Pays de la Loire
The Pays de la Loire region of France
The Pays de la Loire region is set at the base of the Brittany peninsula and has the distinction of being France’s second most productive agricultural region. Most of the larger cities are situated somewhere along the rivers that feed the Loire or simply along the expansive Atlantic Coast. There are five departements of the Pays de la Loire region, which include Maine-et-Loire, Loire-Atlantique, Mayenne, Vendee and Sarthe. Pays de la Loire is also referred to as ‘the French Maine’ by many. The capital of the region is Nantes.
Towards the completion of the first millennium, the Pays de la Loire region was witness to the ascension of the strong count Henri Plantagenet, who was destined to become the Kind of England. During the 1200’s, Pays de la Loire was where feudalism originated in France and landowners protected by their lords were required to serve in war. During the 16th century, the artistic side of Pays de la Loire shone through its music, literature and architecture. Pays de la Loire is home to Saumur’s Calvary School where thousands of cadets executed a most courageous act in detaining the advancing German forces for a 15 mile stretch during World War II.
Most associate car racing with the city of Le Mans, but the city has a rich cultural history in addition to being host to one of the world’s most famous car races. Visitors can take in Roman walls, medieval homes, Renaissance mansions lining cobble stone streets and a 12th century cathedral boasting brilliantly stunning stained glass windows. Le Mans is also where the French car industry started out with the first car being built in 1875.
Pays de Loire is France’s horse country and the place to find one of France’s most prized stud farms where international breeder come together once a year for racing. One can follow the Mayenne River valley to visit its biggest city, which is Laval, and its beautifully upheld historic, narrow streets and half-timbered homes. Also close by is Jublains, which was a Roman capital, whose ruins are outstandingly preserved including an amphitheater, fortress, temple and baths. The Chateau de Craon is just south of Laval and open to the public during the summer.
The heart of the cuisine in Pays de la Loire is in its seafood. The Loire River and its branches supply the region with trout, carp, salmon, shad and pike. The fish is often served grilled in a salty crust or with butter, shallots and wine sauce. Along the Atlantic coast, the inhabitants enjoy its outstanding shellfish including lobsters, clams, mussels, oysters and prawns that are served from morning until the end of the day with a variety of sauces. One of the most special contributions to the gastronomy of the area is the natural unprocessed salt found in the area of Guerande, which is used to season much of the local cuisine.
Further inland, Pays de la Loire has produced outstanding chicken for centuries and they are in constant demand from world-renowned chefs. Game is also a local favorite including wild duck that is served with rich, red wine sauce. Le Mans is celebrated for its pork pate with herbs and spices while Vendee is noted for its local ham. Saumur is famous for it mushrooms and they can be enjoyed locally as stuffed mushrooms. Favorite deserts of the Pays de la Loire Region include gateau nantais, fruit salad tossed with wine and served with shortbread cookies and a caramelized apple upside-down tart.
Pays de la Loire is notable for its wine production as well. Nantes offers a dry wine while Anjou produces a sweeter wine like Rose de Loire. Saumur makes a variety of wines including light red, rose and white whines as well as sparkling wines. Pays de la Loire is also the region that produces the famous Cointreau liqueur.
From beautiful stretches of beach and salt marshes to the historical landmarks and breathtaking scenes, the Pays de la Loire region is filled with history, gastronomy and entertainment. The region offers many sights and activities as well as exceptional dining throughout the land.