Great food, wine, views and beaches, the Vendee region of France has it all… – The Scottish Sun

FROM the moment a gust of tropical air greeted me in Nantes, I knew I had come to the right place.
The sun, sea and stunning coastline make this the perfect spot to explore, no matter what kind of holiday you’re after.
And I was lucky enough to enjoy a French foodie’s dream with incredible local fare, a bit of education on sustainability, some exercise and a spot of relaxation – all packed into just a few days away.
The first stop on my jaunt through the Vendee area, in western France, was the charming coastal destination Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie.
With the tourist season coming to a close, the cobbled streets of the coastal town were buzzing with locals who congregated outside cafes for a lazy lunch in the afternoon heat, gossiping over seafood and wine.
Lunch was planned at Le Casier, a beautiful little seafood restaurant in the heart of the port town where I paired some white wine with the area’s speciality – sardines.
The humble fish is something of a seafood hero in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie as it saved the town after industrialisation claimed other aspects of fishing in the port.
And while there are still some concerns about the future of seafood – with overfishing still an issue – the local fishermen in Saint-Gilles take care to practise fishing sustainably, so tourists can experience the town’s sensational sardines guilt free.
We decided to work off the calories with a brisk cycle along a coastal path.  And thankfully the bikes we rented were electric, so I didn’t get too out of breath.
We rode by some scenic seaside views, but my favourite was the LA style infinity pools – made out of natural rock formations by the ocean.
We were all puffed out after the workout, so a trip to the bio organic Domaine Eric Sage vineyard was perfectly timed to quench our thirst.
The friendly owner, who had swapped England for France, gave us a tour and explained how they carefully cultivate grapes without any pesticides or chemicals.
This means the wine is healthy for both the people who drink it and the environment.
I was lucky enough to sample their white, rose and red varieties – and I can safely say the lack of additives works because it was some of the smoothest wine I’ve ever had.
The next leg of the adventure took us to Île d’Yeu – an island off the coast famous for tuna and lobster fishing.
The Compagnie Yeu Continent ferry takes you on the short trip across the water making it an easy excursion for travellers interested in taking a day trip from the mainland.
Once we reached the dock, it felt like we’d been transported to heaven. The air was balmy and all the little white cottages reflected the ocean with stunning blue shutters and doors.
My room at the Atlantic Hotel had a gorgeous sea view and, after an adventurous start to the trip, it was great to just spend some time people-watching, with locals bustling through the quaint flower and cheese markets.
Dinner that night was booked in one of the island’s upmarket hotels, Les Hautes Mers, so we dressed to impress.
The open plan design of the hotel is breathtaking, letting dinners see right through the floor-length restaurant windows to the ocean.
We had a table outside, next to the hotel’s pretty garden, which was perfect for a warm evening. The whole area was lit up beautifully with candles and lights giving it a fairytale vibe.
And the food was just as magical. My favourite dish of the night was a white tuna tartare with cucumber and radish, complete with a soy citrus sauce poured over it – it exploded with flavour
After all the sea air, exercise and good food, I slept like a baby – and almost missed brekkie, which was classically French croissants and cheese that powered me up perfectly for our next cycle.
We headed to hire shop La Roue Libre, just around the corner from our hotel, where we picked up more electric bikes complete with handy baskets which we packed with picnics for the journey.
As we pedalled around in the 30C sunshine, soaring by sparkling blue beaches and old castles and chapels, I thought this could easily be one of the best days of my life.
Along the tour we stopped into La Ferme d’Emilie, where owner Emilie and her husband, alongside a handful of volunteers, raise sheep that are close to extinction and tend to crops.
GO:VENDEE, FRANCE
GETTING THERE: Ryanair fly from Edinburgh to Nantes airport. See Ryanair.com
STAYING THERE: Rooms at Hôtel Le Robinson start from approx £67 a night. See hotel-lerobinson.com The Atlantic Hotel has rooms from £84 at hotel-yeu.com
MORE INFO: Hire electric bikes from larouelibre.veloyeu.fr and for more on visiting the Vendee see vendee-tourism.co.uk
The eco-friendly farm has been a family project and Emilie is passionate about showing people who visit the island an example of living sustainably.
The hard-working couple make their own ice cream, jam, juice and jumpers from the animals and crops on the farm and it was a fascinating insight into living off the land.
When we got tired of cycling we took a break for lunch in a beautiful spot with a stunning cliff top view of the ocean – and the seagulls that circled overhead seemed to be as keen on our tuna quiche as I was. It was even warm enough for me to go for a dip in the sea.
My final stop on the trip was Hôtel Le Robinson in Saint-Jean-de-Monts, another beautiful seaside town in the region.
Joining me at dinner that evening were a retired English schoolteacher and her husband who are part of a group in the Vendee area which focuses on making British tourists feel welcome in France.
They moved to Saint-Jean-de-Monts because they loved the long, bright days and the wide range of family activities that are easily accessible in the area.
The Vendee is known as an area for slow tourism, because the local council has been careful to preserve natural areas, like the forests and marshes, from becoming building sites. This means there are plenty of open wild spaces to adventure in.
I finished off my exploration with an electric scooter ride. While others raced down the forest paths, I took slow tourism literally, trundling along at the lowest speed, enjoying the scenery and the last of my hours in the beautiful area.
It may have been a whirlwind Vendee adventure but when it was time for me to journey home, I already missed the glowing sunshine, slow pace of life, seafood and long sandy beaches before my plane even took off.
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