One of the main reasons why France is so popular as a holiday destination is the variety it offers. Whether you’re searching for the sun, the beach, the city or the countryside, France has it all – and it doesn’t end there. It’s easy on the old wallet too – if you’re prepared to sleep in a tent!
Forget posh hotels, king size beds and the expensive mini bar. A cosy campsite is definitely the best way to see all the sights without breaking the bank. This is what I did just recently in the Vendée region, just south of Brittany, and it saved me a fortune.
Where to stay
Camping is big business in France. There are literally thousands of registered sites across the country – rated from one to four stars depending on their facilities, so there’s no problem when it comes to finding one that’s right for you.
As I was travelling as part of a group we couldn’t carry camping equipment, so we weren’t able to do the ‘rural’ tent experience! But we found some useful sites through www.keycamp.co.uk that let you rent tents and lodges, which was really handy.
Places to visit
Les Sables-d’Olonne: The Vendée region on the west coast of France has blue flagged beaches in abundance, which are great places to spend time – not money! The one at Les Sables-d’Olonne – the Grande Plage – is a couple of miles long and the perfect location to relax.
The Zoo des Sables is worth the moderate entrance fee, while the Piscine du Remblai water park was fun (if a little overrun with children). However, the Indian Forest was a pleasant surprise and you can fly down an awesome zip line for just a few Euros – well worth it for the experience!
Ile-d’Yeu: There’s an old castle and lighthouse that you can explore at Ile-d’Yeu, which is an island just off the coast – but you have to pay to get there on the ferry. It’s definitely worth visiting though if you like exploring beaches, cliffs and coves. Bikes are available to hire if you want to do the cycle route.
Talmont St Hilaire: Everywhere you go in Vendée you’ll find great beaches, and Talmont St Hilaire is no exception. Check out the vintage cars in the local motor museum and explore the ruined medieval castle, and if you have a few coins spare you might want to consider a boat trip to go sea fishing.
Where to eat
Basically, if you like fish or seafood in general then you’ll be in heaven. The coastline of Vendée is teaming with fishing ports and in each town you’ll find restaurants that serve food caught fresh from the Atlantic that day. As always, the best food comes at a price – especially in the smaller towns – but there were always more affordable options if you’re not fussy about your meals.
All in all
If you’re looking for beaches but working to a tight budget, Vendée has lots to offer. With loads of campsites, walks, wildlife and cycle routes to explore, plus miles of blue flagged beaches, it comes highly recommended.