Road trip Nantes & Vendée – the ultimate French city & nature trip combo
Updated: Nov 11, 2019
In my previous blog I wrote about the first part of our 10 day road trip to Northwest France in September, where we drove from The Hague to Normandy and Brittany, followed by a city trip stop in Nantes, and a visit to the Vendée region. We went there in the super chic Peugeot 5008 SUV which made our trip extra comfortable.
After our stay on the north coast of Brittany, where the weather can be quite fickle, for the second part we decided to drive on more to the south in search of better weather. And that's exactly what we found in the classy seaside resort, also situated on the coast, but this time near Nantes, called;
This historic town, known as La Baule for short, is located in the Loire-Atlantique department of western France, and used to be holiday home location of choice for the French high society. Exuding that old Breton charm with its historic casino, stunning villas, luxury hotels and long sandy beach, still making it a popular holiday destination for Parisians in July and August.
We stayed here at the prestigious Barrière Hotel Royal, right at the beach, about which I will tell you all in my next post!
But first I will happily show you my favourite spots and highlights of our city trip stop in Nantes, with many of our own pictures, as usual.
Often referred to in the media as one of the nicest cities in France, Nantes is renowned for being quite innovative, showcasing a surprising combination of unique architecture, historical heritage, art and culture. The city is practically built around the mouth of the Loire river with several terraces by the water, making it even more appealing in my opinion.
And with its unique sites, artworks scattered throughout the city and fun initiatives, like ‘Le Voyage a Nantes’, a green line route that was painted on the sidewalks to lead you past all the best spots, this city is easy and fun to explore, either on foot or by bike.
We followed the green line tour on foot in just one day (which wasn’t enough) and these were the most photogenic spots in my opinion, slide below gallery to get an impression.
Highlights of Nantes:
Because we stayed at a beautiful hotel next to the Opera, this was the starting point of our tour. More in my next blog about this historic hotel, located right in the center of Nantes.
From here we walked past the following sites that should not be missed during your visit!
Le Passage Pommeraye
Château des Ducs de Bretagne
In the medieval quarter you will find this ancient monument which I would recommend to explore both from the inside and out.
The castle walls offer beautiful perspectives into the city, the chateau is surrounded by parks and also houses the Nantes History Museum, with an extensive exhibition and interactive multimedia displays.
Église Saint Nicolas
Cathédral St-Pierre St-Paul
Jardin des Plantes
These botanical gardens were shaped during the past 3 centuries. Filled with historic green houses, diverse botanical displays, ponds and artworks and temporary exhibitions scattered through the greens, forming an interesting and refreshing oasis on the edge of the city!
From here we walked past the river to cross it and get to Nantes' most exciting initiative located on the city's island:
Les Machines de l’île de Nantes
Set up as an artistic project on the old shipyard's location, this city isle now offers 3 different attractions: the Gallery, the Grand Elephant, and the Carrousel. It has become one of the top tourist attractions of Nantes, representing a unique combination of the industrial history of Nantes, the imaginary world of Jules Verne, and the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci.
Beware that it can get crowded and you will have to get in line for most of these attractions, but they are a magical sight!
Bar Le Nid
For drinks in the evening with some of the best 360° views of the Greater Nantes area, the 32nd floor of la tour Bretagne is the place to be.
La Cigale Restaurant
Dinner at this renowned century-old restaurant is also a must!
This 1900's French brasserie has one of the best terraces in the city, located right across from the Opera, and has been the preferred restaurant of many artists over the past decades. THE place to visit for its stunning French décor and excellent local cuisine!
With its art-deco interior and design both stunning from the inside, and out, as you can see here:
To plan your own visit and get a discount on the convenient city pass you can go here: Nantes-Tourisme.
After this we drove on 35 minutes into the Vendée Region, to enjoy the rustic nature areas of France. Here we stayed at a charming B&B in Montaigu, called: Le Celadon, about which I will tell you all in my next blog.
But first let’s explore more of the Vendée Valley with many of our own pics!
This region has an abundance of hilly landscapes, offering panoramic views over the wide nature fields and endless valleys. But also many historic sites, monuments and quaint towns with that authentic French charm I love so much.
This small village has a historic center, a big fort and ramparts that can be visited free of charge, providing great views.
Logis de la Chabotterie
A castle with stunning flower- and vegetable gardens, located in Saint-Sulpice-le-Verdon, built in the middle of the 15th century. After extensive restorations 26 years ago the Chabotterie regained its original look from before the French revolution.
I can highly recommend to explore the gardens, but als visit the original rooms of the castle with an audio guide to learn more about the history of this Domain and the region.
The extensive castle grounds include a forest park, several monuments, apple gardens and the 18th century castle garden which was restored to its original design and pattern, with more than 120 different flowers, located at the back of the Chabotterie.
You can even stay overnight here.
Salette Sanctuary - La Rabatelière
A religious monument and place of Pilgrimage of the Virgin Mary, located on a hillside, surrounded by greens. Well worth a visit for its beautiful architecture and nature location with almost no-one around.
For the most spectacular views over the Vendée Valley you should climb the 199 steps of this church tower, rising up 290 meters above sea level. Unfortunately it was closed when we got there after lunchtime, but the church is also quite imposing from the outside, and offers a great overview of the surrounding countryside as well.
Château de Pouzauges
This medieval fortress in Pouzauges has an impressive tower building, which was under renovation when we were there. But the 355 meters long curtain wall also offers a nice wide view over the countryside.
From here we drove on more to the east for a few nights stay in Chambretaud at the prestigious Château Boisniard, the only 5 stars hotel in Vendée!
Our hotel was located very near the popular historic theme park Puy du Fou. Unfortunately we didn’t get to visit, because of the limited opening times in September, and we actually preferred to see more of the quaint towns in the region instead.
This picturesque hilltop village has narrow winding streets to the top where you will find a small square, a church and the historic Cour du Château surrounded by flowers and authentic French houses, see for yourself in this gallery:
When you visit this area of France lunch or dinner at a traditional crêperie should not be missed! We experienced this at restaurant Crêperie du Soleil, which is highly recommended for its excellent food, extensive menu and super friendly owner!
This small city holds the label ‘City of Character’ for good reason! See for yourself how quaint and photogenic this place really is.
Walk past the river for views like this or follow the 2 different walking routes/circuits which will lead you past the most beautiful spots in and around the city.
Another quaint place, filled with nice cafés and restaurants with creative murals throughout the town.
Very nearby we also visited a unique and very French place called:
A family-run farm that breeds organic Vendée snails, used for consumption and production of slime for cosmetic purposes. But they also offer massages and cosmetic treatments here with the use of snail slime!
We experienced some excellent massages, I tasted my very first cooked escargot and learnt all about the snail slime production process. A unique concept about which you can find out more here: MaisonRoyer.fr.
Snail breeding is still quite rare and this farm, founded in 1989, with a solid experience in snail farming, was one of the first to start using organic snail slime for cosmetics, which has many beneficial features like prevention of wrinkles, scars, stretch marks, blackheads, acne and brown spots.
A tour of the farm to learn more about this authentic French product provides a fun afternoon. And it's certainly worthwhile to take home some of the local snail delicacies and cosmetics from their own farm shop!
We loved the pure character and quiet authentic atmosphere of the Vendée region. And I can highly recommend it to all nature, and history lovers, that want to experience more of the real French countryside and heritage. To plan your own visit to this beautiful region you can go to: Vendee-tourism.
And for extra inspiration to explore even more of France, you can also check the website of: France Tourism.