Surrounded by history
The historic capital of Anjou and birthplace of the Plantagenet dynasty, Angers has lovely old architecture, gourmet restaurants, museums and festivals, and beautiful parks and gardens that will win you over to the Angevin lifestyle. Stroll through the lanes of the old town and take in the magnificent views over the Maine River from the Chateau d’Angers.
This imposing 13th century fortress is guarded by 17 impressive towers and houses the famous Apocalypse Tapestry – the largest medieval tapestry in the world.
If you fancy resting your feet a bit, you can see the city’s sights with the family from the Petit Train.
Then head to the Place du Ralliement, where you can soak up the ambience on the café terraces.
Not to miss: the Musee des Beaux-Arts d’Angers, the Cointreau Museum and Distillery, the Cathedrale St-Maurice, the Musee David d’Angers, and the Hopital St-Jean , the oldest standing hospital in France and one of the most beautiful and elegant of early French medieval buildings.
‘We would go to the Pommeraye Arcade to buy Chinese shades, Turkish sandals or Nile baskets, to take our time examining all the knick-knacks brought back here from overseas, to touch them with our own hands: the gods, the shoes, the parasols, the lanterns, the splendid, futile, colourful objects that make us dream of other worlds, useless frivolities which we take so seriously’
Nantes exudes the cosmopolitan atmosphere of a major port, outlined by broad avenues full of shops and restaurants.
It’s a sophisticated city that has a vibrant cultural scene, but it’s always warm and welcoming.
You can admire the 18th century ship owner mansions along the port and on the Ile Feydeau, as well as the Gothic cathedral St-Pierre et St-Paul, and the Chateau of the Dukes of Brittany.
You’ll also enjoy a walk through the medieval quarters of Juiverie and Bouffay.
Both elegant and comfortable, a city of water and lush greenery, Nantes is many holidays in one visit.
With a comprehensive tram and bus system, travel in the city is made easier.
Not to miss: the Graslin theatre, the Lieu Unique, river cruises, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts.
The cobbled streets of the ancient city of Le Mans are filled with half-timbered houses and Renaissance buildings so lovely that the area has been used in films such as ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ and ‘Le Bossu’.
Behind the 3rd century Roman ramparts – the greatest Gallo-Roman walls in France – the Plantagenet City opens itself to you for an extraordinary voyage through 1600 years of architecture.
This medieval jewel comes alive with illuminations and music every summer evening from June to September with the Nuit des Chimeres.
Of course, most people associate Le Mans with motoring and the famous 24-Hour Race, making the discovery of the old city a pleasant surprise.
Not to miss: the Romanesque and Gothic Cathedral of St-Julien, and the Musee de l’Automobile.
Built on the Mayenne River, vibrant Laval is a delightful town to explore on foot through narrow medieval lanes.
After visiting the stunning museum of naïve art at the old Laval Chateau, go to the Rue du Pont de Mayenne for the cafes and lovely boutiques. To see a bit of Laval’s water history, you can go aboard the ‘bateaux-lavoirs’, old floating laundromats.
Not to miss: the Perrine Gardens on the Mayenne, the Basilica of Notre-Dame d’Avesnieres, and the traditional Saturday morning market.
Known as the ‘white city’ for it’s limestone (tufa) buildings, Saumur is sparkling and delightful.
Sitting on the Loire River and guarded by the fairytale Chateau de Saumur dating back to the 13th century, the town has excellent shopping and good restaurants.
Saumur wines, from the oldest vineyards in France, are produced on the local limestone and have a natural tendency to sparkle, like wines in France’s Champagne region.
Every year, 15 million bottles of bubbly, especially Saumur Brut and Cremant de Loire, are exported worldwide from here.
Saumur is also the equestrian capital of the Pays de la Loire and is famous for the Ecole Nationale d’Equitation and their Cadre Noir displays of spectacular horsemanship.
Not to miss: sculptures at the subterranean Parc Pierre et Lumiere, and the troglodyte dwellings, now used as second homes, for wine storage, and in mushroom growing.
The Vendee counter-revolutionary movement between 1793 and 1799 left their mark on La Roche-sur-Yon, as it became the headquarters to Napoleon’s Republican Army.
