France|May 2020
Enjoy adventures aplenty, both on land and afloat, in the jewel of Pays de la Loire’s crown, says Helen Parkinson
Helen Parkinson

An exhilarating chariot race sweeps through an enormous amphitheatre, thundering hooves matched by the rapturous applause of thousands of baying spectators. Roman soldiers complete with galeas, their traditional plumed helmets, urge on their horses as they storm around the ring at full pelt.

You would be forgiven for thinking that you’ve travelled back in time to Ancient Rome – not modern-day western France.

The rich past of Vendée makes it the perfect home of one of the best historical theme parks in the world, Puy du Fou; where gladiators mingle with Vikings, medieval knights and swashbuckling musketeers.

The Romans arrived in the region in 57 BC, before the Vikings, Visigoths, Arabs and Barbarians invaded during the Middle Ages. The Hundred Years War saw the English take control of the area before Joan of Arc’s supporters seized it back. Later, the Vendéens themselves revolted in the post-revolution Wars of the Vendée at the end of the 18th century.

This once-tumultuous département is now an incredibly popular – not to mention peaceful – holiday destination. Spanning the coast and countryside between Nantes and La Rochelle, it boasts world-beating beaches, sensational seafood and further inland, treasured marshes and forests.


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May 2020