Monday, April 15, 2024

Discover France’s La Vendée Region: Part II: Le Bocage – A Bucolic Landscape of History & Gastronomy!

By Jacquelin Carnegie

La Chabotterie (photo: Alexandre Lamoureux)

La Vendée is a wonderful area to explore in the Pays de la Loire region on France’s western coast. It’s known for its’ lovely, beach towns such as Les Sables-d'Olonne and its’ bucolic countryside, Le Bocage Vendéen. The French and other Europeans like to come here on vacation, and you will too. There’s great food, plenty to see and do, and La Vendée has some of the friendliest locals you’re likely to meet in France!
Le Bocage Vendéen is the countryside, originally covered by small fields, enclosed by hedges and groves of trees. Today, it’s also an area with lots of interesting activities for the whole family. The fascinating history of this region is brought to life in lots of entertaining, informative ways.
Learn About The Region’s History In Beautiful Settings
Revolutionary 18th Century - Vendée War (1793-96)

In 1789, the French Revolution established a new government and a new social order, but the aftermath such as the Reign of Terror, forced conscription into the French Revolutionary army, and religious persecution caused the very-devout Vendeans to rebel, forming their own Catholic and Royal Army. Even after their army’s defeat, the Vendean resistance continued, led by General Charette. While the Vendée rebellion is sometimes viewed as a Royalist sympathizing, it was more a rebellion against an attack on their way of life.
Logis de la Chabotterie
Saint Sulpice le Verdon, Montréverd; logis-de-la-chabotterie
This is not only a beautiful place to visit, it’s also an important site of the Vendée War. On March 23, 1796, General Charette, nicknamed the “King of Vendée,” who led the Vendée resistance, was captured here in the woods of the Domaine de La Chabotterie. The Visitors Center has a fascinating exhibition about the war and all the major participants.
Logis de la Chabotterie (photo: Julien Gazeau)

The Logis (mansion) is a beautiful example of regional architecture, built at the end of the 14th century. Several rooms can be visited that have period furniture and decor from the end of the 18th century, reflecting the gentry’s country lifestyle. The grounds are also magnificent: there’s a French-style garden with medicinal plants, a kitchen garden with traditional vegetables, and an ornamental garden with around 120 floral varieties. There’s also a Michelin-starred restaurant, La Chabotterie, led by chef Benjamin Patissier.

Floralies Internationales (Alex Segura Arana)
  ** Floralies Internationales 
(May 17-26; - This year, the 13th edition of this fabulous, international flower & garden show will take place at the Domaine de La Chabotterie. On over 100 resplendent acres (48 hectares), garden designers and landscape architects from 200 international exhibitors will create concept gardens for a totally-unique, cultural experience. The 2024 theme: “Jeux de Fleurs” (Flower Games) on behalf of the Olympic Games to be held in France over the summer.

Revel in the Medieval Heritage: Castles, Damsels & Knights
There are numerous castles to visit in the region. Each site aims to bring the illustrious past to life through historical reenactments and impressive spectacles. There are also specially-designed activities for kids such as interactive games and workshops. (Most are open April–September.) Here are a few suggestions: 
Chateau de Tiffauges
Château de Tiffauges - Experience Middle Ages pageantry at this 12th-century castle. Château de Saint-Mesmin - Learn about medieval games at this 14th-century fortress. Puy du Fou® - Voted one of the world’s best theme parks, the experience offers a journey through time from Antiquity to the 20th century. Through a variety of imaginative and spectacular shows, with hundreds of actors and expertly-trained animals, French history is brought to life (

Enjoy the Regional Gastronomy - Les Produits du Terroir
The rich soil of the region enhances the taste of all the fruits and vegetables grown here. Also, the area is renowned for its organic beef, poultry, pork, etc. Many products from Le Bocage Vendéen bear the Label Rouge (red label) signifying the highest quality. While La Vendée boasts nine Michelin-starred restaurants, some regional bocage specialties include: jambon grillé (grilled ham), mogettes (white beans), fromage de chèvre (goat cheese), préfou (garlic bread), & brioche vendéenne.
Le Pap

Enjoy the regional cuisine at any number of restaurants whether nouvelle cuisine
La Pap (1 Rue des Jardins, La Bernardière; - Chef Alexandre Papin began his apprenticeship at age 15, then traveled the world working at restaurants run by top chefs in England, Canada, Australia, South Korea & Japan. Now, he’s come home and opened this marvelous place with his wife Priscila offering “fusion cuisine” made with products from local, organic farmers.
Or local dishes: Restaurant La Digue (9 Rue des Abreuvoirs, Montaigu; - Expect a warm-welcome and a great meal of regional dishes made from fresh, local ingredients at this friendly, family-run place right on the river in Montaigu.

Get The Most Out of Your Visit: Download maps, brochures, or get a Pass Touristique (Tourist Pass for adults & an “Intrepid Club” for kids) and, of course, an App. Chemin de fer de la Vendée - Go for a ride on a steam-engine train from 1900 that crosses over three valleys on viaducts for a unique, local experience on the Vendée Railway

Le Bocage (photo: Alexandre Lamoureux)

Getting There & Getting Around: Train: No matter what direction you’re coming from, getting off at Montaigu is a good place to start your visit to Le Bocage Vendéen. But, you’ll need a car to best visit the region; rent one at: Europcar Montaigu (Centre Point S ZA de Mirville, Boufféré, Montaigu; Tel: +33 2 51 46 39 77) 
Where To Stay: All through Le Bocage there are wonderful places to stay from castles to campsites. Le Céladon (13 Place du Champ de Foire, Montaigu; - If arriving in Montaigu in summertime, this family-owned Bed & Breakfast has a huge garden with a lovely, outdoor pool & jacuzzi. 

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