The first three days, we'll be in Vendée.
Vendée is part of the French region «Pays de la Loire» (consisting of departements are Morbihan, Ille-et-Vilaine, Manche, and Orne to the north, Eure-et-Loir to the northeast, Loir-et-Cher and Indre-et-Loire to the east, and Vienne, Deux-Sèvres, and Charente to the south.
The area today called the Vendée was originally known as the Bas-Poitou. In the south-east corner, the village of Nieul-sur-l'Autise is believed to be the birthplace of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) and was part of her Kingdom. Eleanor's son, Richard I of England (the Lionhearted) often based himself in Talmont. The Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) turned much of the Vendée into a battleground.
Since the Vendée held a considerable number of influential Protestants, including control by Jeanne d'Albret, the region was also greatly marked by the 36-year French Wars of Religion which broke out in 1562. Eventually King Henri IV, issued the Edict of Nantes and the Wars came to an end. When the Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685, it caused many Huguenots to flee from the Vendée.
It is also remembered as the place where the peasants revolted against the Revolutionary government in 1793. The bloody conflict, in support of the Monarchy and against the changes imposed on the Roman Catholic Church erupted in defiance of the Revolutionary government's military conscription. A guerrilla war, led by an underground faction known as the Chouans (screech owls), known as the Revolt in the Vendée and would cost more than 100,000 lives until it ended in 1796.
THE WARS IN THE VENDÉE 1793-96
The region slowly recovered from the devastation of the Vendée Wars. Vast areas of pine and "chêne vert" (holm oak) were planted from the mid-19th century to anchor the shifting sands along the coast around St-Jean-de-Monts, Les Sables-d'Olonne, and Longeville. The coming of the railways in the 1860s helped to develop tourism around the ports of St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie and Les Sables-d'Olonne where you can still see some fine examples of Victorian-period seaside architecture. The railways also provided a means of escape for many of the inhabitants of marshland farms, leading to a rural exodus around the turn of the century. From the late 18th until the mid-20th century there was a coal-mining industry at Faymoreau-les-Mines, north-east of Fontenay-le-Comte.
For more than four years of World War II the Vendée was occupied by German forces, who commandeered the coastline and denied access to many villages along it. Vestiges of their reinforcements can be seen on the beaches at Pont-Jaunay, Jard and other places.
Tourism has today taken the lead as the county's main money-spinner. Close behind come agriculture (beef and dairy cattle, pigs and poultry in the woods and hills of the "bocage"; cereal-growing in the plains; sheep and cattle in the marshes; and early vegetables on the island of Noirmoutier); fishing (sardines, tuna, sole and langoustines, oysters and mussels); manufacture of clothes and shoes; boat-building (St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie is the home of the world-famous Bénéteau yachts); food-canning; and the construction of agricultural machinery.