6 totally disorienting places!
La forêt de Mervent - Vouvant (85)
With its dense vegetation and stretches of water, the Mervent forest, which is larger than the Vendée, sometimes makes you feel as though you're walking through the green landscapes of Ontario on the edge of the Great Lakes. It covers a total of 5000 hectares and is home to oak trees that can reach 35 metres high. You really are in the wild here, with a tranquillity barely disturbed by the canoes that glide across the water on sunny days...
With red-tiles roofs, parasol pines, Roman arches, Tuscany has come to the Loire-Atlantique! Clisson is not hidden away, either: in the early 19th century, when it was on the decline, the town was entirely rebuilt on the Italian model by the Cacault brothers. These devotees of Italy, exiled from their beloved country by the anti-republicans, received the support of the sculptor Frédéric Lemot, who created the romantic Domaine de la Garenne Lemot and its neo-Palladian villa.
Le Parc Oriental de Maulévrier (49)
This is quite simply the largest Japanese garden in Europe! Set over 29 hectares near Cholet, the Parc Oriental de Maulévrier is features 400 plant species that flourish around the meditation hill, the typical red bridge, the authentic tearoom and the little waterways that criss-cross the site from East to West, as per tradition. Don't miss the night-time tours of the place, with their magical atmosphere.
Les Alpes Mancelles (53-72)
Although they clearly don't pretend to rise up to the level of their big sisters, the Alpes Mancelles, which straddle the Sarthe and the Mayenne, still boast astonishing hilly landscapes with a mountain feel. They features rocky escarpments, valleys, ground carpeted in heather, steep slopes and hills, including the 217-metre-high Mont Narbonne. An absolute must-visit is the small, steep village of Saint-Léonard-des-Bois, with its alpine feel!
Le Terril d’Abbaretz (44)
It feels like you're on another planet... To the north of Nantes, an incredible hill that almost looks like a volcano seems to have sprouted up in the middle of this ash-white landscape, where vegetation struggles to grow. A vestige of the tin mine that was located here until the 50s, this site beloved by hikers and mountain bikers is the highest point in the department and, from its 121-metre height, offers an uninterrupted view over the surrounding countryside.
Le Port du Bec - (85)
Scattered with wooden stakes dug into the mud and pontoons that seem to have been built on a shoestring with wooden beams and planks, the Port du Bec looks like no other port in the Vendée. Nicknamed the "Chinese Port" due to its similarities with those in the Eastern nation, it is also reminiscent of the quays located along the Patagonian coasts. Oysters are farmed here, including the famous "Vendée Atlantique", as well as elver fishing.
Escape at these amazing sites in the Pays de la Loire region, which take visitors on an explorations of distant lands. You can even change planets and walk on the Moon!
When you next visit the Pays de la Loire, will you choose to stride through a Canadian forest, visit Tuscany, fill your lungs with fresh Alpine air or adventure through Patagonia? In their own different ways, each of these spaces teleports visitors to new horizons.
So slip on your trainers, pack your suitcase and get discovering. A unique opportunity to test out the old adage that adventure sometimes lies at the end of the road...