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The Loire region, France
Loire region
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Things to see in The Loire region
By Amy Adejokun Amy Adejokun Section editor

The fauna and flora

Ornithologists will undoubtedly be in their element in the Pays de la Loire region. The salt marshes, the islands near the coast and the region of Poitevin are home to many of the winged species. Grey herons, avocets, northern lapwings, plovers, ospreys and even simple seagulls will delight both specialists and amateurs. In terms of nature, the animals in this region have their fair share, with more than 1,350 mi² of forests, 3 regional natural parks and 280 mi of coastlines. It is an ecosystem that is ideal for the proliferation of small mammals. it has even recently seen an increase in the numbers of otters and beavers in the Loire basins. Moving away from the cities also means going back to our roots and enjoying the wonderful scents of nature. There is nothing more invigorating than going for a walk and taking in the smell of the mimosas, maritime pines and oak trees.

Monuments

The Pays de la Loire region has an important architectural heritage. Full of châteaux, cathedrals, churches and abbeys, every one of these has its own historical heritage and bears testimony to the region's history. The Château de Tiffauges is perhaps one of the most famous in the region. In addition to its conservatory of medieval war machines, you can also attend a showing of the Cinéscénie, which is less impressive than the one at Puy du Fou but still very lovely to watch. If this castle is known for anything, it is probably because of who once owned it, the infamous Bluebeard. The Château de Chateaubriand and the Château des Ducs de Bretagne are also worth a visit, if only for their incredible aestheticism. The region also abounds in religious buildings, such as the splendid Royal Abbey of Fontevraud, listed as a National Heritage Site and stretching over 32 acres. It is notably remarkable for its sculptural style that is particular to the region of Anjou. Also, don't miss out on seeing the Passage Pommeraye, a gallery that still serves its primary role as a shopping centre. However, with its statuettes, clocks and squeaking wooden stairways, this glass-covered construction couldn't be more authentic. Another peculiarity is the Luçon Cathedral, which is the smallest one in France. It presents a mix of the Classical, Gothic and Romanesque styles.

Arts and culture

Due to its impressive history, the Pays de la Loire region is home to many museums based on various themes. The valley of Anjou has a great museum dedicated to wine that covers 1,200m² and explains how wine is made. Moreover, visitors are invited to participate in a mini oenology session where their sense of smell is put to the test. The Museum of Fine Art in Angers, the main city in the Maine-et-Loire department, has more than 3,000m² of permanent exhibits. Divided into two sections, you will find paintings and sculptures from the 15th to the 20th centuries, but also archaeological artefacts from the Neolithic Era found in the region. In a joint partnership with the park of CAIRN, located south of the town of Sables-d'Olonne, you can learn about the life and times of our ancestors in the prehistoric age during a guided walk. The Automobile Museum of la Sarthe is a must for fans of cars as it holds 12 cars that have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Activities and leisure

The sand is burning hot, the ecstatic crowd is stamping wildly, the horse-driven chariots are fighting against one another in the arena during a merciless battle... No, you haven't gone back to Ancient Rome, you're just at Puy du Fou, a historical theme park, where the magic of history makes you lose all sense of time. Knights, birds of prey, equestrian shows, traditional crafts and even musketeers are all part of the Cinéscénie, a spectacular show that lasts one hour and forty minutes. The Pays de la Loire region is also home to the Océarium du Croisic, with its penguins and its sharks (children will love the 'Touch Pool' where they can actually touch some of the marine animals), and the Doué-la-Fontaine Zoo, with its rare species like the dwarf hippopotamus. Daredevils are sure to head to the Anjou Adventure Park, with its nearly 130 acre forest. It has circuits for both beginners and those more experienced, a trampoline on which you can jump as high as 9 metres, and a zipline that lets you pretend you are Indiana Jones.

Sports and activties

The sun is shining, the nature is sparkling with vibrant colours, and the Château de Chambord is towering before you: your reward for all the time you spent peddling to reach it. An inviting vision made possible by the 500 miles of trails that snake across the region, including 87 miles that cross Anjou. The large open spaces also mean that there is lots of room for the golf courses, some of which are among the best in France. In particular, here you will find the highest slope in France at the Domangère Golf Club; courses reserved for beginners, such as Fontenelles in Vendée; and others offering breathtaking views of the surrounding areas. In fact, golfing presents the ideal occasion to combine sports and relaxation in a peaceful setting. As for thrill-seekers, they will be able to go land sailing along the Côte de Lumière ('coast of light'). Indeed, the SEMVIE cruise and sailing school offers various training courses, from kayaking and surfing to sailing a catamaran or a dingy: it is the ideal place for fans of water sports.

Coasts

There are many beaches along the Loire coastline that range from being still untouched to overrun with tourists. The latter is the case of the beach of La Baule, one of the most beautiful ones in Europe that stretches out over 5 mi. In Vendée, the coastal landscape has been parcelled off over time according to human activity. Therefore, although some pieces of land are now part of some major seaside resorts (like Saint-Jean-de-Monts), others are still in their natural state. Some areas are still untouched by man-made constructions, leaving room for landscapes where the sea meets hedged farmland. There are two islands lying along the 280 mi of coastline: Noirmoutier and l'Île de Yeu. On the latter you can see the ruins of an ancient fortress, a stronghold that is in constant battle with the waves constantly crashing into it.