Vendée Introduction

Les Sables D'Olonne

Les Sables D’Olonne in the Vendée

The Vendée is a department in the Pays-de-la-Loire region of west central France. It adjoins the wonderful Atlantic Ocean and for many people the name Vendée conjures up images of medieval castles and beautiful white sandy beaches with surfers riding the waves rolling in.

All in all, a wonderful holiday destination for the whole family. One of the greatest contributing factors is the number of hours of sunshine per day enjoyed by this 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.

The Vendée Coast

There are some 70 miles of golden sandy beaches stretching from Noirmoutier in the north to La Faute in the south. There are many well-known resorts along the Vendée coast and as you travel south from Noirmoutier you will come across such seaside gems as Saint-Jean-de-Monts, St Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, Les Sables d’Olonne, Longeville-sur-Mer 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 Vendée 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 (1124-1204) and was in reality part of her kingdom. Eleanor’s son, Richard I of England (Richard the Lionheart) very frequently was based here 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.

Local Economy

The mainstays of the Vendéen economy are very much as you would imagine with tourism and agriculture being the prime sectors of employment. There is also a degree of food processing and other light to medium industries. A few years ago, the Vendée was reported to be the most economically dynamic department in France with its economy characterised by a relatively low rate of unemployment.

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.