It’s time to shine the spotlight on lovely Pays de la Loire! There’s more to this wonderful region than the Loire Valley itself – besides châteaux and vineyards, it’s home to a string of classy coastal resorts, Le Mans of racing car fame, and trendy capital Nantes with art and culture galore. There’s plenty to come in the region for 2018 whether you’re a keen cyclist, a foodie or simply fancy relaxing at a seawater spa… so read on for 5 highlights for the forthcoming year in Pays de la Loire.

A region for cycling, both modern and vintage

Big news for Vendée in 2018: the Tour de France will depart from Noirmoutier and pass through Fontenay-le-Comte, Mouilleron-St-Germain, La Roche-sur-Yon, Cholet and La Baule. Pays de la Loire is also crossed by three cycle trails: the Loire à Vélo, Vélo Francette and Vélodyssée. Vintage wheels are celebrated every year at Anjou Vélo Vintage in Saumur.

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Be soothed by seawater

The region’s Atlantic coast is awash with spa resorts and hotels: La Baule (Barrière Le Royal), Les Sables-d’Olonne (Côte Ouest MGallery by Sofitel / Spa Atlantic), St-Jean-de-Monts (Les Boues Marines) and La Tranche-sur-Mer (La Résidence Belle Plage). All focus on thalassotherapy, the medical use of seawater as a potent healer.

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Visit Europe’s largest oriental garden

Covering 70 acres, the Parc Oriental de Maulévrier has a permanent exhibition of bonsai and pottery and contains 300 species of Japanese trees and plants. At night, the pathways are illuminated and visits are accompanied by music and poetry reflecting the spirit of night visits to gardens in Japan.

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Fontevraud: culture meets cuisine

Fontevraud Abbey’s sheer scale and architectural diversity is not to be missed! Among its highlights are the tombs of three English Royals: Henri II, Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Today it’s a cultural centre hosting concerts and exhibitions and you can eat and stay at the incomparable Fontevraud L’Hôtel next door.

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Cointreau: the Loire liqueur

It may be renowned for wine, but did you know Pays de la Loire is also home to this delicious orange digestif? It’s been made in Angers since 1849 – and a tour of the Carré Cointreau on the outskirts of town includes a glass of Cointreau fizz. What are you waiting for?!

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