In 1804, it was rebuilt by Napoleon and made a prefecture, given the duty of monitoring the restless Vendeens.
The town’s streets lead off of the main square, the Place Napoleon, and it’s equestrian statue of the Emperor.
During the summer, La Roche-sur-Yon has a great festival that includes: ‘Summer Café’ free concerts in the town hall garden on Fridays and Saturdays; ‘Les Terrasses Nap’ showcases young, regional talent in Napoleon Square; ‘Summer Sketches’ theatrical performances in the Compagnons Garden; and ‘A Summer at the Cinema’ free, open-air movie showings.
Not to miss: the Haras National, the national stud farm where you can see different breeds of horses and a collection of carriages.
Famous for it’s shipyards, and the place where legendary transatlantic liners (like the Queen Mary 2) and cruise ships are built, Saint-Nazaire is also a lively port with 20 beaches for sunbathing.
Places to visit include the Centre International Paquebots Escal’Atlantic, a hands-on museum on board a transatlantic liner, and The Espadon – the only fleet submarine in France that is open to visitors.
The stunning bridge across the Loire was inaugurated in 1975 and at that time was the longest bridge in France.
Not to miss: the Chantiers de l’Atlantique, and touring the Airbus factory.
In keeping with its long history in the clothing and ready-to-wear industry, Cholet has become even more popular with the opening of Marques Avenue in La Seguiniere, an area of 33 factory outlet stores including Mango, Levi’s, Morgan, New Man, and Puma.
There’s plenty here to keep shopaholics and bargain hunters happy.
Cholet is known as the ‘kerchief town’, as the residents wore locally-made red mouchoirs during the Vendee Wars of 1793.
Not to miss: the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire, and the Musee du Textile Choletais.
Nicknamed the ‘Little Venice of the West’, La Ferte-Bernard is criss-crossed with canals and is best appreciated by boat.
Steeped in history, it has a rich medieval heritage and one of the Sarthe’s most beautiful churches, Notre-Dame-des-Marais.
Fontenay-le-Comte is more than 1000 years-old and a classified Village of Art and History.
Its history – which was for many years tied to that of the powerful Poitevin families – has made it the influential capital of the Vendee.
Its architectural heritage, including the Notre-Dame church and the Fontaine des Quatre-Tiasis, is of rare quality.
The city is also the gateway to two important tourist destinations: the Poitevin Marsh and the Mervent Forest.
The beautifully preserved fortified city of Guerande offers a pleasant stroll for visitors.
The fortifications contain both residential houses and remarkable monuments, such as the Porte Saint-Michel and the Collegiale Saint-Aubin.
The city’s prosperity developed from a thousand years of the salt trade, which is evident all around.
Enjoy the narrow medieval streets with artisan’s workshops and numerous shops.
Razed to the ground during the Vendee Wars of 1793 – 1799, Clisson was rebuilt along Italian lines with neo-classical villas, brick belltowers, and red-tiled roofs.
The architecture and umbrella pines are reminiscent of Umbria.
The 13th century ruins of the Chateau de Clisson sit on a rocky spur overlooking the river, and are being renovated.
Not to miss: shady walks along the Sevre river, 15th century market halls, and Garenne Lemot park.
Small Towns of Character
Keep an eye out for village signs denoting a ‘Petite Cite de Caractere’.
Scattered throughout the Pays de la Loire, you’ll be delighted with these 35 special places.
As well as their heritage and history, they are also known for their warm welcome.
In your explorations, you may find a Roman cloister, a medieval fortress, or an exceptional viewpoint.
Villes and Villages Fleuris
On your travels, you’ll see yellow signs with one, two, three or four flowers, indicating the award of the title ‘Fleuri’ to towns and villages.
The Pays de la Loire region is now a national leader in terms of the number of communes classified as Villes et Villages Fleuris.
A sign of dynamism and quality of life, the blossoming of our small towns and villages shows the attention given to environment and living conditions in the Pays de la Loire.
Loire Riverside Towns and Villages
Strung like jewels along the Loire, the white limestone (tufa) villages sparkle in an enchanting way. The soft mist and light of the royal river reflects off of the buildings and soothes you, enticing you to stay in the lovely villages on the banks of the Loire, such as Saumur and Le Thoureil.
For more information, contact the local tourist office.
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