Nantes has been named the 2013 European Green Capital, with its sustainable transport and low emissions being commended by many. The sixth largest city in France and the capital of the Pays de la Loire region, Nantes is under an hour’s drive north and located on the Loire river. Formerly the seat of the Bréton parliament and once the French slave trade capital, the city is a hub of history and heritage.
Its Castle is now a museum where you can tour its battlements and learn about pre-revolution France. Close by is the magnificent 15th century cathedral, a towering architectural achievement that took over 450 years to complete. You can take a leisurely trip down the river Loire and enjoy the city from a different perspective.
Two hours drive south, La Rochelle has been one of the most significant ports in French history. This ancient port town has retained its medieval architecture and even when busy, doesn’t feel crowded. If you have the time, walk back through history and clamber through the three towers built to defend the port, or take a short boat trip from the old harbour, letting a local guide tell the town’s story.
Puy de Fou
The Grand Parc is a theme park like no other. One of the most famous French theme parks, Puy du Fou’s attractions are shows, each telling a different historical story in full theatrical glory. Watch ‘The Vikings’ as a full size Viking longboat emerges from underwater and a saint walks across it. Cheer as Roman gladiators do deathly battle in a full-size amphitheatre.To top it all of Puy du Fou has also recently been voted the world’s number one theme park.
Enjoy the Cinescenie – the Grand Parc’s most famous night-time attraction and an absolute extravaganza! Using a cast of over 1,000 people, they portray the story of a Vendéen family through the generations – from the time of the French revolution, to the present day. This spectacle defines the phrase ‘son et lumière’ with its dazzling display of lasers, lights and special effects. You’ll be amazed by the performing animals, fireworks and the sheer scale of this performance – it’s an experience not to be missed.
Futuroscope showcases multimedia and audio-visual experiences and English translation headsets are available for most of its 3D cinemas and a brand new 4D experiences. 25 attractions bring you a fun, new way of exploring the world and provide an exhilarating family experience.
Ile de Noirmoutier
With it’s name meaning, ‘flower of the sea’, this beautiful island is connected to the mainland by a low-lying tidal causeway. Time your arrival or departure with the tides to ensure you can drive across the causeway in one direction and the bridge in the other – and look out for local shellfish collectors who leave it very late to return home as the tide turns!
For less than an hour’s drive, a day trip to this pretty area with its distinct heritage will give you the opportunity to try out local gastronomic specialities, like locally caught seafood and delicious locally-grown potatoes.
A short boat trip from St Gilles, the historic Île d’Yeu is an idyllic island. Characterised by long, sandy beaches, inviting coves and untouched countryside, its a delight to explore by bike or a rented scooter. Its two main harbours are famous for catching tuna and crayfish, so its a great place to sit down and enjoy freshly caught seafood. Take a walk, hire a bike, browse through the shops and enjoy an unusually restful retreat.