It should be noted that Pays-de-la-Loire is not the region of France that you would visit to see the amazing châteaux of the Loire Valley. However, there is plenty to see in Pays-de-la-Loire. The region was created in the 20th century based on geography surrounding the city of Nantes. Exceptional monuments like the castle at Angers, the Châteaux des Ducs de Bretagne in Nantes, Fontevraud Abbey, and the old city of Le Mans are here.
Nantes is the largest city in Pays-de-la-Loire, located on the Loire River 50 km from the Atlantic Ocean. The metropolitan area that includes Nantes proper has a population of around 800,000. Time magazine in 2004 declared it as the most livable city in Europe, and it is known for its innovation and its environmental consciousness. It has garnered similar accolades from publications in France as well.
Sites to see in Nantes include the aforementioned Châteaux des Ducs de Bretagne, the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the Eglise Notre-Dame de Bon-Port, the Eglise Saint-Nicolas, the Eglise Saint-Croix, as well as the Mosquée Arrahma and Mosquée des Turcs. There is also a Planetarium and several museums, including a natural history museum, a fine arts museum, and the Jules Verne museum.
Les Sables d’Olonne is a seaside town on the Atlantic Ocean, located in Pays-de-la-Loire. The seaside resorts are its biggest draw, though the city does have the 17th century Musée de l’Abbaye Sainte-Croix, a national museum representing the artists Gaston Chaissac and Victor Brauner. The history of Les Sables d’Olonne is intimately tied with the ocean since its founding in 1218 by Savary 1er de Mauléon. In the 17th century, Les Sables d’Olonne was the biggest cod fishing port in France. The port, however, was destroyed by the evacuating German army in August 1944.
Angers is part of what used to be the province of Anjou, and its citizens are called Angevins. The city has a population of over 150,000, with the metropolitan area home to roughly twice that number. Angers’ history goes back to Roman times. It occupies both banks of the Maine River and is crossed by six bridges. Market gardens and nurseries flourish along the river district of Angers, and the city is famous for cut flowers and fresh produce. In addition to the huge ancient château, Angers is famous for the 12th century spires of the Cathedral of Saint-Maurice. St. Serge is an abbey built in the 12th and 15th centuries, and La Trinité Cathedral and the abbey of Saint Aubin are two other important 12th century structures.
Museums in Angers that are nationally important include the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which houses art from the 14th century through modern times, the Galerie David d’Angers, dedicated to 19th century sculptor David d’Angers, and the Musée Pincé, which contains classical, Egyptian, Etruscan, Chinese, and Japanese art. The Musée Jean Lurçat et de la Tapisserie Contemporaine houses famous tapestries, though tapestries are to be found in the Château as well as other museums. Angers is an important center for tapestries overall.
A vacation in Pays-de-la-Loire can easily take in a major city (Nantes), a seaside resort, and an impressive ancient city. The region is geographically diverse, but very rich in history, activities, and culture.