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Loire Atlantic France French Holidays


There are many reasons for paying a visit to the Loire Atlantic, one of which is the fantastic climate. The Atlantic Coast is blessed with an oceanic climate, which means that temperatures are mild all year round. You are therefore free from the sometimes overbearing heat of a Côte d'Azur summer, or the freezing temperatures of winter in the mountains. What you get instead are summers where it is pleasantly warm without being unspeakably hot, so you are able to make the most of the great beaches along the coast.

The beaches are decidedly 'Atlantic' in appearance, with sand dunes, pine trees and marshland stretching for miles. The Loire Atlantic Coast is nothing like the Côte d'Azur in that it is much less glamorous: it is more geared towards families and campsites than couples and swanky hotels. There is, however, a certain charm to the Atlantic side of France that more than compensates for the lack of glitz, and the beaches are more consistently beautiful, especially towards the south.

Other top attractions along the Atlantic Coast include the Romanesque churches, in Poitiers and around Saintes, that were built on the pilgrim route to Compostela in Spain; the delightful port of La Rochelle; the picturesque and well to do Ile de Ré; the ancient brandy houses in Cognac; the popular university town of Nantes in the north; and of course the vineyards around Bordeaux in the south. Or it could just be the fields upon fields of sunflowers that keep you coming back.

The area called Poitou, to the north west of Périgord, is known for two things: the giant fields full of wheat and sunflowers, and for belonging to Eleanor of Aquitaine who married King Henry II of England in 1152, thus submitting southwest France to English rule for 300 years. This area is also the boundary between langue d'Oc speaking southerners and langue d'Oil speaking northerners. The langue d'Oil became modern French, but the Occitan dialect lives on and is still spoken by old people in the southern regions today.

As for the food along the Atlantic Coast, expect to see lots of cheap, fresh seafood in all the markets, even quite far inland, and don't forget to sample some of the finest wines known to humanity: much of the world's fine wines come from the area around Bordeaux.