Pays de la Loire guide
As the Loire river runs west towards the Atlantic you will enter a peaceful region of leafy countryside, a gorgeous coastline and salt marshes, dotted with a wealth of châteaux and quiet, charming rural villages.
Here you'll find popular seaside resorts with plenty of family entertainment including St Jean de Monts, Les Sables d'Olonne and fashionable La Baule whose long crescent shaped beach is regarded as being the most beautiful in the country.
This is also a huge wine growing area and the vineyards of the red, white and fruity rosé vintages of Saumur and Anjou are amongst the fi rst you will see when travelling south through western France.
The dry white Muscadet which is so perfect with seafood is produced near the commercial port of Nantes - head to the city centre and treat yourself to a meal in one of the gourmet restaurants and sample this delicious wine at the same time (great shopping and sightseeing here too).
Amongst a host of other attractions is the amazing medieval theme park Puy du Fou near Les Epesses which features a 6,000 seat Roman coliseum complete with chariot races, gladiators and lions, an authentic medieval village and much, much more. It is highly recommended that you go for a full day (take a picnic!) and then stay until dark to watch the spectacular Cinéscénie show.
Places to visit
Visit the lovely château and the old town which is rich with museums, cafés and elegant shops. Cointreau liqueur is also produced here and you can take a tour of the distillery and indulge in some tastings.
Ile de Noirmoutier
Linked to the mainland by a bridge, here you'll find sandy beaches and pine and oak forests which are ideal for exploring by foot or bicycle.
This town is famous for the 24 hour motor race but it is also lively at other times of the year and has a picturesque old quarter full of Renaissance and medieval houses.
Things to do
From St Gilles Croix de Vie you can take a cruise to the unspoilt island of Ile d'Yeu with its wide sandy beaches and cliff paths offering fantastic views.
Drive through this safari park in Port St Père to see some of the 150 species of animals including giraffes, elephants, bears, lions and tigers.
Tepacap Activity Centre
The kids will love playing Tarzan for the day at this outdoor tree activity theme park (south east of Le Mans). There are areas for children of all ages, in a large forest setting.
Food and drink
Rillettes (potted pork). Brioche vendéenne (a sweet buttery bread). Seafood. Petit Lu biscuits from Nantes. Mushrooms. What's on the menu? Canard à la orange, duck cooked in orange Cointreau liqueur. Crémet d'Anjou, a dessert made with eggs, crème fraiche, icing sugar and vanilla with a fresh fruit topping. What to drink Muscadet and Gros Plant dry white wines. Rosé wines from Anjou.