The Loire Valley is made up of orchards, vineyards and farmlands, châteaux and picturesque villages. In spring the fruit trees burst into colour and so do the chateaux gardens. Intoxicating detours are plentiful in this region but these are a few of our favourites…
Saumur is a tranquil sort of town with a friendly ambience. It’s a great place for those who love culture, history, beautiful architecture, wine and great French cuisine. And, let’s face it, it doesn’t get much more tempting than that does it?! Saumur is a flowery town and a great place for wandering. You’ll discover the remains of the ancient walls of the city, and plenty of cafés and places to while away the hours while you enjoy the local wine and produce. Try the friendly Bistrot de Place where the tables spill out onto the pedestrianised square on a sunny day. And then admire the view of the fairy tale looking 12th century castle on a hill overlooking the Loire river.
Lively, buzzing and festive, this remarkably compact city is one of the greenest in France. The massive Chateau d’Angers, a Plantaganet stronghold, is home to a unique masterpiece: the 14th century Tapestry of the Apocalypse. Just as extraordinary, the modern version, Le Chant du Monde, a series of ten tapestries by Jean Lurcat is housed at the Gothic Hôpital Saint-Jean close by. Wine lovers will enjoy the smallest vineyard in Angers, within the castle walls.
The city makes for a great base for touring the Loire. Place Plumereau is perfect for an aperitif, in fact it was once voted, the square most loved by the French for just that reason! Lined with half-timbered buildings of the 15th century with plenty of lively bars, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. There are several cultural venues in the town including the fabulous Centre of Contemporary Art Olivier Debré.
The chateau of Chenonceau is one of the most visited castles in France – we’re not surprised, it’s gorgeous. Turrets and towers, and rooms filled with flowers at the chateau which is as famous for its gardens as its beautiful rooms, once the home of Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henry II, and later the home of his wife, Catherine de Medici. The castle’s master florist is Jean-François Bouchet, a Master Craftsman of France for his floral skills. With a small team, he creates 200 bouquets a week to fills the rooms, hallways and the lovely onsite restaurant.
The Chateau de Chambord is a French Renaissance masterpiece. This jewel of the Loire Valley was begun in 1519, the year Francis 1 became King of France. The flamboyant king loved to put on a show and at Chambord, his imagination ran wild. This grand castle in true Renaissance style was designed to shout to the world that this was the home of the greatest King that ever lived. It’s also famous for its double helix staircase, said to have been inspired by Leonardo da Vinci.
A magnificent royal fortress, in which Richard the Lionheart was born, sits majestically watching over its domain, located high on the banks of the river Loire, right in the centre of the city. In the old town medieval houses line winding cobble stone streets, rue Voltaire is particularly beautiful. Place General de Gaulle is great for restaurants and it’s close to the elevator that takes you up to the chateau, saving you a climb.
Discover more great things to do in the Loire Valley: www.loirevalley-france.co.uk
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