LE POULIGUEN (Pop: 4,450)
In addition to its sandy beach (Nau beach) - hence its name meaning "little white bay" - and its wood, one of the major assets of Pouliguen, there are many coves on the rocky coast, and caves that can be discovered at low tide. The most famous is the cave of the Korrigans which led, according to legend, to Guérande and was guarded by a terrible korrigan (monster).
In 2012, the bay of Le Pouliguen-La Baule-Pornichet joined the Club of the most beautiful Bays of the World (World Bays).
The origin of the Pouliguen quays dates back to the 15th century. Completely restored in 1861, they are made of granite and today extend to the end of the promenade built at the same time. The quays of Le Pouliguen took the name of Quai Jules Sandeau in memory of the writer who frequently visited the city between 1854 and 1870. The located the action of his novel La Roche aux Mouettes (Seagull Rock) in Le Pouliguen. Once lined with beautiful houses, the oldest dating back to the sixteenth century, the port has evolved with time. The granite constructions of the golden era of the salt trade have for the most part given way, either to seaside-type villas or to modern buildings from the 1960s. Today at Le Pouliguen, yachting replaced traditional activities such as salt trading or fishing.
The Pouliguen is also the home port of the Peyron brothers, who grew up there before going on to conquer the world of sailing.
GUÉRANDE (Pop: 16,000)
A medieval jewel located between the estuaries of the Villaine and the Loire and the Atlantic Ocean, Guérande is known worldwide for its salt. In the centre of a peninsula, the city dominates three markedly contrasted landscapes: the blue territory of the sea; the black countryside of the peat of Brière and the white soils of the salt marshes. The real golden age of the city was in the late Middle Ages. At the end of the 15th century, the town had 4,000 inhabitants. Most of the urban wall preserved today dates from that period. Land of salt and granite, Guérande welcomes around 1.5 million visitors a year. The salt marshes, protected and listed since 1996, attract large crowds and make the international reputation of the city. The Collegiate Church Saint-Aubin, in the heart of the ramparts, is the second most frequented religious monument of the Pays de la Loire region. With nearly 300,000 visits a year, it is placed just behind just Nantes Cathedral. Another asset of Guérande is the Regional Natural Park of Brière with its ponds and its channels.
The major event of the year in Guérande is undoubtedly the Medieval Festival, which attracts more than 45,000 visitors each year in May.
HERBIGNAC (Pop: 6,600)
The town is located at the crossroads of the main lines of communication between Nantes and Vannes, Guérande and Redon. It explains the strategic importance of the Château de Ranrouët, a beautiful vestige of medieval times (13th to 17th century), locking the Guérande peninsula, and regulating the salt trade, as well as the production of pottery, since Herbignac was a Breton pottery center of prime importance since the Gallo-Roman era. This activity ended in 1945. Fortunately, in recent years, several potters have settled back in Herbignac where they exercise their talents and exhibit their works. The Château de Ranrouët is being restored and hosts visits and several events.
LA CHAPELLE-DES-MARAIS (Pop: 4,000)
La Chapelle-des-Marais is known for its “Mayun” baskets, rounded chestnut and buckthorn baskets traditionally used by salt workers. The "mayuns", because of their original production, are listed as cultural heritage in France.
PONTCHÂTEAU (Pop: 10,600)
Pontchâteau can claim the title of cyclo-cross capital in France. The city has indeed hosted in the Coët-Rotz woods two world championships of the discipline (1989 and 2004), two European championships (2005 and 2016), five French championships (1978, 1999, 2008, 2009 and 2015) and four rounds of the World Cup.
The city also hosted the grand start of the 1988 Tour de France and the start of the first half-stage to Machecoul won by Steve Bauer, who then became the second Canadian after Alex Stieda to wear the Yellow Jersey.
BLAIN (Pop: 9,640)
On the Nantes to Brest Canal, near the Gavre forest, Blain stands out with its 13th-century medieval castle, the castle of Groulaie, rebuilt in the 16th century, and part of a defensive system of the borders of Brittany along with the chateaux of Vitré, Fougères, Ancenis, Châteaubriant and Clisson. Built by order of the Duke of Brittany Alan IV around 1108, it became in 1407 the property of the Rohan family, who modified it considerably. In 1918, it was acquired by Marie Bonaparte, a pioneer of psychoanalysis and the princess of Greece, before becoming the property of the town for its protected parts. The castle now hosts many events, the most popular of which is The Archers Jousts, and a museum of ancient printing.
VAY (Pop: 2,100)
This small town, which is home to the beautiful pond of Clégreuc, is also the birthplace of Eloi Tassin, French road champion in 1945 and winner of two stages of the Tour de France, in 1939 in Rennes and in 1947 in La Baule, where he died in 1977. This solid rouleur, winner of the Grand Prix des Nations in 1945 and team-mate of Jean Robic, also won Grand Prix de Plouay twice in 1945 and 1948. Before this stage ,Vay will hold the seventh edition of the Eloi Tassin Gran Fondo, dedicated to the memory of the local champion.
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