Vendee Coast, France: Highlight of Places to Visit on Holiday
We Found the Vendee Coast a Delightful Holiday Destination
Packed With Lots of Gorgeous Hot Sunny Beaches and Great Tourist Attractions to Explore and Enjoy
Planning a holiday to France then the Vendee Coast is highly recommended with its soft sandy beaches, beautiful sunshine, great places to visit like Saint-Jean-de-Mont and the superb Theme Park, Puy du Fou.
To give a flavour of what's in store if you visit the area below is a brief over view of the area followed by a video of a day on the beach of Saint Jean de Mont which starts with a leisurely day on the beach of Saint Jean De Mont. With local entertainment from a band on the promenade in yellow tee-shirts and white trousers playing their music while families enjoy the sunshine and sea on the silky soft sand, bathing on a hot summer's day in the south of France. Then a stroll along the beach to admire the Puy Du Fou theme park sand statues - All to watch on the video.
Some of the Locations in the Vendee We've Visited While on Holiday
Coastal tourist town
Coastal tourist town
Coastal tourist town
Inland town that annually hold a themed historic event
Theme Park for the whole family; requires a two day visit to see it all properly.
Castle in ruins, not much to see but worth a short visit for an hour or two if it’s not beach weather.
Island in the Vendee with various tourist miniature village and butterfly farm.
Saint-Jean-de-Mont is located between Notre-Dame-de-Monts and Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez on the Vendee Coast with wonderful sandy beaches stretching about miles along the coast. The sand, as is typical for this part of France, being fine, soft and silky; the sea is always warm and the sky blue.
For entertainment as well as the lovely French shops and open air markets there are always plenty to see and do including visits to one of the local towns, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie in particular, and not to be missed; great food, good shops and often open air evening events along the river bank running through the centre of the town. As well as a number of local chateaus (castles) in the area a trip to Noirmoutier to the see the Mini-village and Butterfly Farm makes for a good day out. In the evenings and on into the night, when it's much cooler dipping to 20C (68F) by midnight a number of local towns and villages put on public open-air entertainment often fireworks displays and Medieval Festivals. But the big must see has to be the Puy Du Fou theme park.
St Jean De Mont is one of our favourite beach destinations when we visit the Vendee, albeit not the only one. The great thing about this beach is that you have it all, sun, sea, sand, the beach isn’t overcrowded (although busy) and you’re close to all the shops and facilities when desired.
This video above is a scenic view of St Jean du Mont and its beaches on the Vendee Coast which I filmed on one of our visits in recent years.
Sun, Sun and More Sun on the Vendee BeachesClick thumbnail to view full-size
St Hilaire De Riez
And Other Great Tourists Spots on the Vendee
Saint Jean de Mont is one of many local towns and villages in the Vendee with great beaches, St Hilaire de Riez is another with great open air French markets (where you can pick up plenty of bargains), great shops and restaurants. Also shown on this video is the ruins of Chateau de commequiers (French for castle); Chateau d'Apremont and the wonderful town of St Gilles Croix de Vie.
Fantastic Fireworks Display Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez
This is a short video of the Fireworks Display in Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez, which I filmed from across the bay. As the video shows this is just one of the many great firework displays held in the Vendee each year.
St Gilles Croix De Vie
They Know How to Throw Great Evening Open Air Events
St Gilles Croix de vie is a must day visit in the Vendee for shops and restaurants and during the summer months great entertainment in the evenings such as the parade of the boats and fireworks displays on the banks of the river; all to music. One of the many locally advertised events so it pays to check what's on in the Vendee locality when visiting.
Great Fireworks Display on River Bank of St Gilles Croix De VieClick thumbnail to view full-size
French Castles: Chateaux
Loosely speaking Chateau is the French word for Estate which can mean castle or wine cellar; plural for Chateau being Chateaux.
However, all over France, just like England, there are plenty of Chateaux in the context of castles. Many of these Chateaux (castles) are in ruins, many not. Some French castles are free to visit and a few have a small entry fee.
Many of the medieval festivals take place in the ruins of Chateaux during the cooler air of the evening in the Vendee. The festivals lay on plenty of food, drink and entertainment to last the evening through, and always with minstrels playing their music which is based on the medieval European bard who in times past toured from village to village to perform songs with lyrics that told stories about distant places or about real or imaginary events. In the medieval period It was through the minstrel bard travelling around the country conveying local news through their music and lyrics that information of local events was passed around; with surprising accuracy. Word of mouth these days quickly become corrupted by Chinese whispers but in the days of the Minstrels and Bards distortion of factual events was far less albeit the portraying of events was seen through their interpretation of reality e.g. dragons and demons may have been more real in their eyes than today.
Chateau De Commequiers
French Castle in Ruins but Great Place for Medieval Festivals
The Chateau de Commequiers may be a French Castle in ruins and not much to visit during the day although it is open to the public and entry is free, but it's a great backdrop for French open air Medieval Festivals and firework displays; something the French are very good at organising.
Whenever you're in France we always look out for local events such as medieval displays, open air plays and fireworks display; and true to nature the French combined all these three activities into one event. When we visited the day started with an all-day medieval festival, then after dark the night entertainment including dancers and fire eaters then finishing the evening with an open air French play followed at midnight with a fireworks display.
It was a long and enjoyable day, as vegetarians we couldn't participate in the medieval feast but we had our own sandwiches and other nibbles and hot coffee. We don't speak French but actions speak louder than words so as is typical of the French their plays are universally understood through their acting; and the fireworks display at midnight, when it was still 20 degrees Celsius (68F) just capped off the day.
