Vendée Introduction

Les Sables D'Olonne

Les Sables D’Olonne in the Vendée

The Vendée is a department in West Central France, adjoining the Atlantic Ocean. The actual name Vendée is taken from the Vendée river which runs through the south-eastern part of the department. The department is in fact crossed by four rivers: the Sèvre Nantaise (135 km), the Vendée (70 km), the Lay (110 km) and the Sèvre Niortaise (150 km). To many, however the name Vendée conjures up images of  medieval castles and beautiful white sandy beaches with waves rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean.

All in all, a wonderful holiday destination for the whole family. One of the greatest contributing factors to this is the number of hours of sunshine per day enjoyed by this sunny region which is pretty much on a par with the South of France. In fact the Vendée boasts up to 2,500 hours of sunshine per year which equates to a lot of sunny days particularly in the main summer months of July or August.

The Vendée Coast

There are some 70 miles of golden sandy beaches stretching from Noirmoutierin the North to la Faute in the South. There are many well-known resorts down the Vendée coast and as you travel south from Noirmoutier you will, come across such seaside gems as St Jean de Monts, St Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, Les Sables d’Olonne, Longville and La Tranche-sur-Mer.

st Office at La tranche Sur MerThe arrival of the railways in the late 1860s helped to develop tourism around the ports of St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie and Les Sables-d’Olonne and it is still possible to see some fine examples of Victorian seaside architecture. All these resorts make for a wonderful family holiday and offer many activities and treats for the visitor. There is even a naturist beach (plage naturiste) just south of La Faute sur Mer on the Pointe d’Arçay.

Right: Tourist Office – Office de Tourisme – La Tranche Sur Mer

Inland Vendée

Most of inland Vendée is what the French refer to as bocage that is to say countryside. The bocage stretches from the northern border of the Vendée down as far as Fontenay-le-Comte and eventually reaching the marshy landscapes of the Marais Poitevin. The undulating countryside of central Vendée is known to the French as the bas bocage and the more hilly terrain of the North-East part of the region is referred to as the haut bocage.

Brief History of the Vendée

In the south-east corner of the region, the village of Nieul-sur-l’Autise is thought by many to be the birthplace of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) and was in reality part of her kingdom. Eleanor’s son, Richard I of England (Richard the Lionheart) very frequently was based often either for fighting or hunting in Talmont at the castle, the ruins of which still stand today. A hundred years after this, the English king Edward III, grandson of king Philippe IV of France, made his claim to the French crown. The resulting Hundred Years’ War carried on by England’s Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V – turned much of north and western France into a battleground until the year 1453 when the French succeeded in winning back everything but the town of Calais. Read more on the History of the Vendée.

Economy of the Vendée

The mainstays of the Vendéen economy are Tourism, Agriculture, Food Processing and Light/Medium Industry. In a 2006 survey, the Vendée was cited as the most economically dynamic department in France by L’Express magazine. The Vendéen economy is characterised by a low rate of unemployment (usually around 2% lower than the national average) and also there is a very high proportion of small and medium sized businesses (one business for every 14 inhabitants).

Main Towns

The main towns of the Vendée are as follows:

La Roche-sur-Yon ~ Challans ~ Les Herbiers ~ Les Sables-d’Olonne and Fontenay-le-Comte

In summary, with more than 100 miles of sandy beaches edged with dunes and pine woods, and a very mild climate, the Vendée is today a popular tourist destination.