A brief history of The Vendee.
The name Vendée stems from the same name of the river (Vendée River) that runs throughout the south eastern part of this departèment in west central France on the Atlantic’s Bay of Biscay.
Known before as the Bas-Poitou, the Vendée was a part of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s kingdom in 1122 until 1204. It was a common belief that Eleanor of Aquitaine was born on the Vendée’s southeast corner on the village of Nieul-sur-l’-Autise. Her son, Richard I of England, based himself frequently in Talmont. The Hundred Years’ Wars though, which began in 1337 and lasted all throughout 1453, converted much of the region into a theater of war.
Because the departèment also held a significant number of prominent Protestants as well as the control of Jeanne d’Albert, the Vendée’s history was further marked by the French Wars of Religion which began in 1562 and lasted for a whole thirty-six years. The Edict of Nantes, issued by King Henry IV, brought the French Wars of Religion to its end. The edict was revoked though in 1685, and for that reason, many Huguenots took flight from the Vendée.
Vendee, part of the French Revolution.
The Vendée is also remembered as the site of a peasant’s revolution against the Revolutionary government in 1793. Resenting the changes forced on the Roman Catholic Church by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, the peasants broke into a public upheaval against the military conscription of the Revolutionary government. Notoriously known in history as the Revolt in the Vendée and headed by an underground faction called the Chouans (screech owls) the guerrilla war would have killed more than a hundred thousand people had it not ended in 1796.
The Catholic Royalist’s suppression was callously ruthless. At the revolt’s concluding chapter at Savenay, the French general Francois Joseph Westermann penned a letter to the Committee of Public Safety stating “There is no more Vendée. It died with its wives and its children by our free sabres. I have just buried it in the woods and the swamps of Savenay. According to the orders that you gave me, I crushed the children under the feet of the horses, massacred the women who, at least for these, will not give birth to any more brigands. I do not have a prisoner to reproach me. I have all exterminated.”
Inspired by the war in the Vendée, British author Anthony Trollope published a book in 1850 which detailed the region’s history and its war and titled it La Vendée. Anthony Trollope based his story on the memoirs of the war given to him by Madame de la Rochejaquelein to whom he paid tribute in the preface of his book.
French writer Victor Hugo also wrote about the Revolt in the Vendée in his last novel, Ninety-Three (Quatre-vingt-treize).
The strong economy of The Vendee.
Vendée’s geography is marked significantly by its highest point, Mont Mercure, which rises 935 feet or 285 meters high. Four rivers cross the region, namely, the Sèvre Nantaise which runs for a total of 135 km, the Vendée (70 km), the Lay (110 km), and the 150 km river of Sèvre Niortaise.
Economy in the Vendée is driven primarily by tourism, agriculture, food processing, and light or medium industry. With its low unemployment rate of around 7 percent in late 2006 (as against the national rate of over 9 percent) plus a significantly high percentage of small- and medium-size enterprises (one business for every 14 citizens), the Vendée has been noted by the L’Express magazine in a 2006 survey called the L’Express 2006 Survey Results to be the most economically dynamic departèment in France.
Huge numbers of tourists both overseas and domestic flock to Vendée to enjoy the region’s exceptionally mild climate and 160 km stretch of mostly sandy beaches, some of which are even “blue flagged” for cleanliness. Popular resorts in Vendée include Les Sables d’Ollone, La Tranche-sur-Mer, and St. Jean de Monts.
Explore the countryside of Vendee.
The Vendée also beckons tourists inland with its Marais Poitevin. A chief attraction in its own right, Marais Poitevin is an area of marshlands that is famous for its wildlife. Other chief attractions in Vendée include the forested area around the village of Mervent, the undulating countryside of Bocage, and the historical theme park found at the Puy du Fou.
The Vendée relies much on agriculture as a significant source of employment. The region in fact has the second-highest level of revenue from agriculture in France. Maize, colza (oil seed rape), sunflowers, and wheat comprise the major crops grown in the region. Meat and dairy production are also popular and so is the offshore farming of shellfish such as oysters and mussels. Poultry from Challans and lamb made from the salt marshes in the North of the Vendée are highly esteemed throughout the nation.
The agricultural sector of the Vendée is backed by the support of the Conseil Generale of the Vendée as demonstrated by a stated policy to promote the erection of irrigation reservoirs to minimize Vendée’s dependence on ground water during key summer growing seasons.
Food and drink, a major part of The Vendee.
Large numbers of food processing firms, some of which are regarded as nationally important firms, can also be found in the Vendée. Take Fleury Michon (in French) for example. A manufacturer of ready-made meals and charcuterie, Fleury Michon employs a large part of its workforce (some three thousand people) at plants in the Vendée. Biscuit producers and bakeries are also other important employers.
When it comes to food, the Vendée has its own specialties among which is the distinctive brioche (currently known by the “Label Rouge” designation) and a raw cured ham called the “Jambon de Vendée” that is quite similar to bacon in flavor.
Wine is also produced in the Vendée, particularly in the areas around the communes of Vix, Brem, Pissotte, and Mareuil-sur-Lay and is sold under the label of “Fiefs Vendéens.” Throughout the years, wine production in Vendée has improved remarkably in quality. Vendéen wines have already attained the appellation VDQS (Vins Délimité de Qualité Superieure) and are on their way toward reaching AOC status (Appellation d’Origine Controlée).
The manufacturing industry within Vendee.
In the Vendée’s manufacturing industry, most are geared in reflecting the region’s rank as a major tourist destination. Plants in Lucon manufacture mobile homes; motor and sail yachts are being built in various locations all throughout the departèment.
Even the service sector pitches in the Vendée tourism bandwagon by putting up campsites, restaurants, and other businesses which not only promote tourism but are also important sources of revenue and employment for Vendée’s inhabitants, generally referred to as Vendeans, as well.
The beaches and countryside of the Vendee .
Aside from the miles of sandy beaches that are bounded by dunes and pine woods plus the mild climate that make Vendée a popular favourite destination among tourists, the Vendée also features plenty of churches, abbeys, and museums to visit.
Nature lovers would certainly delight in the region’s thousands of marked footpaths, a signposted bicycle route that runs along the coastal mudflats, and marshes that attract varied species of birds. One can even bask in the extensive nude beach located just south of La Faute sur Mer on the Pointe d’Arcay. Fishing is also a popular sport in the Vendée, whether in the ocean or at one of the departèment’s rivers and lakes.
Discover Vendee at your own pace.
The sights and sounds of Vendee can be experienced in a variety of ways. You could take a tour around the city with English and Swedish speaking Guide; or opt for the audio city tour with commentaries in 12 different languages.
These tours are available all year round on a daily basis. However, if you would like to discover Vendee on your own time and at your own pace – walking or biking are the best options.
Staying in the Vendee.
We have provided a number of links to some of the Vendee's best self catering accommodation providers. We have also provided a number of locations on the maps page to determien where in location to the rest of the Vendee you will be enjoying your get away.
We would recommend buying a good book to make the most of the Vendee and would thoroughly recommend Angela Birds book which can be bought at Amazon.
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