In the Loire Valley, 2019 is all about the Renaissance. Exhibitions, shows, and tours... The region’s chateaux and other monuments will showcase a fascinating period of cultural and artistic renewal.
In 2019, the Loire Valley will celebrate a milestone date of the French Renaissance: 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the first stone being laid to build the Chateau de Chambord, and the birth of a Renaissance Queen of France, Catherine de Medici. This year is your chance to relive this period of flourishing arts and culture through a rich and varied programme of events.
Festivities are high on the list of events at the bijou and beautifully restored Chateau du Clos Lucé which was the last home of the Italian genius’ last residence. From June to September, visitors can enjoy an exhibition entitled “Leonardo da Vinci, his students, the Last Supper, and François I”. A tapestry of the Last Supper, copied from Leonardo da Vinci’s mural, will leave its home at the Vatican to go on show in France for the first time. Throughout the summer, Clos Lucé will be brought to life through a series of events based on the gastronomy and great discoveries of the Renaissance.
A short walk away at the Royal Chateau of Amboise, an exhibition entitled “1519, Death of Leonardo da Vinci: building a legend” will be held. Poignantly, da Vinci is buried in the beautiful Chapel at this gorgeous chateau (from May to August).
Château de Chambord
At the stunning Chateau de Chambord Chateau, a Renaissance jewel of architecture, the past meets future with “Chambord 1519-2019: from utopia to reality”, an exhibition running from May to September. It looks back at the chateau’s history and its virtual transformation into a 21st century utopia by international architects. From 28 June to 13 July, the 2019 edition of the Chambord Festival will also celebrate the chateau’s 500th anniversary.
Catherine de Medici will be celebrated in an exhibition entitled “The Queen’s tapestries", at the Chateau of Chaumont-sur-Loire (September to December). You can also discover a restored version of the Queen’s apothecary at Chenonceau Chateau where she liked to spend time with her herbalist, Nostradamus.
A range of events will shine the spotlight on how people lived in Renaissance times. The “Children of the Renaissance” will take place at the Royal Chateau of Blois, and “Renaissance Living” at the castle of Châteaudun, both running May to September. In Bourges, the “Artisan Curiosity Shop" will teach visitors about Renaissance crafts, while botanists will be feted at Grandes Bruyères Arboretum, in Orleans Forest.
Azay le Rideau
From May to October, the Chateau of Valençay will celebrate its own renaissance through a series of events and tours as well as the Chandelles de la Renaissance, the exquisite gardens lit by candlelight.
Visit the Chateau of Azay le Rideau throughout July and August to see it lit up and looking stunning. The Chateau of Villandry will host “Nights of a Thousand Fires”, candlelit nights in the gardens, first weekends of July and August.
Details of all events can be found at: https://www.vivadavinci2019.fr
April is the perfect month to get out and about, take a well-deserved break and enjoy the spring sunshine in France.
A sight that you’ll never forget will greet you as you arrive at the little northern French seaside resort of Berck-sur-Mer (Pas de Calais). For almost 10 days, the sky will be filled with thousands of kites – the biggest and the best in the world as the colourful International Kite Festival takes place on the beaches. This is one for all ages with lots to do and see but – the kites are certainly the stars here! Details: www.cerf-volant-berck.com/
Head to the historical theme park Puy du Fou (Vendée) which opens its doors in early April. This extraordinary park puts on the most amazing shows, from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Vikings and upwards, immense performances, animatronics that are world famous, period villages, animals and a whole lot more. www.puydufou.com/en
The Nantes carnival is fun and fabulous (Loire-Atlantique). While you’re there, don’t miss a trip to the Les Machines de l’Ile – steam punk meets the imagination of the great French writer Jules Verne as a giant elephant roams the streets and rides featuring enormous shellfish cause open-mouthed wonderment. https://www.nantes-tourisme.com
La Rederie d’Amiens in Amiens, Picardy takes place for just 2 days each year - April and October. It’s the second biggest flea market event in France (Lille Braderie in September is the biggest). Thousands flock to the flea market in the shadow of the famous Cathedral of Amiens and it’s a great day out - plus you may just find the bargain of the year if you go early in the morning! Details: www.somme-tourisme.com
La Fête de la Coquille St Jacques, Brittany sees two days of festivities honouring the humble scallop! In April, the ports of Saint-Quay-Portrieux, Loguivy-de-la-Mer and Erquy hold a festival in honour of the queen of the sands. Boat rides, concerts, special menus and tastings. Details: www.erquy-tourisme.com
All over France, gorgeous gardens will spring into bloom but if you’re seriously into glorious green-fingered beauty head to the International Garden Festival at the Chateau de Chaumont, Loire Valley. Kew Gardens meets Chelsea Flower show with a lot of French flair. Stunning permanent gardens, contemporary art exhibitions, a beautiful, historic chateau and each April, the opening of the International Garden Festival. This year’s theme is “Gardens of Paradise” – heavenly… www.domaine-chaumont.fr/en
We have thousands of fabulous holiday homes all over France, nip over to our search pages to find your ream holiday rental for your next French break…
Tours is an ancient city in the department of Indre et Loire, Centre, Loire Valley, Centre. Surrounded by vineyards, chateaux, charming villages and historic towns, it’s a terrific place to visit in its own right and known as the gateway to the Loire Valley.
