The Pays-de-la-Loire region is in the north-west of France, and, as its name suggests, ranges along the valley of the Loire river. It has a coastline, facing out into the Atlantic, but is otherwise bordered by Brittany, Normandy, Centre and Poitou-Charentes, and embraces at total area of 32,082 sq km (12,387 sq miles).
'...a diverse and thriving area...'
The Pays de la Loire is one of the original 27 regions of France, created in the late 20th century to serve as a zone of influence for its capital, Nantes, one of a handful of so-called "balancing metropolises" (métropoles d'équilibre). Other examples of "artificially created" regions include Rhône-Alpes, which was created as the region for Lyon, and Midi-Pyrénées, which was created as the region for Toulouse.
The Pays de la Loire is among the leading regions in France in economic development, and is a diverse and thriving area, home to countless entrepreneurs and boasts an extensive rail, road and air network.
'...ancient buildings and cobbled alleyways...'
This is a remarkable region of fascinating towns and villages, ancient buildings and cobbled alleyways, a stunning coastline, and a wealth of seafood and fine wines. For the energetic, there are family walks, cycling, riding, and sailing. In fact, the Pays de la Loire has everything you could need to create a memorably visit: the Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud, the Le Mans 24 hour race, the beaches of Vendée, the Loire chateaux, and a glorious hinterland.
Keep your children entertained while you enjoy yourself at the Puy du Fou Theme Park; or visit toe Carolingian Palace at Mayenne, the prehistoric caves at Saulges, the 11th-century city of Sainte-Suzanne, or enjoy a bit of river cruising without the crowds. For a really relaxing day, take a boat trip in the Parc Naturel Régional Brière (La Grande Brière), a 20,000-hectare area of peatland, reed beds, floodplains, canals, lagoons and watercourses second in importance only to the Camargue.
SOMEWHERE TO STAY
Holiday Inn Express, 1 rue de la Floride, 44600 Saint Nazaire. Tel: 02 40 19 01 01; www.hiexpress.com/saintnazaire. Not far from the sea.
Hotel Mercure, 19-21 rue Chanzy, 72100 LE MANS. Tel: 02 43 40 22 40; www.mercure.com. Modern, bright and just out of the centre.
Chateau de la Barre, 72120 CONFLANS-SUR-ANILLE. Tel: 02 43 35 00 17; www.chateaudelabarre.com. Experience the gracious hospitality and ‘douceur de vivre’ of French aristocracy as guests of Count and Countess de Vanssay, at one of the famed Wolsey Lodges.
© Chateau de la Barre
Le Manoir Saint-Pierre, 45 rue des Hauts de Sarthe, 72170 JUILLÉ. Tel: 02 43 33 56 25; www.manoir-saint-pierre.com.
SOMEWHERE TO EAT
Auberge du Haut Marland, Le Haut Marland, 44117 Saint-André des Eaux. Tel: 02 40 01 29 00 (Reservations advised).
Brasserie du Port, 7 avenue de la Vieille Ville, 44600 Saint Nazaire. Tel: 02 40 22 03 13.
SOMETHING TO DO
Boat trips on La Brière: Daniel Rambaud, Les Chalands d’Or, Les Fossés Blancs, Saint-André-des-Eaux. Tel: 06 62 85 29 68 (English spoken).
Comité Régional du Tourisme des Pays de la Loire
2 rue de la Loire, BP 20411, 44204 NANTES
Tel: 02 40 48 24 20