Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Shaggy Donkey Story: Delightful Donkeys In Vendee

I dare you to look at this donkey and not feel good! It's the unmistakable Poitou donkey, larger and bigger boned than the average donkey and with the most wonderful shaggy coat. Not only that but it's a donkey with a lovely temperament and that makes it ideal for children to be around.

I took this photo of a dozing Poitou donkey when visiting the Île de Ré in the Vendee.

If you don't know Île-de-Ré, it's just off the coast from the lovely, historic and medieval city of La Rochelle. You reach it by the most amazing curved bridge which stretches out up and over the sea to reach the island.

Île-de-Ré is extemely busy in the summer but in late Spring or early autumn it is much easier to get around, easier to park and find a good restaurant or just sip a glass of wine or coffee at a small bar.

Now, back to the donkeys! Ever since reading 'Ned The Lonely Donkey' as a child I have been captivated by this breed of animal but when I saw the Poitou donkeys on Île-de-Ré, I realized this was a donkey a cut above the rest. So I studied a bit about their history and was amazed to find that they were bred to be as they are purely to ensure a stronger, bigger breed of mule for the Poitou landowners, merchants and farmers.

Apart from their size and shaggy coat, you might ask what's with the trousers? Again, to understand this you need to delve into the history of the Poitou donkey. When working in the salt flats of the Vendée and Charente Maritime, they needed protection against mosquito bites and the trousers was what their owners came up with. So if anyone thinks they've been dressed up for fun, think again - it was out of love for their donkeys that their owners originally took up the idea.

Photos and more detail on the Poitou donkey's history can be found on the following pages:

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Puy du Fou - A Must See Attraction In The Vendée

The Vendée has much to offer the visitor - anyone who has enjoyed a good holiday in the Vendée will know that already. Not only are there miles of sandy beaches with surfing waves rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean but there are many activities to suit the widest range in tastes and interests.

Roman Coliseum Spectacle At Puy du Fou
One of the most popular and 'must see' attractions in the Vendée is the Puy du Fou. Its appeal is for all the family and, having been there, I can vouch for it offering one of the most colourful, enjoyable and spectacular days out you could ever imagine. Full of pageant, theatre, history and drama, the events at Puy du Fou never cease to amaze its visitors which is why it's no surprise to learn that many deem it the world's best theme park. No small accolade!

The major events staged each year are based on Roman, Viking, French and Medieval history with dramatized re-enactments of key events that took place in real life. You can be a spectator in a Roman coliseum and watch gladiators fighting and chariot races and you can witness medieval knights jousting and a medieval battle taking place with a castle under siege. There is so much at Puy du Fou that it's hard to describe it all in a single post!

To read more about this amazing Vendéen theme park here is a page of information on Puy du Fou including a great photo gallery on the Roman Gladiators.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Vendée Blogs, Wiki & More

When you love a place like The Vendée it's natural to want to read as much as possible about it and learn what others have to say. One of the best ways of doing this is to look at social media sites from blogs to Facebook and YouTube plus of course good old Wikipedia.

The Vendée has so much to offer that it's not surprising people have covered it as a subject in many different ways and from different angles. Surfers love to come to the Vendée coast whilst others come for the wonderful food and wine that the region has to offer. History lovers find lots to fascinate them in the area including medieval castles, churches and abbeys connected with Eleanor Of Aquitaine and her son Richard Lionheart as well as other periods in history (Vendée Wars & The 100 Years War).

I have written about all these things already but am happy to share with you other soureces of information that you might find of interest if you want to read up on The Vendée. These include:

A new Vendée blog - written with a genuine enthusiasm for what the region has to offer.

Wikipedia's page on The Wars Of The Vendee - well worth reading before you come to the area if you are interested in French culture and history.

Another Wiki page on the amazing and unique Puys du Fou - if you've never been there then you don't know what you're missing! Check it out here

Last but not least, if you like sailing then this Vendee Globe page on Facebook is a must read.

Enjoy :)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Visiting The Vendee in 2013?

Have you made your holiday plans yet for 2013? If not, then consider France ... moreover, consider visiting the Vendée.

Sandy beaches of the Vendée
  • If you like beautiful sandy beaches you'll love the Vendée.
  • If you like history you'll love the Vendée.
  • If you like good food you'll love the Vendée (fresh seafood, quality local cheeses and locally made ice creams are amongst the best in France). Read more here
  • If you like sailing or kitesurfing you'll love the Vendée.
    Check out this kitesurfing video we filmed on the Vendée coast last year
  • If you like camping you'll love the Vendée.
Just one snag for holidaymakers ... the Vendée doesn't offer much for mountain climbers. Ah, well can't please everyone I suppose :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Remembering Vendéans On 11 June

The Vendée has a history all its own. One of the most notable and tragic periods in its history, of course, was the Wars Of The Vendée. There are, however, other less well known periods in Vendéen history with their own, unique story and today we remember one of them.

On 11 June 1916, in the middle of World War I, something happened that has become known as “La Tranchée des Baionnettes". French infantry soldiers encamped in a trench close to Douaumont were preparing for a bayonet assault on the enemy but before they could launch their attack the ground all around them suddenly caved in. It was the result of a massive explosion nearby. No less than 57 of the soldiers including 33 Vendéans were buried alive. Many of these men were from the 93rd RI of La Roche-sur-Yon, capital of the Vendée. 

 This photograph (courtesy of Wikipedia) shows the memorial at the site 

The First World War claimed many more Vendéen casualties as is evidenced by the numerous war memorials in villages all over the Vendée, including one in Sainte Hermine which depicts Georges Clemenceau standing resolute with French trench soldiers in support behind. 

 This photograph we took ourselves on a recent visit to Sainte Hermine

Clemenceau himself unveiled this memorial in October 1921, such was his pride of association with its symbolism. He was of course the man responsible for the drawing up of the peace treaty that ended World War I. What's more, he was born in the Vendée.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Castles & Vendée History

Vendée history is fascinating. It's one of the things that makes visiting the Vendée so enjoyable.

Take for example the medieval castles in the Vendée. There are several notable ones well worth a visit - such as Tiffauges Castle.

If you're interested in history and plan to visit the Vendée, be sure to read up on the Wars Of The Vendée

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chateau de Chinon

The Chateau de Chinon - Chinon Castle - is not in the Vendée, so why write about it?

Well, it merits a mention in my Vendée blog simply because it played a part in the Wars Of The Vendée. In 1793 , during the Wars of the Vendée, Chinon Castle was actually occupied by Vendéens for a time. The castle had pretty much been abandoned prior to this period and it, sadly, went back to that state after the Vendéens left. It was Emperor Napoleon III of France who later stepped in and began a partial restoration.

Read more about Chinon Castle and other medieval castles in France. If you've not been to Chinon then this great slideshow of Chinon Castle will give you a flavour of the place.

We were blessed with the opportunity of visiting Chinon Castle and I have the most colourful memories of that day :)