LE PAYS DES OLONNES

The history town

It's intermediate between the two other towns, both for its area, 3122 hectares, as for its population, 14 000 inhabitants, constantly growing, so that, according to experts, The Land of Olonnes might reach 50 000 inhabitants in the short term.

OrbestierThe History Town, because the first barons of Olonne settled in this area, particularly in a castle probably built in the 9th century, which gave its name to this town; unfortunately nothing remains. But the current St Hilaire Church would have been built on the site of the former chapel of the Counts of Olonne which adjoined the castle. Nevertheless, if the castle no longer exists, the home of "Fenestreau" would have been built in the 15th century, in part with stones of the ancient feudal castle. After being destroyed a few times, this home was rebuilt in 1810. Only a magnificent porch is dated from the 15th century. Among the main sites of Château d'Olonne, we find Benedictine Abbey St Jean d'Orbestier, typical of the Romanesque Architecture in Vendée. It was built in 1110 but often destroyed, burnt and torn down. It was only in 1989 that the Town Council decided to acquire it and it's under renovation. The Abbey is no longer a place of worship, but it regularly hosts cultural events and exhibitions. A natural site, "Well of Hell" is the subject of various legends; in fact, it's a 30 metres natural rift in the rock, on the coast. On spring tides days, the sea rushes through the rift with impressive roars and such a violence, that thewaves sometimes rise about ten metres high, producing extensive and vaporous gushes of spotless white foam, what attracts many onlookers who don't fear getting well and truly soaked. That unique sight, as the guidebooks precise it, is worth seeing. St Jean Mill, private property, houses a collection of 500 headdresses of Vendée which can be seen by groups through The Tourist Office of Château d'Olonne. The Sand Museum is a rare sight as well with its 13000 sand samples from the whole world. At last, when you visit The Land of Olonnes, don't forget to go hiking on the beautiful pedestrian footpath that runs along the coast of Château d'Olonne over several kilometres, without specific difficulties and among the holm oaks. It offers great views on the rocks which line the coast; according to people, some of them would have been sculpted by artists of genious and they allow photographers to come back with dream memories.

In the boardroom of the Town Hall of Château d'Olonne, we can see the Twinning Charter signed by the Mayors of Olonne, Sables d'Olonne, Château d'Olonne and Worthing on 17th October 1998. If we need one more reason to authenticate the History Town, especially within the context of the Twinning with Worthing, we can mention that Richard The Lion-Heart, King of England from 1189 to 1199, son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II Plantagenet, visited the monks of St Jean d'Orbestier in 1182 because he used to hunt on the lands of the Abbey where he owned a hunting lodge. Texte de Rollan Houillon,member du Jumelage

The flagship city

Only 2,000 acres in size, the city is the smallest, but has the largest population with over 16,000 inhabitants.

Les-Sables-1Flagship city, indeed, of the Olonnes Country, it is known worldwide, mainly through its famous solo sailing race : «the Vendée Globe». Every four years, since 1989, fearless seamen set sail from Les Sables d’Olonne's marina to cross the main oceans, over 24,000 nautical miles, alone on their boats, without assistance. This race has now become inevitable. More and more visitors attend this sea festivity which has become popular, taking into account the repeated achievements of sailors ready for all challenges. The city staff have become experts in setting up sea races. Each year, over fifty nautical events take place.

Moreover, all these infrastructures are completed by a marina : Port Olonna, true town within the town, offering 1 500 moorings. Les Sables d’Olonne are classified in third position, behind St Malo and Arcachon, among comparable seaside towns.

This city also owns an exceptional beach, three kilometers long, with fine sand, a beach well equipped and maintained, with its famous embankment erected between 1751 and 1756, rebuilt since, of course. There are also two piers from the same period with their light-houses. For several kilometers, on each side of the town, is the so called «wild coast», made of rocky areas separated by tiny sand beaches.  The church of Our Lady of safe harbour, in the city centre, was erected from 1643 onwards, at the request of the seamen who looked after a site for prayer. As additional tourist viewpoints, let us mention the Central Hall, erected in 1890, made of iron and bricks in Baltard style ; the famous La Chaume bourough, city's cradle ; the St Nicolas priory ; the zoological garden ; the Salines (marshy area dedicated to salt production) ; the unexpected area of «;l’île Penotte;», having front walls decorated with shells ; several museums, including the Ste Croix abbey, the shellfish museum and the sea museum. Two casinos, for lovers, that, besides the usual games, offer, throughout the year, various performances.Last, let us mention the « fishing » activity of Les Sables d’Olonne, eigth fishing port in France with 68 ships, and 200 seafarers, practising various small scale fisheries. The tonnage produced reaches 7,000 tons a year, most of it for export.

The fishing port, its waterfront and its restaurants are a typical expression of the city. But another link may exist between Les Sables d'Olonne and Worthing. Where from do the Arundel Tower in Les Sables and the Arundel Castle near Worthing get their common name ? The question is posedTexte de Rollan  Houillon, membre du jumelage

The oldest city

The largest with an area of 4 564 hectares, largely made up of marshes and forest at the seaside but the least populated with about 13 100 people.

OlonneThe oldest because She is the one who has seen the original inhabitants of the country of Olonnes who were probably Celts so Olonne could mean "above the water", and if need be, the best witnesses of this precedence would be the megaliths whose famous twins of Pierre Levee are the oldest of the Vendeen coastal.The Seigneurie d'Olonne in the Middle Ages is one of most important of lower Poitou.The village of Olonne then grew around its church Ste Marie d'Olonne, built on a foundation of the fourth century, and was restored in 950 but its known history begins around 1050, is the oldest church in Olonne and it’s worth to visit its own history covering 10 centuries.Then in Olonne was created the first seaport, some remains are still visible.

The beautiful beach at Sauveterre all along the forest of 9 kms, surrounding an area of 11000 hectares is very busy in summer months by tourits and in winter too the inhabitants of Olonne who appreciate its changings when alternately huge waves under westerly winds and strong tides shatter over the sand beach and the rocks. The castle of Pierre Levee is also very popular, it was inspired by le Petit Trianon in Versailles and was built in the 18 th century. The tourist office in olonne sur Mer regularely organizes visits and every year in August a show which relates his history through scenes with 200 extras and lightings. Close to the castle there is a 18 holes golf course opened all year long. See also the originals coastal villages like La Girviere with its so called brush, ie with an outside staircase. The visit might be completed by Le Moulin des Roses, and the manor of La Jarrie.

Remember too that the seaport in Olonne before the current port in Les Sables d ‘Olonne, if we may say initiated our trade with the United Kingdom and from there left ships delivering salt, wine and reporting on the tin.

ZOOM SUR...

RENCONTRES DE CONVERSATION

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Nos réunions de conversation ont lieu cette année le vendredi à 17H30

dans notre salle à Olonnespace 2.

Pour participer à ces conversations il est impératif d'être membre de l'association du jumelage et de participer à ses actions.