Christmas market and a glimpse of the Vendee River

Paloma, our motorhome is resting in the nicely landscaped aire on the the edge of a quiet and pleasant country town, there are several interesting buildings to discover in Fontenay-le-Comte, it makes a very pleasant place for a stroll on a still damp December day (N 46.461990 W 0.804950).

Nestled in the banks of the gently flowing Vendee River, Fontenay-le-Comte was the capital of the Vendee region around the end of the 18th century, and the most interesting buildings date from then.

The centre of town is a conservation area, restricting development, and you will come across some impressive mansions and townhouses as you pass through the open squares and past the fountains

The view of the town is dominated by the spire of the Church of Notre-Dame: the church was built in the 15th century in the ‘flamboyant gothic’ style on the site of a much older church: the roman style crypt below the church was bult in the 11th century, then ‘lost’ for several centuries until it was rediscovered in the 19th century.

Everywhere we look, lights are strung up high above the streets; the main road is adored with a modern but stately Christmas tree, the town churches have out their finest Nativity scenes, and of course, what really took our eye was just setting up across the river from us, a proper provincial French Christmas market, having very slowly translated the signs we knew we could be in for a treat with a fireworks display thrown in to boot!

The Christmas markets that we get in England alway seem just an over hyped shopping trip, our local one based around the grounds of Exeter Cathedral is always so packed you can’t move, but here it’s a much more relaxed affair bringing families out by the carload to stroll, play, try local delicacies, buy last-minute gifts, and simply enjoy the lively atmosphere.

The main feature of a French Christmas market are the rows of chalets, small wooden huts from which vendors sell their wares. Lights are strung along the roofs to give them a warm glow as night falls. There is a cool toboggan slide for the kids, and of course, delicious things to eat and plenty of vin chaud to keep Michele and I warm …..


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