Just a short drive or train journey from Paris, the Loire Valley once the playground of Kings, is one of the most popular destinations in France.
For most people, the Loire Valley means one thing – chateaux, and with good reason, some of the most beautiful, legendary castles in the world are found in this part of France. But there’s more to this area and a holiday here means that you’ll enjoy the finest wines, historic villages, fabulous gastronomy, gorgeous gardens and a whole lot more.
No French King or Queen worth their salt would reign without building or tinkering with a chateau in “the garden of France”. But one stands out above all others – Francois I. He is credited with bringing the Renaissance to France and he also brought its cover boy, Leonardo da Vinci to live in the Loire in the little Chateau du Clos Lucé (above), it’s well worth a visit after being magnificently restored, next to his own at Amboise. There are hundreds of chateaux open to the public, seemingly one at every turn, and everyone will have their favourite but the Chateau de Chenonceau (top pic) takes some beating. The stunning flower arrangements and fabulous landscaped gardens, romantic turrets and exquisite architecture make this a very special place to visit.
Wine and Dine
Vineyard visits and wine tasting opportunities galore are to be had in the Loire. As with chateaux, everyone will have their favourite and you’re utterly spoiled for choice here. One of the most special places for the views and the wine is Sancerre. The town of Sancerre (above) is perched high on a hill overlooking lush vineyards in which grapes grow to make… Sancerre.
The Loire is famous for its mushroom caves and cheeses and just down the road from Sancerre is the little village of Chavignol. Here you can buy direct from the farm, delicious crottin de Chavignol and guess what – it’s perfect with Sancerre!
The Loire is peppered with picturesque villages and historic towns and cities. There are way too many to go into here but just to whet your appetite consider these:
Bourges (above) – winding ancient streets; a chateau fit for a king but built for a commoner albeit a very wealthy one, Jacques Coeur, which got him into trouble; a magnificent Cathedral; fabulous restaurants, gourmet shops and more…
Tours – a great base for touring the chateaux of the Loire Valley. Excellent restaurants, art centres and a great vibe make this one to add to your bucket list.
Saumur – a small town that packs a big castle with the most amazing views over the river Loire.
Blois – boat rides on the river with views you’ll never forget; a truly extraordinary chateau; beautiful cobbled streets – it’s a town to fall in love with.
Angers – home to Cointreau; a fabulous castle with incredible tapestries as well as famous tapestries that are more modern; great foodie destination – a vibrant city that makes for a terrific base.
Known as the garden of France, the Loire has some of the most spectacular gardens in the world.
The internationally renowned gardens of the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire with the annual months’ long festival of garden design is superb – think Kew Gardens meets Chelsea Flower Show.
The gardens of the Chateau du Rivau (above) are like a fairy tale come to life, and the theme in the gardens is, in fact, fairy tale. Giant cups, a tower fit for Rapunzel, a chapel of roses and the most beautiful, imaginative planting and quirky ornamentation make this a stand out visit. They also have a fabulous restaurant.
The Prieure d’Orsan is a little off the beaten track but oh so beautiful. Mysterious, romantic and full of witty, basketed things with a medieval theme – this place is an absolute jewel of a garden.
Explore this beautiful area and stay somewhere fabulous with French Connections – we’re here to help you make your holiday dreams come true…