Rumour has it that the Pays de la Loire region may soon disappear. If President Hollande has his way the region will be divided up between its neighbours in the name of efficiency. Whatever happens, there’s no need to panic. You’ll still be able to explore the beautiful beaches of the Atlantic coast, follow the Loire upstream passing historic castles, vineyards and chateaux as far as Saumur and even further inland to the famous town of Le Mans.
Guide to Pays de la Loire
If your idea of the perfect holiday is sun, sea and sand the Vendée has them in spades, and buckets of course. The island of Noirmoutier has small sandy coves and long stretches of clean sands backed by dunes.
Back on the mainland, the beach at Les Sables d’Olonne is one of the safest in the area with wide stretches of golden sand. Jard sur Mer only has a small beach but the weekly market here makes it well worth a visit. The area around La Tranche sur Mer has over 13 kilometres of beaches, more than enough for the most ambitious sandcastle builder. On a rare rainy day, the indoor miniature village at Bretignollies-sur-Mer is worth a visit. You’ll find dozens of aquariums throughout Pays de la Loire including the Océarium du Croisic – an underwater observatory where you can get up close to the creatures of the deep.
Still in the Vendée, if you like an extravagant mixture of history and entertainment, with a few fireworks thrown in for good measure, head for award winning theme park Puy du Fou where hundreds of actors and extras put on spectacular shows highlighting different eras from history.
Journey 50 kilometes inland to Nantes and you’ll find Les Machines de L’île, a machine gallery where the creations of François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice, including a mechanical elephant, are displayed and brought to life. If you prefer real elephants try Planète Sauvage, and enjoy a drive-through safari experience.
Still on the theme of animals, and if your heart can stand having its strings being plucked, one of Pay de la Loire’s most emotionally moving attractions. The Refuge de L’Arche is an animal sanctuary specifically for wild and domestic animals that have been abused, mistreated, neglected, found injured or illegally imported. The good news is that having been rescued the animals will be well cared for here for the rest of their lives.
For big boys, and girls toys, there’s, Le Musée des Blindés , the Tank Museum at Saumur and Le Petit Anjou a steam railway museum at Angers.
Although famed for the 24 hour of Le Mans endurance event (with its museum of all things motoring), the department of Sarthe has attractions to suit the less “petrol heady” of its visitors. The Zoo de la Fleche has most the animals any small child would have on their must see list.
You can’t visit this region and ignore wine – not that you may want too. Getting up close and personal to the vines is easy. Wine makers and experts like Gerald Beaumont, patron of Bistrot Les Tontons in the heart of Saumur, are happy to show visitors around their family vineyards and tell stories of their childhoods amongst the vines.
No matter what the politicians decide to call the region, there’s no doubt that you’ll find something to experience, enjoy and create a lasting memory of the Pays de la Loire.
Sarah Patterson works at www.gitesearch.com and is a Francophile who has travelled all over France.