The coastal regions of Vendée, extending from the borders of Brittany in the north to Royan in the south, offer a host of attractions for tourists and holidaymakers, with their beautiful beaches and well known resorts, their offshore islands, the area round Cognac has a great range of sights of historical and artistic interest.
Mont des Alouettes
The Mont des Alouettes (231 m/758ft) is the highest hill in the Vendée. In 1792 there were seven windmills on the hill, which served during the Vendée wars as signal stations, with different positions of the sails conveying the message "danger", "troops to assemble" or "all clear". From the top of the hill there are fine views of the surrounding country, Nantes and the sea.
Les Sables d'Olonne, France
The resort of Les Sables d'Olonne (pop. 15,531), which also has an important fishing harbor, is one of the best known and most popular family resorts in France, with a beautiful beach over 2km/1.5mi long. The great rendezvous for holidaymakers is the Promenade du Remblai, laid out in the 18th C. At its east end the Zoological Gardens. The church of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Port was built in 1646. In a former Benedictine abbey (17th C.) is the Musée de l'Abbaye Ste-Croix (regional history, modern and contemporary art). Round the Tour d'Arundel (12th C.) and Fort St-Nicolas (11th C., rebuilt in 1779) is the fishermen's quarter of La Chaume.
Ile de Ré
The Ile de Ré, which lies off La Rochelle, can be reached either on a bridge from the mainland (much criticized on environmental grounds) or by boat from La Pallice, at the west end of La Rochelle. The island, surrounded by beaches of fine sand, is 28km/17mi long and 5-7km/3-4.5mi across. Pretty villages bright with flowers lie near salt marshes, some of which are now being converted into oyster-beds. The principal resorts on the island, which is favored by nature- lovers, lie on the south coast (Ars, La Couarde, Le Bois- Plage, Ste-Marie, etc.).The chief place on the island is the pretty little town of St- Martin-de-Ré, with 15th C. fortifications which were remodelled by Vauban (1627 onwards) and are pierced by two massive gates. The fortified church of St-Martin dates from the 15th C. and there is also an interesting Seafaring Museum.Ars is also an attractive little place with its narrow lanes and the church of St- Etienne, which has a slender spire, a beautiful Romanesque doorway and a Gothic choir.In the northwest of the island is the Phare des Baleines ("Lighthouse of the Whales"), built in 1854 (view). On the northeast coast is a beautiful sandy beach.
30km/20mi off the Vendée coast is the charming island of Yeu (10km/ 6mi long, 4km/2.5mi across; pop. 4,788), which is reached by boat from Fromentine. The Vieux Château, romantically situated on a crag on the west coast, dates from the 11th C. but was enlarged in the 16th. From the watch tower there is a magnificent view of the Côte Sauvage. Farther down the coast, to the east, is the fishing harbor (crayfish, lobsters) of Port-de-la-Meule. In Port-Joinville, where the ferry from the mainland comes in, is a small museum devoted to Marshal Pétain, who was confined in a cell in Fort Pierre-Levée from 1945 to 1951. He died in 1951 at the age of 96 and was buried in the Port- Joinville cemetery.
Luçon (pop. 9,306) is an old episcopal city of which Cardinal Richelieu was bishop. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame (1317) has a three-aisled nave of the 14th C. and a 17th C. facade, rebuilt by François Leduc after the devastations of the 16th C. wars of religion. The tower (1828-1829). The Bishop's Palace, with a fine Renaissance facade and a beautiful cloister, dates from the 16th C.The beautiful Jardin Dumaine was laid out during the reign of Napoleon III.15km/9mi south of Luçon is the abbey of St-Michel-en-l'Herm (11th and 15th C.; remodelled by François Leduc in 17th C.).
The little fishing port of Pornic (pop. 11,903), situated at the end of an inlet (sandy beaches) on the "Jade Coast", is now a popular seaside resort. The old part of the town, with the harbor and a 13th-14th C. castle, is particularly attractive.Along the Jade Coast remains of the "Atlantic Wall" built by the occupying German forces during World War II are still very visible.
Chateau de Maulevrier, Maulevrier, France
Designed after inspirations of Oriental gardens, this special garden contains Japanese pavilions, statues and a notable Khmer temple. A romantic lake in the center marks this garden in an exceptional fashion.
Maison de Georges Clemenceau, Saint-Vincent-sur-Jard, France
This is the house of George Clemenceau, a significant figure in France's WWI victory. He rented this fisherman's house in 1919 after retiring from politics.
The little village of Talmont is picturesquely situated on a crag above the Gironde. The Romanesque church of Ste- Radegonde dates from the 12th C.