South of Brittany and Normandy lies the Pays de la Loire, a fascinating region which takes its name from the river which runs through its heart.
The captivating regional capital of Nantes is vibrant and interesting, with a fascinating history and innovative present. Impressive architecture such as the splendid Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne, lively art scene and gastronomic delights make it varied and appealing to all.
The River Loire itself is perhaps the most outstanding attraction in the region. Many small towns nestle alongside its meandering course, with level cycle paths, fantastic fishing and endless walking trails offering different ways to enjoy its charm. The Maine, a tributary to the Loire, the Mayenne and the Sarthe are popular destinations for riverboat cruising and private boat rental, a peaceful pursuit which takes visitors through the unspoilt landscapes of the valley.
The Loire Valley is consistently popular among visitors, delivering in all respects, from its resplendent chateaux and fine wines to its unique towns, cities and culture.
Angers, Guérande, Nantes and Saumur all bear the distinction of ‘towns of art and history’. The latter, Saumur, is found at the confluence of the Thouet and Loire Rivers. Dominated by its stunning castle, it is an attractive town with a network of streets housing shops, cafés and restaurants in characterful buildings.
Besides its inviting towns, Pays de la Loire boasts some vast marshes: La Brière, the Marais Breton and the Marais Poitevin. The Brière national park is home to a wealth of birdlife and its canals and islands can be discovered on board a ‘chaland’, a traditional flat-bottomed boat. In Vendée, the Marais Breton features dykes, watery ditches and former salt works, and still supports industries such as oyster farming in Bouin and Beauvoir sur Mer, as well as a plethora of flora and fauna. Marais Poitevin is known as ‘green Venice’ for its waterways which can be navigated by boat, hired from one of the many jetties.
Along the coast are a number of delightful tourist resorts, including Les Sables d’Olonne in Vendée which exhibits a stunning stretch of golden sand. In fact, to the south of the Loire estuary, the coast is peppered with beach resorts including Saint-Jean-de-Monts and Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie. North of the Estuary is upmarket La Baule, with its 9km of sandy beach.