Fete Medievale at Chateau de CommequiersClick thumbnail to view full-size
French Open Air Medieval Festivals
The French are always good at putting on open air medieval festivals and throughout the summer months in the Vendee there’s a number of them in various towns and villages so when visiting the area we always lookout to see what local events are on during the week.
On this occasion we happened across a poster advertising an open air medieval show starting early in the evening and going onto midnight in a local Vendee village. So in our usual enthusiasm, after spending the day on the local gorgeous Vendee beaches, and after a quick meal, we headed for the village and for an evening of intrigue and mystery.
The open air medieval show, all in French (which we don’t understand) was an audience participation medieval detective mystery play in which you were kept guessing who the culprit was until the end. The audience all had to dress up in medieval costume (costumes were provided) and play along with the events once the play started; after a few hours of medieval entertainment and food. Being a vegetarian I’m not one for the food but I loved the mead.
The play took place in the dark, as many open air events do in the Vendee; the coolest part of the day, even at midnight it’s still above 20 degrees Celsius (68F). And rather than sit in one spot the audience had to follow the events from field to field in the dark; a play on a grand scale.
Although the French are good Actors and even if you don’t know the language you can follow the gist of the storyline and plot we were fortunate that a French woman who stayed close to us interpreted some of the main points filling in some of the gaps.
All in all it was a marvellous evening of events and entertainment. The only criticism was there was no lighting for the toilet block which was situated in a corner of the field near where the event started; so fumbling about in the dark when you needed to go was a challenge in itself.
French Open Air Medieval Mystery Play (Evening Play After Dark)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Puy Du Fou Theme Park
Puy Du Fou is just over an hour's drive from the coastal villages in the Vendee and is a big must see. Puy Du Fou is a large amusement park, and to see it all, including all the shows (even moving at a fast pace) takes a couple of days; and in the evenings on certain days of the week in the summer months they run the Cinescenie (from 10pm to midnight), and open air show with 1000 actors and seating 13,000 spectators; a show that tells the history of Puy du Fou. However, because of it's popularity it is best to book well in advance as tickets tend to sell out almost as soon as they go on sale (on their website) at the beginning of the year.
The Grand Parc itself has a number of exhibits including the medieval village and Victorian era village with plenty of side-shows and other entertainment going on all over the park throughout the day. Also In the theme park there are several main features at regular intervals, usually lasting about 40 minutes each including the Gallo-Roman Stadium (Gladiators and chariot races), The Battle of the Keep (Medieval Battle) and The Vikings invasion of a French village, with a Viking Longboat spectacular.
Le Grand Parc du Puy du Fou
Of all the places we’ve visited in France on holiday Puy du Fou Theme Park is the most memorable, and in my opinion far more enjoyable than Disneyland Paris; which is saying something because Disneyland Paris itself is spectacular and well worth a visit. The difference being that you can spend a day at Disneyland Paris packed with fun and thrills but to fully see and fully enjoy all the events at Puy du Fou you really need two days.
You can pack a lot into one day, which is what we did on our first visit, but we returned a couple of years later to spend two days at Puy du Pou so that we could see everything and fully enjoy it all; even then it was still a bit of a rush at the end and we had to skip the indoor water show, which we’d seen on our first visit.
Puy du Fou Events (Medieval, Roman and Viking Open Air Shows)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Challans we happened to stumble across one year when they were doing a 100 Year Theme. The roads leading into to the town were all blocked to traffic and all the local residents dressed up in Edwardian costume for the day and put on a wide range of activities throughout the whole town that reflected life as it was a century ago.
Recreation of Urban France 1910
We were so impressed with the display put on by the town folks that it seemed befitting for me to convert the film in post-production to an old black and white style befitting of the nostalgic theme; the original colour film is shown above.
Miniville (Miniature Village) on Noirmoutier Island
When the French do something they do it well, and miniature villages is no exception. This short video by me was taken when we had the delight of walking around one such model village at Noirmoutier, situated on a peninsular at the northern most point of the Vendee.
Papillons (Butterfly Farm) on Noirmoutier Island
When we visited Noirmoutier Island on holiday, we spent the day there and during our day trip, as well as exploring the miniature village and the local aquarium (and squeezing in a quick lunch) we also had just enough time to spend a couple of gorgeous hours meandering around the local butterfly farm.
Of all the butterfly farms I’ve visited, Papillions is tops; as shown in the video below.
Mediterranean Style Weather on the Vendee Coast
Hot and Sunny
The Vendee, halfway down France and on the Atlantic Coast, is a significantly large area not far south of Nantes, Brittany (less than an hour's drive) but it's far enough south to pick up the beginnings of the Mediterranean weather so its summers are almost guaranteed to be perfect sunshine with temperatures topping 30C and sometimes touching 35 degrees Celsius (95F).
Not only is the weather good but the beaches, and there are plenty of them, are most wonderful with its fine soft sand and warm sea water ideal for bathing.
So with this setting sit back and watch a on the beach at Saint-Jean-de-Mont.
The War of the Vendee 1793-1796
History of the Vendee
During the French Revolution of 1789-1799 the Vendee along with Brittany were in fierce opposition to the Revolution, sparking the War of the Vendee from 1793 to 1796. These historic events are accurately portrayed in the historical novel book below.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Arthur Russ