Along an Atlantic coast of rocky bays and fine sandy beaches, in a landscape of estuaries and peninsulas, land and water is inextricably linked. In the heart of a marsh between Brittany and Vendee, where gabelous (‘salt tax inspectors’) pursued smugglers, the paludiers (‘salt workers’) still harvest the salt. The sun that shines on the salt crystals illuminates a coast of Jade that fuel the daydreams of holidaymakers. Following a long loop between land and sea, criss-crossing fishing villages, the history of which shapes the charm of today’s seaside resorts. Allow yourself to be amazed by a landscape of a thousand glints.
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The north side of the Loire estuary leads you to the marshes of the Grande Brière. After a stop at Herbignac and the typical hamlet of Kerhinet, explore the medieval city of Guérande in the heart of the salt marshes. Take the route des salines to Batz-sur-Mer for a detour through the Croisic peninsula. Follow the rugged Côte Sauvage to reach the large bay at Pouliguen, which offers countless sporting activities or a charming route amidst the romantic tree lined villas of La Baule.
The home of shipyards for 150 years, Saint-Nazaire now offers an attractive tour of its Town-Port, between the former submarine base that houses the Escal’Atlantic and its calming seafront promenade. Its remarkable three-kilometre bridge spans the Loire towards the charming seaside resort of Saint-Brevin. The Jade Coast and sandy coves lead you further south to Pornic, a picturesque little port as pleasant as its old town.
From La Bernerie, Les Moutiers-en-Retz followed by the pretty port of Epoids, follow the coast up to Beauvoir-sur-Mer. The Gois road, submerged during high-tide, offers an unusual route to Ile de Noirmoutier, famous for its potatoes grown near the salt marshes, sheltered by the maritime pines of Bois de la Chaise. From the bridge, join La Barre-des-Monts and discover the Marais breton-vendéen through the Daviaudv Ecomuseum. Enjoy sardines at the port of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie after lying on one of its beaches.
Head back to Nantes across Retz country, taking the route de marais between Challans and Machecoul. A historic former capital, this village is home to the ruins of the Château de Gilles de Rais, a controversial lord who inspired the character of Bluebeard. In Port-St-Père, a must for families, the huge Planète Sauvage wildlife park offers five routes across a 10km trail. Pick up the water threading to Ile de Nantes with a stroll along the old quays leading to the chateau.
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