Lying poolside with a glorious blue sky overhead, basking in the sun’s warming rays, all I could hear was the sound of my two children playing happily in the water at my feet. It may have only been the first day of my family’s week-long holiday in Vendée, on the west coast of France, but already the words “This is the life” had sprang to mind.
Family holiday in the Vendee
That’s because despite being only our first visit to this beautiful area, in the Pays-de-la-Loire region, it managed to tick all the boxes of sun, sea and sand. Our home for five relaxing summer nights was a two-bedroom, mezzanine cottage at Le Mas de St-Hilaire, with Summer France, which was close to a beautiful beach facing the Atlantic Ocean.
Located on a beautifully maintained Madame Vacances site, our cottage was very clean and despite being spacious – it was advertised as sleeping up to six – it was still a cosy retreat for the four of us. It was one of a range of different sized cottages with different vistas on offer on the site, and all are set out in the attractive and typical style of this region of white painted buildings with pretty, coloured wooden shutters.
The area is also characterised by towering pine trees – planted to help protect and preserve its wealth of glorious sand dunes – which were also evident around our secured gated and private holiday residence. As well as allocated numbered parking, a secure electric coded gate to enter the site, no cars allowed near the accommodation, and a large (not lifeguarded) clean pool area surrounded by sun loungers (our private patio also included two sun loungers) we had a wonderful stay here. And the icing on the cake for us was the fact that we just needed to cross the road to start a sandy 20-minute walk through pine tree lined forest to reach the nearest beach.
Sun, sea, sand and horse riding in the Vendee
Like most kids, my two were in seventh heaven here, playing in the sand and body boarding in the waves – and as every parent knows happy children = happy parents!
There are 18 famous seaside resorts in Vendée as it boasts 250km of protected coastline and 140km of golden sandy beaches, so you’ll definitely be spoilt for choice of options of where to lay down your beach towel. One that’s rated amongst the top for family safety is St Jean de Monts, which is again just a short drive from the residences and features 8km of gently sloping beaches. It’s to this gorgeous beach, that seems to sweep the coast for miles into the distance as far as the eye can see, that we ventured to on an early morning hack with Club Hippique Havre de Vie.
From the stable’s base on Route du Mailleau we enjoyed a two-hour trip along sandy horse-friendly paths, through pine tree forests, along the beach and into the cool, lapping waters of the Atlantic. It was a fabulously relaxing, and extremely enjoyable way to kick off the day – this involves a very early morning start – and one of our fondest memories of this trip.
Justine Halifax is a multi award-winning writer and has worked as a journalist and feature writer for the Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Post and Sunday Mercury.
Justine and her family stayed with Madame Vacances at Le Mas de St-Hilaire with Summer France in Vendée. She travelled to and from France with DFDS Seaways