Longeville-sur-mer and surrounding areas by Duncan Clarke
If you're staying at the Camping Des Dunes in the Vendee it's worth visiting Longville-Sur-Mer which is just north of the site. You can walk along the beach, cycle along the woodland tracks or drive and park just above the beach. There are a few shops and restaurants but this isn't a shopping trip - you're looking for dinosaurs! You probably wont find a T-rex but if the tides low and it needs to be, you should soon start spotting ammonite casts on the rocks. You need to tune in to spot them but they look a bit like a curled up rams horn and were swimming around in what must have once been a tropical sea more than 65 million years ago and suffered the same fate as the dinosaurs. If you're lucky you might find more than just casts, I found several complete ammonites including one that measures nearly 10" across! I dont think there are any rules about taking complete specimens but dont go trying to remove the casts.
The french dont seem to be bothered about the dino's they're more interested in rooting around the rockpools, which would appear to be stuffed with lunch of one sort or another. The one thing that they dont seem to have a recipe for are 'sea slugs' which I've never seen in this country or even further north in France.
If rock pool dinnosaurs, sea slugs or the red squirrels, lizards, snakes and occasional preying mantis to be found in the pine woods around Des Dunes aren't your thing, La Rochelle is about an hours drive and well worth a visit. It's very different to the French towns further north and is the gateway to the Il De Re which is accessed by a toll bridge, it's fairly expensive but if you can give it a full day it's worth it with loads of ports to explore. If it's windy look out for the kite surfers on the west coast.
La Tranche itself is a smart seaside town with loads of restaurants and shops and has a regular market and if you visit, treat yourself to a 'tourteau au fromage'. It's a domed cake made with goats cheese and it looks burnt on the top, not sounding too good at the moment but absolutely delicious with coffee back at your mobile home. The town is stuffed with pottery shops and they're different to breton pots, I bought a sun dial and one day it'll tell the right time, I'm sure.