On the road
Subpréfectures: Ancenis, Châteaubriant, Saint-Nazaire
Site web: www.ohlaloireatlantique.com
Historically a Breton land, since Nantes was the home of the Dukes of Brittany, the Loire-Atlantique was attached to the Pays de Loire region instead in 1941, a decision which still stirs controversy today. A maritime territory, as its name reveals, the department stretches over 133 kms of seashores, half of which being beaches. Its vocation for tourism is well established with famous resorts such as La Baule les Pins, Pornic or Le Croisic.
But it is also an agricultural land famous for its wines, muscadet and gros plant, for its salt ponds or its salad (mâche). With more than 1.2 million inhabitants, it is also an urban department around Nantes and St Nazaire, whose traditional industries.
Ille et Vilaine (35)
Subprefectures: Fougeres, Redon, Saint-Malo
With a sea opening between St Malo and the Mont St Michel, Ille et Vilaine is the Eastern part of Brittany. Rennes, in the heart of the department, is a bustling city: car industry (Citroen), electronics, oil refinery are the main industries. The department is also the first French department for dairy while apples, cider and oysters in Cancale are among the local specialities. Tourism is thriving as well in resorts such as Dinard, St Malo, St Lunaire or Cancale.
Sub-prefectures: Lorient, Pontivy
The department perfectly reflects the contrast between the coast (Armor) and the hinterland (Argoat). It is also a land of moors, which occupy the centre part of the territory. The coastline is the wealthiest area and the most active: tourism in Carnac and la Trinite sur Mer, spas in Quiberon Morbihan Gulf, fishing, mechanics, fruits and vegetables.
The maritime vocation is manifest in its very name (small sea), drawn from the gulf. On the southern coast of Brittany, the department spreads over 905 kms of rugged shores mixing rocky coasts, rivers, estuaries and sandy beaches. And 42 superb islands, the most famous being Houat, Hoedic, Belle-Ile-en-Mer or Groix.
In the country, a dense network of rivers and streams foster the woods and the legendary Broceliande forest. On top of its natural heritage, Morbihan can boast the multiple remains of its pas: mysterious megaliths, chapels and big churches like Ste Anne d'Auray, once visited by pope John Paul II. And also its picturesque small towns, with their tiny streets, their castles, windmills and legends. The 722,000 inhabitants live for the most part around the two agglomerations of Lorient (pop 120,000) and Vannes (60,000).
Côtes d'Armor (22)
Prefecture: Saint Brieuc
Sub-prefectures: Lannion, Guingamp et Dinan
Formerly known as Cotes du Nord, the department changed names in1990 for a more Breton and a more accurate one, meaning coast of the land by the sea. Its territory is split between the seaside area and the inner countryside and the Monts d'Arree.
Most of the population of 590,000 regroups around the three main towns of St Brieuc (Pop: 90,000), Lannion and Dinan. It is known as a breeding, cereal-growing and fishing area. The St Brieuc area is especially famous for its scallops. Pork is a major resource and the Plerin market is the main place determining the price of pork in France. Two technological poles are based in the department: Anticipa in Lannion is specialised in spatial telecommunications while St Brieuc-Ploufragan deals with animal research and biological testing. Tourism is thriving on the seafront. The main seaside resort is Perros-Guirec.
Km 4 : Guenrouet
Nantes to Brest canal
Works for the canal started in 1804 for strategic reasons and because of the continental blockade. The war against England and the domination of the English fleet on the seas forced Napoleon to supply the arsenals of Brest and Lorient by fluvial transport. The titanic works linked four major rivers – Loire, Vilaine, Blavet, Aulne – and eight minor floods - Erdre, Isac, Oust, Blavet, Kergoat, Doré, Hyères, and Aulne – three canals and 236 locks for a total distance of 260 km. Spanish prisoners of war, deserters and convicts, peasants, women and children were forced to take part in the gruelling construction effort. The canal was completed in 1842 but the rapid rise of the rail and the road almost immediately made it obsolete. The construction of the Guerledan dam in the 1930s split the canal in two and it was about to be abandoned when tourism brought it a second life.
Pays de la Loire
Unlike other French regions, Pays de la Loire is not the modern appellation of an old province, its five departments having been regrouped on purely administrative and political grounds. The region took bits and pieces from Brittany, Anjou, Maine, Perche and Poitou. The river Loire is the common ground between the five departments and its 280 km make it the world's largest site listed on the UNESCO World Heritage. Historical sites and monuments in the Loire valley are countless from the edieval castles in Angers, Nantes or Saumur or the Renaissance jewels in Brissac or Montsoreau.
The region is the 5thin France in terms of population and revenue. It is remarkable in the filed of food industry, producing 51 pc of the meat in France, 19 pc of the milk and 20 pc of grain.
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