The long Atlantic coastline of France includes 250 km of broad sandy beaches in the Vendée, and if you can do without the glamour of more chic resorts found elsewhere you will find yourself basking in the sun, settling down for a nice meal overlooking the waves, and in general enjoying the seaside ambience with plenty of room to spread out. The Vendéens take pride in their historically fierce independent streak; they flew in the face of the French Revolution in the late 18th century, and refused to recognize Napoleon on his return from Elba. They paid a heavy price, but must have been chuffed when Karl Marx in later years used the term “a Vendée” to refer to a hotbed of counter-revolution.
The coastal towns are charming, with the old fishing village of Les Sables-d’Olonne full of old world seaside charm, its broad beach lined with restaurants and cáfes. St-Jean-de-Monts is known as the biggest sandpit in western France, although La-Tranche-sur-Mer actually tops it with 13 km of sandy beach. St-Gilles Croix-de-Vie is the oldest port in the Vendée and famous for its grilled sardines. Offshore, the islands of L’Ile-d’Yeu, with its wild coastline facing the Atlantic, and Noirmoutier, reached by its exceptional causeway the Passage du Gois, are terrific spots for day outings. Inland, the Marais Poitevin, known as the “Green Venice”, is an area of 90,000 hectares of canals and marshes, forests and abbeys, where sea and fresh water meet, and full of the most luxurious variety of birds and wildlife. Here you can hire a small boat and drift lazily through the timeless water world.