City breaks have their place. But sometimes, as creatives, we need to escape from the hustle and bustle and find somewhere to completely switch off. So we're able to return to our desks full of energy and ideas. One place to consider is last year's starting point for Le Tour de France.
Tucked away in the Pays-de-la-Loire region in west-central France, on the Atlantic Ocean, La Vendée is full of surprises. Known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities, we were invited by Summer France to enjoy many of its delights, some of which we'll share with you now.
During our trip, we stayed at the Le Domaine de Vertmarines in Saint Jean de Monts, with the large sandy beaches of the Atlantic coastline just minutes away.
Set within 16 acres of preserved parkland, there are pretty woods between the villas and the beach, as well as farmland in the surrounding area. From here the historic city of Nantes is just over an hour’s drive away, with the pretty town of La Roche-sur-Yon a 45-minute trip.
Each villa enjoys its own garden with a private pool and BBQ area. The interiors are warm and homely, with bright décor and wooden furnishings. Sleeping four to eight people, it's a great option for families or groups of friends.
Fresh croissants can be delivered, e-bikes can be booked and organised at reception and delivered straight to your villa. The open plan living/dining area offers great sociable space and there are even board games and books available.
With our bags packed, we kicked off our tour by visiting St Jean de Monts, located on the Coast of Light, a spot that bathers and artists have been visiting since the mid-1800s.
It's just had a massive restoration of its seafront (taking five years to complete) meaning there's now a wonderful network of cycle tracks and footpaths with many new plants and flowers. You can also visit the original church which still lies in the centre of the village.
Îsle de Noirmoutier, where the 2018 Le Tour de France began, is connected to the mainland by a beautiful bridge built in 1971. However, you can also reach the island by a three-mile-long uneven cobble paved causeway, which is covered twice a day by up to four metres of water.
Many people flock to the causeway, Le Gois, to collect shellfish that breed on the mudflats. Le Gois has been used since the 16th century, including by the Republican troops to surprise the Vendéen army who were using the island as a base and refuge during the Wars of the Vendée.
The actual island dates back to prehistoric times and encompasses the Romans, Charlemagne, the lords of Garneche, LouisXV, the French Revolution and the Wars of the Vendée. Sea salt, or white gold, made the island prosperous.
Next, we popped into an oyster farm to learn about the fascinating journey of an oyster and how they are farmed.
Further along the coast, lies St Gilles Croix de Vie, a beautiful seaside resort and fishing harbour comprising St Gilles sur Vie and Croix de Vie that were joined in 1967. It's renowned for its fishing boats that Benjamin Beneteau started manufacturing back in 1884. Today, his firm is one of the world’s leaders in the manufacture of sailing boats and there are five factories in Vendée producing them.
Concluding our Summer France trip, we canoed down la Route du Sel, navigating the maze of salt marshes before visiting the Moulin De Raire – the only windmill in France that has turned non-stop since its construction.
When's a good time to visit? From June to September, The Cinéscénie at Puy du Fou is the world's biggest night-time show. Featuring 1,200 actors and dancers, wearing over 24,000 costumes, it's an annual event that pays tribute to the Vendéen people and their local history.
In July, Saint Malo du Bois hosts the Festival de Poupet, a very popular music festival close to the banks of the Sèvre Nantaise river, with the beautiful surrounding greenery as your backdrop. Then there's the Vague de Jazz festival on the south coast of the Vendée in August.
For more cultural ideas, check out www.vendee-tourism.co.uk.
A week’s stay at Le Domaine de Vertmarines costs from £34 per person for eight people sharing a four-bedroom villa. Accommodation only. Return flights, transfers and food extra. Many thanks to Summer France for inviting Creative Boom to explore Vendée.