IN Tours, you’ll discover a modern city centre with a lively air, an old part of town with a famous cathedral and winding cobbled streets lined with cafes and restaurants and half-timbered houses There are plenty of museums so there’s plenty to do when you’re not tasting wine in vineyards or chateau hopping.
Tours Saint-Gatien cathedral is a majestic building, first built in 337, it burnt down in 561. It was restored on the same site in 590, rebuilt in the 12th century, again in the 13th century. It was finally completed in 1547 and that’s the version we see today. The Romanesque architecture is simply stunning with gorgeous stained-glass windows and a grand organ, it’s a must see in a city of must-sees.
There are several museums in Tours – Musée de la Typo, nothing to do with spell checking, it’s a fascinating place, full of print memorabilia including a press that’s almost 400 years old. There’s also a fine arts museum and natural history museum.
Musée du Compagnonnage was formerly a dormitory for monks at the Benedectine Abbey of Saint Julien in the 13th Century. With more than 1000 artefacts on display include tools and documents from the trades of the area including stone, copper, leather and other textiles. The wood work and carvings are phenomenal, a great place to go with children.
For some outstanding contemporary art, head to Centre de Creation Contemporaine Olivier Debré. Opened in 2017 it’s a fascinating building, with some of the most ambitious modern art projects anywhere in France.
The old part of Tours is great to wander. Cobbled streets, medieval houses, ancient buildings, lots of shops, restaurants and cafés.
Visit Les Halles market, open for over 150 years, this is the belly of the town. Enjoy culinary delights such as local cheeses and wines and take the weight off your feet in one of the many delicious restaurants. (Open daily).
If you like flea markets, head to Tours on the fourth Sunday of the month, when a massive brocante is held on Boulevard Béranger (not in December).
Pop into the Botanical Gardens for a relaxing break. You’ll discover an orangery, exhibition greenhouse and pools plus a small animal park. With over 5 hectares of greenery and more than 2000 plants, trees and shrubs to take in, why not take a picnic from the market.
Tired of walking? Take a river cruise along the Loire from the old port in Tours in a traditional flat-bottomed boat, known as a ‘Toue’. You’ll get a fabulous view of the town and enjoy stunning scenery on a relaxing river tour.
Head to Place Plumereau and take your pick from a whole raft of excellent cafes whose tables spill into this medieval square. Exuberant, vibrant and colourful - it won’t come as any surprise to anyone who goes there to know that this square has been voted by the French as the best place in France for an aperitif.
Discover more about Tours: www.tours-tourisme.com
We have loads of lovely holiday homes in the Indre et Loire department – pop over to our home page to begin your search. We love helping to make your holiday dreams come true…
When it comes to renting our your gite, B&B, cottage, in fact any form of holiday home rental in France – you’ve got competition.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of holiday homes on the market in France all wanting the same thing - to fill as many weeks as possible with paying guests.
You need to work at it to make what you offer guests stand out from all the others. Making your holiday home look its best is just one aspect. Having a great presence on the internet, being proactive on social media… there’s so much you can do to help fill the weeks with paying customers.
One way you can really stand out, is to truly understand the needs and wants of your guests. If you don’t already, it really is worth spending some time on this topic. For instance, if you have a large gite with several bedrooms - your target audience is likely to include families. If that’s the case, do you offer what families need? Toys for the garden, a cot and high chair for toddlers and babies, protected access to the pool for safety, free Wi-Fi access for teens who can’t be separated from their mobiles and tablets.
What is your USP - your Unique Selling Point - for families? Are you near a fabulous theme park, beaches, historic towns, water parks, rivers with sports activities?
Guests want properties that are clean, comfortable and attractive. When it comes to families, they want to be sure that they’re going to have the sort of holiday where they can relax knowing that their kids will have plenty to do as well as being safe. For example, when it comes to pools, a fenced off pool with a gate will be more attractive than one without that level of security.
You need to look at what you’re offering through your customers eyes, inviting friends to test your property rarely works as they usually don’t want to upset you. You have to be tough, go through every room and the garden. Look at what your competition is offering and how they present the benefits.
Keep your information for customers updated and make sure you include even the smaller details. It might not seem important to you to have a fenced in garden, but it will be to most parents.
Families are of course just one niche, so consider other areas – if you’re near a lake, you might appeal to anglers. If you’re near a spa, you might appeal to groups of friends.
