A vast and varied area covering five departments, Pays de la Loire is about far more than the Loire Valley itself. Beyond the riverside trail of châteaux and vineyards are stunning Atlantic beaches, cycle routes and golf courses, a vibrant arty capital and France’s most visited theme park after Disneyland Paris.
5 ways to #FeelLoireValley
Alexandre Couillon’s La Marine restaurant on Noirmoutier island is going from strength to strength, maintaining its two Michelin stars and delighting diners with a showcase of the Atlantic’s great riches. Its new hotel next door, La Maison Moizeau, is open for intimate stays in one of five individually designed rooms overlooking the sea.
This year sees exciting new additions to Nantes’ wacky Machines de l’Île: a hummingbird with two-metre wingspan, four wild geese and another prototype ‘branch’ of the anticipated Heron Tree, due to be unveiled in 2021. The Great Elephant also has a new hybrid engine, in line with the city’s eco-friendly focus.
Pays de la Loire is home to Europe’s largest oriental garden, the Parc Oriental de Maulévrier. This beautifully scented space has a permanent exhibition of bonsai and pottery and contains 300 species of Japanese trees and plants. After dark, pathways are illuminated and visitors can enjoy music and poetry.
A new version of the Atlantique Zen salon comes to the resort of Saint-Jean-de-Monts from 9th-11th November. All promoting well-being, 70 exhibitors will sell products, offer massages and relaxation workshops, give nutritional advice and hold conferences to present new research in the sphere of mental health and personal development.
Calling all jazz fans! Nantes’ popular Rendez-vous de l’Erdre returns for its 32nd year in 2018, lining the streets and riverbanks with live music from 30th August–2nd September, combined with a celebration of all things nautical. If you love music and messing around in boats, this one’s for you!
NEED TO KNOW
The region has two international airports – Nantes and Angers – but it’s just as easy to get here by train from the UK (Le Mans is less than an hour from Paris by TGV) or by car in two hours from the ferry port of St-Malo.
NEWS FOR 2019
The newly-restored Château du Grand-Lucé near Le Mans will open as a boutique hotel in spring 2019. Once secreting Louvre paintings from the Nazis beneath its floorboards, this 18th-century gem has hosted writers and philosophers, weddings and designer fashion shoots. The hotel will boast 22 luxury bedrooms, a spa and a restaurant.
A LOCAL’S TOP TIP
Explore Pays de la Loire on the Vélo Francette trail, an 85km towpath exclusively for cyclists and walkers
FOR THE DIARY
Tour de France 2018: Grand Départ and Stages 1-4 – The 2018 tour will depart from Noirmoutier island before wending its way through the beautiful Vendée landscape – 7th July www.letour.fr
Anjou Vélo Vintage – The seventh edition of the retro cycling event through the Anjou vineyards, celebrating pre-1987 bicycles and attracting over 3,000 entrants 23rd-24th June www.anjou-velo-vintage.com/en/
Les Sables-d’Olonne’s 800th birthday – Numerous festivities throughout the year to celebrate this iconic Atlantic resort, start and finish point of the Vendée Globe sailing race – Throughout 2018 www.lessablesdolonne-tourisme.com
24 Hours of Le Mans – The world’s oldest active car race in endurance racing, held annually since 1923 – 16th June www.lemans.org
Les Muscadétours – Combine wine tasting with sampling local produce as you visit wine estates around Nantes– 5th-7th October www.lesmuscadetours.com