do it in one go. So, please bear with me and I’ll do it in shorter spurts.
1) Cycling through the forests and along the coast. If you can take your own bikes, obviously this is one of the cheapest things, though you can rent bikes on the campsites or from one of the many hire shops locally. And you can be inspired by The Tour de France which is in this area on July 2nd, 3rd and 4th. (Please don’t miss it if you are in the region – it really isn’t just a boring bike race. It’s an experience, and one the kids will love, catching all the freebies thrown to them.) The area is wonderful for cycling – flat and with well-signposted, designated cycle paths along the roads, but also through the forests, and along the sand-dunes. From our campsites in St Jean de Monts, it’s a lovely cycle into the town, where you can chain up your bikes, have a wander round the shops and market, find a nice café or bar to sit outside, have a picnic on the beach, or on one of the tables in the forest. We regularly cycled to St Gilles Croix de Vie – a little further away, but well worth it, especially at the weekends in July and August when there are invariably local festivals. There is the Festival of the fish, the Festival of the mussel, the Festival of garlic, the Festival of the sardine, the Festival of tuna to name but a few. Whatever the name, the festivals tend to follow the same pattern – the town square filled with trestle tables, with barbeques laden with fresh sardines, tuna, sausages etc., frites (chips to us English), and drinks stalls round the edges. While you are enjoying your bbq’d lunch, you can watch (free) the traditional Vendéen and Breton dancing on the stage. Later on you will probably hear local folk groups and more modern bands. We never tired of these festivals, and were disappointed if work meant that we had to miss one.
We weren’t there in May, so it is probably a different format, but there is a 3 day jazz festival (saint-jazz-sur-Vie), the weekend of 13th May, which takes place every year with both street shows and concerts. Click here to see a month-by-month calendar of events in the Vendee.
Pauline and David.