Departements within the Pays de la Loire
Pays de la Loire Description
Pays de la Loire in western France, has a diverse, if low lying landscape, residing largely in the Massif Armoricain. The wild and rugged Atlantic coast in the west contrasts with the lush, green countryside and rivers of the Loire valley in the centre. There are vast rural areas, many devoted to agriculture, plus large urban conurbations and economic centres. It has a temperate climate with mild winters and warm summers.
Loire Atlantique has 137km (85 miles) of rocky and sandy coastline, including 27km (17 miles) of coast dotted with resorts and known as the Côte de Jade, because of the green color of the sea. Besides many scenic and rural areas, plus vineyards producing the dry muscadet wine, the region is known mainly for the Nantes/ St Nazaire area - a major ship-building and industrial complex.
Vendée is a popular destination for tourists, with over 200km (125 miles) of sandy beaches and two offshore islands- Noirmoutier and Yeu. Cultural and 'green' tourism predominate inland. The coast is lined with woods, including the Forêt d'Olonne, and the department is bordered, north and south, with extensive salt marshes which are popular for bird watching. Vendée's architectural heritage is evident in its impressive châteaux, abbeys, and fine churches. Tourism is now the premier industry of the departement
Maine et Loire, known locally as the Val d'Anjou, was formed mainly from the historic province of Anjou. It is also known as the 'valley of the kings' due to its royal past and their legacy of châteaux, abbeys, romantic churches and manor houses which attract 2.3 million tourists each year.
The landscape is dominated by the Loire valley and its tributaries, of which nine are navigable. The river is surrounded by a broad, fertile plain covered with lush green vegetation, market gardens, orchards and vineyards. Notable wines include Rosé d'Anjou and Saumur - available in sparkling and still varieties.
There are also fascinating troglodyte caves with 1000km of underground tunnels - many converted into wine cellars, art galleries and mushroom farms; and large forested areas running the length of the valley - mainly forêt domaniale, equivalent to to the British National Trust.
The most visited towns are the flowered city of Angers, with its enormous fortress of King Rene, followed by Saumur, home of the Cadre Noir horse riding academy, and the Romanesque Notre-Dame-de-Nantilly, displaying notable 15th - 17th century tapestries. The 12th century Fontevrault-l'Abbaye near Saumur is also popular, with its statues and graves of Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine and their son Richard I (the Lion Heart).
The department of Sarthe consists largely of undulating fields and woodland sculpted by the Sarthe river. It has a rich agricultural heritage, with numerous châteaux at Verdelles, Montmirail, Bazouges-sur-le-Loir and Le Lude. The Mayenne department is predominantly wooded and hilly with around 55 miles of navigable river. It is not as popular with tourists, but does have some interesting châteaux, abbeys and prehistoric caves. The cattle market at Château Gontier is one of the most important in France.
Pays de la Loire is the fifth most populated region of France, but its population density is close to the national average, although significant differences exist between the departements. Mayenne for example has 55 inhabitants per km, whilst Loire-Atlantique appears relatively crowded with 166 inhabitants per km. It also has a young population, with 30% of Ligerians under 25 years of age.
Property prices are slightly lower than the average for France but have been rising steadily in the past few years, particularly in the coastal areas and the Loire valley, making it a good place to invest in property. There is also a high speed (2 hour) TGV link between Nantes and Paris which has benefited the local economy, tourism and property market.
The economy was traditionally based on agro foods, but today boasts an impressive and diverse economic portfolio with many small and medium sized businesses. The region is now the fifth wealthiest region in France, with GDP representing 4.6% of French GDP and employment accounting for 5% of total employment in France. Unemployment is consistently lower than the national average.
The region is the second largest in France for both agriculture and livestock breeding, and the fifth largest for fishing. Food processing is the leading employer in the region's industrial sector - primarily dairy products, biscuit manufacture and pork products. The Nantes/Saint Nazaire port complex is the leading centre for ship building. Wood processing ranks number one nationally and fashion ranks second. Other strong sectors include: aeronautics and plastics (both second nationally); the automobile industry, which dominates the town of Le Mans; and the electronics and computer industry. Tourism also plays a major part in the local economy, providing 61,000 salaried jobs in the summer season.
Pays de la Loire Population
Pop.density (people per km2): 100