Petites Cités de Caractère 29.01.2017

Chênehutte, Jean-Philippe Berlose pour PCC des Pays de la Loire
Fresnay sur Sarthe, Jean-Philippe Berlose pour PCC des Pays de la Loire
Le Croisic, Jean-Philippe Berlose pour PCC des Pays de la Loire
Montreuil Bellay, Credit: Michael Taylor
Sainte Suzanne, Jean-Philippe Berlose pour PCC des Pays de la Loire
© Michael Taylor

The label ‘Petites Cités de Caractère ’ is a distinction given to only a small number of villages and towns with remarkable architectural and natural heritage. 

A ‘must-see’ is Le Croisic on the Loire-Atlantique coast. This cosy fishing port tells a story of sea trade in days gone by when ship owners, captains and wealthy merchants built elegant town houses. Nowadays, you can take a trip in a boat or a bracing walk along the pier.

In the Sarthe, revisit medieval times in the pretty towns of Asnières-sur-Vègre and Fresnay-sur-Sarthe. Much of the original architecture remains from the 10th & 15th centuries and also from the 17th-19th centuries, when the town boomed thanks to the hemp industry. Up high, the gardens offer snapshots of past centuries with views of mills, hills and the fortified town.

Sainte Suzanne in the Mayenne is an idyllic oasis in rolling countryside. The castle, built in the 11th century, houses an intimate and interactive museum. Held under siege by the English in the time of William the Conqueror - you can still visit the ‘Camp des Anglais’ nearby. The architectural heritage is complemented by over 100kms of nature trails waiting to be discovered.

In the Vendée, check-out Nieul-sur-l’Autise where Eleanor of Aquitaine was born. Famous for it’s master-piece abbey which is a of Romanesque art, the village is situated on the edge of the Poitevin marshes. Find time to visit Maison de la Meunerie, a working water mill and traditional millers house; then stop by the Château du Vignaud for a stroll around the grounds.

Montreuil Bellay at the gateway to the Anjou, Touraine and Poitou regions is full of contrasts. The fortified castle set against elegant gardens, tiled and slate roofs against a backdrop of wheat fields and vineyards. Don’t miss the ramparts, imposing gates, church and the priory.