Vendée guide: a winter wonderland with Erin Gois
As Christmas approaches, Erin Gois, owner of the Chateau de Bourneau, shares with us her favourite places in the Vendée. From Bourneau to the magnificent Christmas market at Maillezais, via the Petite Cité de Caractère of Vouvant, the Vendée offers a multitude of landscapes and has many surprises in store for visiting tourists, even in the winter.
Through this special winter Vendée Guide, discover the magic of Christmas in the Southern Vendée!
Bourneau, a real fairytale
Erin, originally from London, and her French husband Jean-Baptiste Gois, left Edinburgh and their jobs as a doctor and a mechanical engineer to become “chatelaines” or lord and lady of the manor! In 2018, they settled in Bourneau, a small village in the Southern region of the Vendée, after falling in love with the Chateau de Bourneau. This castle dates from 1863 and is inspired by the chateau of Azay le Rideau, in the Loire valley.
Since they moved in, Erin and Jean-Baptiste have been renovating the chateau and bringing it back to life with various events: weddings, a floral weekend workshop with an expert floral designer, an artists’ retreat... Within the 16-hectare park, the owners also offer 4 large gites, each with a swimming pool and private garden, which can accommodate up to 42 people.
As the festive season approaches, Erin and Jean-Baptiste have beautifully decorated the castle to give it a festive atmosphere and a modern touch.
A Green Christmas in Vouvant
After this presentation, Erin takes us on a tour of Vouvant, which has been awarded the "Petite Cité de Caractère" label. This medieval town is full of treasures and has a unique legend, that of Mélusine, the serpent fairy. She is said to have created Vouvant. You can discover this legend at the Vouvant Tourist Office, before visiting the Mélusine tower, the only remaining vestige of the Lusignan castle. This tower offers a magnificent panorama of the fortified town as well as the Mervent-Vouvant forest. In addition to its bucolic setting, Vouvant is considered a village of artists, with some fifteen studios and art galleries.
All year round, summer and winter alike, it is very pleasant to stroll through the narrow streets to discover its numerous gardens. The “Jardin des Sens” where your senses are in for a treat or even the “Jardin du Prieuré “the Priory Garden where you can admire the Poterne gate, the only remaining gate of the town.
The church “Notre Dame de l'Assomption” built under the influence of William the Great of Aquitaine, is a listed historic monument, and worth a visit. An impressive organ was installed and inaugurated in 2020.
This small village and its many treasures have been attracting tourists for many years, especially English-speaking tourists. It is said that Vouvant is one of the most British villages in France!
Rockin’ around the Cherry tree
After visiting Vouvant some people even decide to move there. This was the case of the British couple Dean and Suzanne Richards, who have taken over the running of the café “La Cour du Miracle”. They fell in love with the place and decided to leave Australia, where they had been living for almost 30 years and returned to live in Vouvant. The café has a relaxed friendly atmosphere, where you can treat yourself to some lemon cake or a slice of Victoria sponge cake and a traditional cup of Australian coffee....
On the “Place du Bail”, opposite the “Tour Mélusine”, you can't miss the pretty blue front of the Cour du Miracle café. This charming place takes its name from the small backyard where there is a cherry tree and an intriguing legend.
Santa Claus is comin’ to Maillezais
You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, Erin will tell you why… Santa Claus is comin’ to Maillezais!
Located in the Southern Vendée, at the gateway to the Marais poitevin, Maillezais hosts a large oriental-inspired Christmas market every year. Over two weekends in December, more than 60 craftsmen and traders installed in Tuareg style tents, transport visitors into the desert.
This event takes place beside the ruins of the famous Saint Pierre de Maillezais abbey, the largest historical site in the Marais poitevin. Once a powerful fortress, a Romanesque abbey and then a Gothic cathedral, Maillezais has shone for centuries in religious, economic, and artistic terms.
Overlooking the canals dug by the monks to drain the Gulf of the Pictons, Maillezais stands on an island overlooking the Marais Poitevin, a splendid natural environment unique in France.
For this Christmas fair, the abbey is decorated with numerous lights and a firework display illuminates it every hour from 5pm.
Nearby, the abbey’s “embarcadère” or jetty is also illuminated, to the delight of young and old alike. Trips along the Green Venice are possible in fine weather.
At last, just because it’s Christmas (and at Christmas you tell the truth)
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on
Your troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas!