Cycling is one of the best ways to explore Vendee and witness everything that the department in the Pays-de-la-Loire region of France has to offer. There are some truly magnificent cycling routes, stretching over hundreds of kilometres and you’ll certainly find enough on offer for even an extended active holiday here. If you’d like to get your teeth stuck into one of the meatier routes, the Poitevin Marshes circuit runs for nearly 150km and offers some absolutely stunning scenery including this renowned marshland that has come to be known as the Green Venice. Some of the highlights along the route include the bay at Aiguillon, the Mervent-Vouvant Forest and the Abbey at Maillezais, however it is the marshes themselves that take centre stage. Spread out across some 970 square kilometres, the marshland is actually spreads across three different departments – Vendee, the Deux-Sevres and the Charente-Maritime – and stands today as what remains of the former Gulf of Poitou and is made up of a series of wet and dry connected areas that are used for farming. In the wet marsh areas, you’ll find innumerable islets intersected by quaint canals. At this point, it’s certainly worth switching from a bike to a canoe in order to travel further into this magical marshland. An ideal point from which to explore is the pier at the village of Maillezais, which is also home to the ruins of a grand old cathedral dating back to the Middle Ages. After kms on the saddle, a charming boat trip through these waterways offers a welcoming change of pace, with the calm and quietness providing a tonic to the ills of busy urban life – making it an ideal destination to visit next time you’re in France. One of the most remarkable features of the waterways is the layer of green duckweed that floats on the surface and gives them a verdant appearance, hence the name: Green Venice. As the second largest area of marshland in France after the Camargue, it is also home to a varied assortment of flora and fauna.
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