Hear the Atlantic Loire

  • © Getty images

    © Getty images

Hear the Atlantic Loire atlantic loire fr

Battle reenactments

One of France’s most famous theme parks, award-winning Puy du Fou in Vendée brings the rich history of the region to astonishing life, with chariot races in a near full-sized Roman amphitheatre, soldiers storming castles, jousting tournaments, Vikings and gladiators. There are no rollercoasters in this rural forest setting, but the action-packed shows certainly provide enough of a thrill, involving hundreds of actors, horsemen, swordsmen and volunteers plus various historic reconstructions. Covering all periods from Roman times to the Belle Époque of the 19th century, Puy du Fou always ensures a fair degree of historical accuracy to evoke the world as it really was... with a few special effects added in. There is also a unique falconry display called the Dance of the Phantom Birds, in which over 100 trained birds of prey swoop down out of the sky. No need to squeeze it all into one day; there are hotels on site, one of which (La Citadelle) is new for 2017. Puy de Fou is a spectacular attraction for adults and children alike.

www.puydufou.com

Racing cars

Most people are aware the connection between car-racing and the Pays-de-la-Loire city of Le Mans, which hosts two major events on its iconic racetrack: Le Mans Classic biannually, and The 24 Hours every year. Only cars manufactured before 1979 are allowed at the classic rally, with entries divided into age bands to equalise the pace. For 2017 the VIP guests are American and there will be classic Cadillacs, Mustangs, Corvettes and many more cruising the roads of Sarthe and the circuit itself. The circuit is the world’s longest, measuring 13,650km with cars racing at over 300kph. Adrenaline rush guaranteed!
www.lemansclassic.com
www.lemans.org

A ship’s horn

The port of Saint-Nazaire has a feeling of grandeur to it with its bridge, marina, impressive Airbus factories and enormous ships emerging from its shipyards. It’s the largest port on France's Atlantic coast and fiercely proud of its rich maritime heritage. All manner of famous cruise liners have been built in Saint-Nazaire, including the Queen Mary 2 (this particular ship departs for New York in June 2017 as part of ‘The Bridge’ celebration of Franco-American friendship since WW1, www.thebridge2017.com). Don’t miss the Escal’Atlantic museum, housed in the port’s former submarine pen and fully refurbished and extended in 2013, where you can learn about the most famous ocean liners built in Saint-Nazaire. Interactive activities, reconstructions and original artefacts give a sense of what life was like on board these giants of the sea.

The wind in the sails

Pays de la Loire boasts more than 450km of coastline dotted with famous seaside resorts, and whether sport or relaxation is on your holiday agenda, the ocean is never far away. As the sailing capital, the town of Les Sables-d’Olonne is the starting point for the renowned and ultra-challenging Vendée Globe. There are over a thousand boats moored in its marina, meaning there’s always something to see and hear as the breeze catches the sails. And between the town and the beach, the seaside walkway bustles with life all year round.

Son et lumière in Le Mans

A kaleidoscope of color and images illuminate the walls and buildings in Le Mans for the summertime Nuit des Chimères. As night falls every evening from June to September, the city becomes the backdrop to a sound and light show of spectacular proportions, with gargoyles and fantasy figures guiding you from one stunning scene and location to another.
www.nuitdeschimeres.com

Music and poetry in a Japanese garden

Visit the 70-acre Parc Oriental de Maulévrier (Europe’s largest Japanese garden) after dark to hear music and poetry that reflects traditional practice in gardens in Japan. Paths winding between shadows and ambient light are reminiscent of yin and yang, with lights emphasising specific trees, features and perspectives. The garden has an extraordinary botanical and architectural setting and pays tribute to the Japanese art of beautifully shaped trees. Sleek and ordered, it contains around 300 species including azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons and Japanese maples. It also has a permanent exhibition of bonsai and pottery. A waterfall beside the pagoda symbolises the cycle of life from birth to death.
www.parc-oriental.com

Music festivals

Whether you like jazz, metal or classical, there’s something for you in Pays de la Loire. Since its creation in 1980, Europa Jazz has promoted 1,045 concerts in the region’s five departments and hosted some 600,000 spectators in April and May. The only jazz festival of world standing in the region, its unique and original programme allows plenty of room for improvisation, modern and European jazz,fusion styles and the jazz greats. Also on the jazz agenda is Les Rendez-Vous de l’Erdre in Nantes, an international festival held along the River Erdre towards the end of August and beginning of September with plenty of free performances. Metalheads will be drawn to historic Clisson south-east of Nantes and its Hellfest Festival, France’s largest dedicated hard rock/metal event taking place every June. Aerosmith is due to headline 2017’s event. And by contrast, La Folle Journée festival in and around Nantes challenges preconceived ideas about classical music, with over 150,000 tickets sold each year.