Top 5 historical attractions in the Vendée

The Vendée on the Atlantic coast of France is a great location for a family camping holiday with miles and miles of sandy beaches, marked footpaths and cycle tracks.But there are also some lovely historical sites to visit in the area, here are a few of our favourites:

The Abbey of Nieul sur l’Autise or Saint Vincent as it’s also known, was founded in 1068, and was granted royal status by Eleanor of Aquitaine (then Queen of France and mother of Richard I of England). The abbey is one of the few remaining monastic churches which still contain a church, cloisters and monastic buildings almost intact, and it houses the only remaining Romanesque quarter in France. During the high season months of July and August there are tours in period costume for children and music events every Friday.

Details

Pasta pasta pasta!

Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino with a simple dressing of olive oil, garlic and chilli, big fat rigatoni with a chunky tomato and meatballs sauce or penne with olive oil, cherry tomatoes, clams and parsley – I cannot get enough of pasta! I would be shockingly bad at keeping to any form of low carb diet but fortunately I live in Italy so have plenty of opportunity to indulge my cravings. And as my Italian sister-in-law once said when choosing what to eat in a restaurant “well, I’ve not had pasta yet today…”

Details

Joan of Arc – 600th anniversary

The 6th January 2012 marked the 600th anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc and the start of a year of celebrations.

Born in the village of Domrémy in Eastern France Joan led a simple life and claimed to have had her first religious vision at the age of 12 when she was instructed to drive the English out of France. At the age of 16 she was granted permission by the Dauphin Charles to head his army and be equipped for war. Her leadership is considered to have led the French to several important victories in the Hundred Years’ War which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII. Captured by the Burgundians who transferred her to the English for money, she was put on trial for heresy and was famously burned at the stake in Rouen when she was just 19 years old.

Details

5 unusual French tourist attractions

If you’re after a camping holiday in France that’s slightly different from the usual French recipe of gourmet food and rolling vineyards, then take inspiration from some of these more unusual Gallic sites.

The Corkscrew Museum, Ménerbes

France is known for being one of the centres of the wine-producing world; however, were it not for the humble corkscrew then few of us could even attempt to open a bottle of the delectable French stuff. The trusty corkscrew is worthy of praise and Yves Rousset-Rouard has duly noted this fact and opened a museum to celebrate the invention of this trusty device. The museum is a must-visit and features over 1,500 different corkscrews, although the shop dedicated to all things corkscrew related is worth a visit on its own. After you’ve swotted up on how to open a bottle of wine, pop next door, to the Domaine de la Citadelle, for their free wine tasting sessions.

Details

Carnivals in Europe

February is peak carnival time in Europe. With Ash Wednesday marking the start of Lent, Carnival was traditionally seen as the pre-Lenten period when homes had to purge themselves of any rich food and drink in preparation for 6 weeks of abstention and self-denial. The origins of the word carnival are thought to have emerged from the Italian “carne levare” to remove meat. Households would not eat meat during the Lenten period, and as the invention of the freezer was still a few hundred years off they’d have to make sure they’d cooked and eaten it all before Lent started. It was essentially a medieval version of the final festive blowout before the diet starts on 2nd January!

Details

A taste of France – Moelleux au Chocolat

It’s 10p.m. on February 13th. Is there anybody in the UK who doesn’t know its Valentine’s Day tomorrow? In my own personal efforts to avoid the truckload of guilt placed at my doorstep for not making an overblown romantic gesture to my loved one, I find myself at the front doors of one of the leading supermarkets.

I take my place in the middle of this last minute pilgrimage, surrounded by other like-minded souls. A number of glances are exchanged. Knowing looks, all of them, before the communal stampede to the chocolates and cards.

As it happens I’m in Valentine credit. My girlfriend forgot last year so by my own estimations I can either (a) make slightly less effort than I might normally do, or (b) make a bit more effort to increase the credit in the bank for any potential future absent mindedness.

My guilt at even having had the aforementioned consideration leads me onwards to the home baking section, as I have now consequently decided to have a go at making a chocolate cake. Or as it’s known in a considerably more fancy fashion, ‘Moelleux au chocolat’, or rather more literally ‘Marrowy with chocolate’. Maybe its better placed in our alternative menu?

Details

Why we celebrate Valentine’s Day

So I thought I’d do a quick bit of research and find out who exactly this St. Valentine chap was and why we celebrate all things love on 14th February. Well, as with many things in life it wasn’t quite that simple. Turns out that it’s not just a straightforward story of a saint who champions romance. The reason that we now celebrate love on Valentine’s day is due to a whole host of theories and legends with a few facts thrown in for good measure.

 

Details

Château de la Napoule – Côte d’Azur

We came across the small Château de la Napoule quite by accident when driving from Cannes along the coastroad back to our campsite in St. Raphaël. Driving slowly past it looked so pretty that we took the spur of the moment decision to stop – the handily placed carpark a couple of hundred meters ahead and a quick glance in the back confirming that our 2 year old was asleep hastily confirming our decision. With sure handedness that would make any bomb disposal expert proud we transferred the 2 year old to his buggy without waking him up and high fived each other that we could actually do a little bit of sightseeing.

Details

Are we nearly there yet? Car journeys with children

Car on the open roadThere are definite advantages to packing everything you need in your car, not having to be bothered about airline luggage allowances or liquids in hand luggage and setting off straight from home. But if the thought of being in the car with your children for an extended period fills you more with dread than delight, have a look at some of our tips for easing stress on car journeys:

Details