REGIONAL CAPITAL: Nantes
DEPARTMENTS: Loire-Atlantique, Sarthe, Vendée, Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne
MAIN CITIES: Nantes, Angers, Le Mans, Saint-Nazaire, Laval, Saumur, La Roche-sur-Yon, Cholet, Les Sables-d’Olonne
Nantes, the historic capital of the ancient kingdom of Brittany, is not in Brittany. Since 1958, it has been capital of the neighbouring region of Pays de la Loire.
If that is not confusing enough, most of the romantic chateaux of the Loire Valley are in the neighbouring Centre-Val de Loire region and not the Pays de la Loire, despite the reference to the river in the name.
But it boasts an impressive heritage. In historic terms, Pays de la Loire covers parts of the old provinces of Brittany, Anjou, Maine and Poitou, which means it is home to the castles of Angers, Laval, and Mayenne, the Nantes Château des Ducs de Bretagne, the Royal Fontevraud Abbey, and the city of Le Mans.
There is, of course, also the giant mechanical elephant that walks the streets of Nantes in honour of author Jules Verne, who was born in the city.
The bustle of Paris is just a two-hour drive away, making the region a popular destination for those looking for a break from the capital, while Nantes airport offers flights to the UK and a host of European – and non-European – countries.
Britons are increasingly discovering this rolling, romantic part of France, in which 3.55million people live in an area just a little larger than Belgium, a country with a population of some 11.3million.
The median price (the exact price where half of the houses sold are for less and half for more) for a non-new-build house in Angers is €242,500, notaire sales figures show. The same in Nantes is €358,000 and €235,000 in Les Sables-d’Olonne