11 curiosities you will find while traveling through western France

In France, there is a geographical notion to designate or name the regions of the northwestern part of the country, also called the Great West. Although it does not correspond to any administrative entity and is not clearly defined, the regions of Basse-Normandie, Brittany and Pays de la Loire have been grouped under this concept. 

At other times it has included Poitou-Charentes, which shares the New Aquitaine and Loire regions, as well as other departments of the Loire Valley. But since 2004 there has been another western constituency that includes all of the above: Basse-Normandie.

Be that as it may, we will also take as a reference curiosities in the regions of Normandy, Brittany, Pays de la Loire, Poitou-Charentes and New Aquitaine. The idea is to spend a few days in places in the West of France that include nature, technology, history and adventures that can be shared with family or friends.

At the level of the Normandy region:

The Mount: the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel and the Bay:

These 2 entities are naturally united, they are indissoluble. We are talking about a beautiful medieval building on a bay. That is to say, St. Michael’s Mount is located on an island, in the Couesnon River; and the Abbey, dating from the 11th century, is located on the highest part, preserving at the top the figure of the Archangel Michael. Since 1979, they have been listed as a World Heritage Site. 

But this bay property has a strong rivalry between the Normans and the Bretons, as the river marks the border. In former times it flowed towards Brittany, but by the 15th century it changed its course towards the Normandy Bay; officially remaining in this area.

At the level of the Brittany region:

The corsair city of Saint Malo:

On the north coast of Brittany is located this city with its port. Between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries fortifications and walls were built to defend against the English. The city is also called the privateer city, because they attacked with their armed ships and with permission of the government to these enemy merchant ships. 

Today their descendants survive and they have an association with more than 600 members. In addition, they have a gallery in the city, where the life of these corsairs is shown through objects that were preserved from that era.

Dinan, the village of the Middle Ages:

Dinan is a town of about 12 thousand inhabitants, with a very medieval and charming appearance. In addition, it is located near the beautiful Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. A village of cobbled streets, its castle, ramparts and balconies full of flowers; and since 1983 the festival of the ramparts is celebrated; that is, every 2 years a complete atmosphere of the Middle Ages is revived.

There are cavalry tournaments, traditional food and drinks, open-air markets, shows, dances and all kinds of recreation of the period, including the costumes of its inhabitants.

At the level of the Pays de la Loire region:

The Agricultural Village of Rochemenier:

The village of Rochemenier is known for the cultivation of vines and roses, but at the same time it is a town that attracts tourism thanks to its ancestral knowledge with its natural troglodyte museum, which will give you an insight through workshops, stories and different games about that time.

The museum shows you 2 ancient troglodyte farms, which were excavated at rock level, where you can see the different rooms and rooms of this little-known subway world.

The city of Nantes and its famous Elephant:

Nantes, birthplace of Jules Verne, father of science fiction. In this city they have created certain mechanical creatures inspired by his inventions, to honor the memory of this character. Among them we have the elephant of 12 meters high, 45 tons of weight and body made of iron and wood. But the most interesting thing is that the pachyderm moves by means of certain engines, and carries on its back a maximum of 50 tourists. 

He strolls through the city splashing water with his trunk. This tour also includes a visit to the Gallery of Machines, with creatures inspired by the inventions of Verne and Leonardo Da Vinci. In 2012, the 2nd part of this project was inaugurated: a wood and steel tree, to walk through its branches and visit the hanging gardens.

Between the Loire region and Aquitaine, Poitou-Charentes: 

The beautiful island of Aix:

The only way to get to this island is from the town of Fouras, and by ferry, in Poitou-Charente. Once you get to the island you can make the journey by bicycle, on foot or what is called a buggy, that is, a horse-drawn carriage. It is the perfect place to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the cities, since you can walk or transit in a quiet way, in addition to enjoying the beaches, without so many people.

You will also find historical fortifications from the 17th century, accommodation either in the island’s hotel or in charming rural houses, restaurants where you can taste the famous oysters that travel from this place to the rest of the European continent and lots of vegetation. By the way, Napoleon spent some time on this island, before his final exile.

A trip to Center Parcs:

In this region of Poitou-Charente, the 5th Center Parc was opened. In 2018, the Aqua Mundo water park was refurbished with waterfalls, water slides, wave pool, whirlpool tubs, infinity edge pool, in short… there are different activities, as well as interactive screens and stores. 

It also has 800 cabins that have been distributed throughout the area, which have kitchen, TV, fireplace, private bathroom, hairdryer and bathtub; also, a beautiful view of the garden or the lake, through a good window. In the center of the park there is a large dome for the enjoyment of the restaurants, the spa, natural waterfalls, games for children, tropical plants, sports and leisure activities. 

Futuroscope, a theme park of the future:

It is the 2nd largest theme park in France and is located about 80 minutes from the city of Paris. Its success after 35 years is due to the fact that every year they renew 50% of its different attractions; besides, they have helmets with headphones for translation into Spanish. Among its must-see attractions we have: 

Tornado Hunters, an experience where different scenarios are combined. The Target Mars, where they face solar and electromagnetic eruptions, as well as Jules Verne’s Extraordinary Voyage, with a round-the-world trip in 4 minutes, over all the continents. There is also Arthur’s 4D Adventure, the Time Machine, Dancing with Robots at 7 m high, among others. 

At the level of the New Aquitaine region:

The circuit of painted walls in the city of Angoulême:

This city is characterized by the murals painted on the buildings and that have been integrated into everyday urban life. In addition, they have the quality of being so real that you have to get very close to realize that it is a painting. The circuit currently consists of 27 painted walls or facades; of which 14 are located where the largest number of activities take place, including festivals.

Today, the extension of these works to a larger perimeter is being considered, reaching also the suburbs. They have become a kind of identity for the city of Angoulême. These landscapes, most of them of comic strip type, are complemented by the museum. 

Lake Sanguinet, in Biscarrose:

In another locality of Aquitaine, called The Landes, we locate this Lake of Sanguinet, exactly in Biscarrose. It has a surface of 5,800 hectares, very similar to a sea, with white and fine sand and landscapes of lush vegetation that protect you from the strongest hours of the sun, especially in summer.

It also has an area for car parking, as well as another for camping. You can also enjoy fishing or, if you prefer, rent a boat with oars; and also ride a bicycle.

Pilat, the largest Dune on the European continent:

Near the Arcachon bay, at the level of the coast of the Viscaya gulf, is located this natural sandy area. It has a dimension of 3 km of coastline, 150 m high and about 60 million cubic meters of sand volume. It attracts many tourists annually, and to reach the top you climb the hundreds of steps on a platform that has been installed and holding on to a rope; others make the climb parallel to these steps.

Once you are at the top of the dune you have the feeling of being in a desert, with a lot of peace and silence. But, for the more adventurous, there is a company that has been operating for more than a decade, which offers spectacular paragliding flights, to fly over the great Dune of Pilat.

Posted in Europe, France.