France: Loire Valley

Around Nantes

Muscadet and the Vendée
By Jim Budd

This Guide was last updated on 23 April 2011
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Main towns and villages

Nantes

This elegant and historic city, some 50km from the Atlantic, is the sixth largest in France with a population of just under 800,000. It was capital of the independent Dukedom of Brittany until annexed by France in 1532. The imposing Château des Ducs de Bretagne in the centre of Nantes is a testimony to the city’s importance. This was first the residence of the Dukes of Brittany and then became a home for the French monarchy when visiting this part of their kingdom. In 1598 Henry IV of France signed the Edict of Nantes in the city giving French Protestants the right to practise their religion. Nantes used to be an important port until the 1970s when all of this activity moved down to Saint-Nazaire on the estuary of the Loire. Today the city is lively and revitalised, very well served by public transport and has the largest tram network in France. You can take a city bus tour from Place Pierre. There are many sites to see including the newly restored castle and history museum (see ‘Other attractions’), the Gothic cathedral next to the castle, the Mus ée des Beaux Arts and more.

Clisson

Attractive and historic small riverside town at the confluence of the Rivers Sèvre and Maine to the southeast of Nantes, Clisson is dominated by its ruined medieval fortress. The town has a number of old buildings – les halles (the market) dates from the 15th century, L’Eglise St-Jacques, formerly a Benedictine priory is from the 11th century and La Chapelle des Templiers from the 12th century. The pretty bridge across the river (Le Pont de la Vallée) was built around 1430. There is a market on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. 

Vallet

Small town in the centre of the Muscadet vineyards, 25km to the east of Nantes with a Sunday morning market throughout the year. There are 15 signposted walks through the vineyards.

Sables d’Olonne

With its fishing and yachting port along with its beaches, Sables d’Olonne is the leading tourist resort of the Vendée coast with a big range of hotels as well as camp sites and many restaurants with seafood naturally as the speciality. Very busy during the July and August, so I would visit the area out of season.

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