Smell Atlantic Loire

  • © Shutterstock

    © Shutterstock

Smell Atlantic Loire atlantique loire fr

Salt marshes

Head to medieval Guérande in Loire-Atlantique to fill your nose with the distinctive smell of sea salt, carried on the wind from the seven square miles of surrounding marshes. Around 10,000 tonnes of coarse salt is produced each year but only 300 tonnes of the delicate fleur de sel, highly prized by chefs. To find out about this fascinating industry head to Terre de Sel in Pradel; here you can learn about salt harvesting and visit a salt pond with a paludier (salt harvester) before buying some goodies to take home from the on-site shop. If your legs are weary, take a marsh tour in a horse-drawn carriage. Guérande itself is a beautiful medieval town, near Nantes and surrounded by wonderful landscapes created by the salt marshes. At 1,343 metres long, its fortified town wall is one of the best preserved in France.

 

Horses

Most people will agree that horses have a distinctive smell… and it can be a comforting one as you take a tour of this part of France on horseback. Pays de la Loire has more racecourses, races and breeds of horse than any other region in France, so you’ve come to the right place if you love anything equine-related.

Perhaps your first stop should be Le Cadre Noir in Saumur (www.ifce.fr/en/cadre-noir), created during Louis XV’s reign and listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011. Now housing France’s National Riding School, its aim is to train in the art of French horsemanship, competition and research. The stables, the grand ring and the armouries are open to visitors, and riding enthusiasts can also attend events including dressage and practice sessions. The unrivalled horse shows set an international standard for the equestrian arts and are without equal. There are 300 hectares to explore with 50km of bridle paths, plus 16 outdoor and seven indoor arenas and, of course, 400 horses! Watch the riders and their mounts in training and rehearsals. The accompanying Museum of Cavalry offers an extensive collection of weapons and costumes to browse.

Those who are interested in horse breeding should visit the Haras National (National Stud) at Le Lion-d’Angers  or the Haras de la Vendée  in La Roche-sur-Yon. The latter is set in 11 acres of land in the centre of town and comprises an academy for horses, a team of saddlers and blacksmiths plus a calendar of equestrian shows focusing on all aspects of horsemanship including dressage. In terms of large spectator events, there’s a full programme of racing in Les Sables-d’Olonne and Pornichet during the summer season, while Craon is famous for its Festival des 3 Glorieuses  (3-day racing event), and Le Lion-d’Angers hosts the Anjou Loire Challenge, the world’s longest horse race.

 

Magnolias

Did you know that the magnolia is the world's oldest flowering plant? The city of Nantes boasts one of the oldest specimens in Europe, planted in its Jardin des Plantes in 1807 and still blooms every year. The ‘Hectot’ magnolia is 40ft tall and 10ft in circumference, and the most famous of the 331 varieties in Nantes’ magnificent national collection. Magnolias reflect the city’s transatlantic trade, as the first plants arrived from Mississippi in 1711.
www.magnolia-nantes.fr

 

Roses

Head to the troglodyte village of Doué-la-Fontaine (Maine-et-Loire) in July for its annual rose festival, an extravaganza of colour and fragrance with more than 100,000 roses on display. Held since 1959, the festival also incorporates a major international floral design competition – and twinkling lights make the setting truly magical after dark.
www.lescheminsdelarose.com

Additional resources

Things to see