These pages have been prepared using notes drawn up by Fr. Emmanuel Guil, S.M.M., and Bro François Garat, S.G., with the addition of some directions to help visitors to France to find the various places of Montfortian interest.
Most of the places dealt with in this booklet are accessible from two main centres: Montfort-sur-Meu in the Northern area, and St Laurent-sur-Sèvre in the Southern area. It might be more convenient for some to stay in Pontchâteau to see the places around there and in the Nantes area. If you wish to include the Paris sites, you would have to stay there as well.
Montfort-sur-Meu is about an hour and a half's drive North of Pontchâteau, which in turn is about an hour and a half's drive North of St Laurent-sur-Sèvre. Montfort-sur-Meu is roughly three hours' drive from Cherbourg, four hours from Paris. St Laurent-sur-Sèvre is about four hours' drive from Paris.
By public transport, there are fast trains (the TGV Atlantique) from Paris-Montparnasse to Rennes; to Nantes or Saint-Nazaire; and to Angers. From Nantes to Montfort-sur-Meu, there are local trains; also from Nantes or Saint-Nazaire to Pontchâteau; and from Angers to Cholet, which is about 12 km North of Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre. It is a relatively easy walk from the station in Montfort to the Maison Natale. You would need to take a cab from Pontchâteau station to Le Calvaire. Likewise, you would need to take a cab from Cholet to Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre.
However, it is not easy to visit many of the places listed without a car, so public transport is really only useful for getting to the main centres.
The places which can be visited easily from Montfort are: Montfort itself and the immediate area, Iffendic and the Bois Marquer, Mont Saint-Michel, Dinan, and the La Chèze area, as well as Rennes. You need at least one whole day to see Montfort and Iffendic and the surrounding areas. Mont Saint-Michel and Dinan can be visited in a day (a fairly full day!); while the La Chèze area needs at least a half day; Rennes probably needs at least another half-day. If you want to see everything in the Northern area, therefore, you need to stay in Montfort for at least three days (four or more would be better).
The places which can be visited with reasonable ease from St Laurent-sur- Sèvre are: St Laurent itself; La Séguinière; Saint-Pompain, Mervent and Vouvant; La Rochelle; Poitiers; Notre Dame des Ardilliers (Saumur) and Fontevrault; Pontchâteau and Nantes. Pontchâteau deserves more than a short stop on the way from Montfort to St Laurent or vice-versa; ideally you should spend at least a day in Pontchâteau and the surrounding area (excluding Nantes). For the other places accessible from St Laurent, you need a whole day to visit Poitiers, another whole day to visit La Rochelle (you could, at a push, include Saint-Pompain, Mervent and Vouvant in that day, but it would be better to make a separate trip); and certainly a whole day to visit St Laurent itself, with perhaps another day to go to Saumur and Fontevrault (you could take in one of the famous Loire châteaux that day, if you wish), and another for the area surrounding St Laurent (including La Séguinière, St Amand-sur-Sèvre, etc.). You should try to spend at least four or five days, therefore, in St Laurent, with another day added if you intend to visit Pontchâteau and Nantes from there.
In Montfort-sur-Meu, there may be accommodation at the Maison Natale and the adjoining old Gendarmerie for medium sized groups and for individuals. Sometimes arrangements can be made to accommodate larger groups at the Abbaye St. Jacques. In either case, you need to make arrangements in advance.
In Pontchâteau, there is a small Hôtellerie belonging to the Montfortians at the Calvary, which may be available in the summer months.
Accommodation is usually available for Montfortians (Fathers, Sisters, Brothers), either at the Saint-Esprit or at Béthanie (Daughters of Wisdom) or at Saint-Gabriel. There may also be accommodation available for others. Again you need to make arrangements in advance.
A sketch map of the West of France, showing most of the places mentioned here, is available by clicking here.
The following Michelin 1/200,000 maps (1 cm to 2 km, or roughly 3 miles to the inch) would be invaluable aids to finding your way around:
|For the whole of the area centred on Montfort-sur-Meu||59 or 230|
|For Pontchâteau||63 or 230|
|For St Laurent, Poitiers, Saumur, Nantes, etc.||67|
|For La Rochelle, Mervent, Saint-Pompain||71|
If telephoning from Gt. Britain, dial 00 33, followed by these numbers.
|Maison Natale, Montfort-sur-Meu||15, Rue de la Saulnerie,
|2-99 09 15 35|
|Saint-Esprit (SMM), St Laurent-sur-Sèvre||2-4 Rue des Couvents,|
85290 St Laurent/Sèvre
|2-51 67 81 41|
|Béthanie (FDLS), St Laurent-sur-Sèvre||Béthanie,|
Rue des Couvents,
85290 St Laurent/Sèvre
|2-51 67 81 85|
contact the Sisters
|2-40 88 24 79|