Once you start thinking about who your target audience might be, you can work out what your USP is, and how that differentiates you. From here you’ll find it easier to figure out how to appeal to the various types of holiday makers, understand what they need, as well as what they want and start filling the weeks with happy guests… and you’ll no longer be judged on price alone.
Morbihan is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Brittany – and we know why! It’s the perfect mix of country and coast and there’s so much to fall in love with. Here are five of our favourite things to see in magical Morbihan…
The region takes its name from the words: Mor-Bihan, which means "little sea" in the Breton language. The natural harbour of the Gulf of Morbihan is the most famous feature of the coast line and is included in the official "Club of The Most Beautiful Bays in the World". Apart from its good looks it’s also great for nautical jaunts. And if that’s not enough, there are, apparently, 365 islands off the coast, perfect for explorers!
Whatever you have planned when you’re in the Morbihan area, do seek out the 15th century picture perfect port of St Goustan in Auray, named after the patron saint of sailors and fishermen. Approach it via a steep narrow road just off the square leading you down to the river Auray. As you cross the bridge you will enter an almost perfectly preserved 600 year old harbour that is today full of restaurants and cafés, a great place to pass the time. Often there are ancient boats tied up at the quayside giving a flavour of times past.
It was here that Benjamin Franklin landed in December 1776 for secret meetings with the King of France. Franklin took the road to Paris to ask France for help in the American War of Independence and one of the quays is now named after him.
This little town of winding cobbled streets is a place of history, character, colour and beautiful medieval architecture. With its rues full of cafés, restaurants and quaint little shops selling local produce and gifts, it makes for a perfect day out. If you’re lucky enough to be there when the market is on, you’ll discover the sleepy town come to life. From fresh bread, cheeses, olives and seafood, clothes, shoes and leather goods, you’ll be sure to find a treat!
In Carnac discover the French equivalent of Stonehenge – but much bigger. Carnac is known throughout the world for its unique rows of ancient standing stones. The megalithic mystery of these incredible, huge blocks of stones makes most people stop in their tracks. Don’t miss a trip to the lovely long sandy beach of Carnac Plage and the chance to enjoy succulent oysters which are farmed in the area…
Tucked away in the small town of Le Faouet is a beautiful romantic chapel, with fairy tale style turrets and surrounded by stunning countryside. The chapel was built in gratitude to Sainte Barbe by a knight seeking shelter from a great storm hundreds of years ago. Inside there are wonderful statues and stained-glass windows. Take the path down to the river to discover a natural spring. It’s the perfect place to take a moment, sit by the flowing river and listen to it find its way down to the coast, the wildlife here is wonderful. Don’t forget to ring the bell in the guardhouse and make a wish on your way back on to the centre of town – it’s a tradition here!
In the town you’ll find an art museum reflecting the heritage of this secret part of Brittany which has inspired many artists over the centuries. There are plenty of little cafés and a lively market (first and third Wednesday of the month), and don’t miss the 16th century covered market place…
Morbihan is home to dozens of off the beaten track gorgeous little villages, just waiting for you to discover them.
Tourist office website: www.morbihan.com/
French Connections has loads of lovely holiday homes in the area – we love to help you make your holiday wishes come true…
Saumur is in the department of Maine-et-Loire, Loire Valley, western France. Home to museums, a beautiful medieval castle with stunning views over the River Loire. It’s also where you’ll find the National Riding School, where the famous Cadre Noir display team put on wonderful equestrian shows.
It’s perfectly located for touring the western side of the Loire Valley and close to several legendary locations.
It’s a very pretty, flowery sort of a town, the cream coloured 17th century buildings mingle with medieval houses in cobbled streets lined with restaurants and shops. Wander on foot to discover it’s secrets. It’s rumoured that Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger is a fan of the town and we’re not surprised. Laid back, historic, mellow but with loads to do, it’s quintessentially French.
Saumur is home to the third most important military school in France – it’s huge and takes up around a fifth of the entire town’s footprint. There’s also an important equestrian school, the Ecole Nationale d’Equitation which puts on a famous annual show.
The Musée des Blindés has an impressive collection of battle tanks from the First World War to present day.
There’s a huge chapel in the town (now a school) which became a pilgrimage site of major importance and spawned a rosary making industry in Saumur, in fact they still make them here.
You’ll discover the remains of the ancient walls of the city, and plenty of surprises. Head to the Belvedere Hotel and push a button on a gate to enter a pretty courtyard, walk down “the streets of hell” and into Place St Pierre, lined with beautiful buildings some of which go back to the 15th century. Here you will find plenty of cafés and places to while away the hours while you enjoy the local wine and produce. We like the friendly Bistrot de Place where the tables spill out onto the pedestrianised square on a sunny day.
Don’t miss Saumur Chateau built in the 12th century, you can see it from miles around on its elevated position looking over the town and the River Loire. Under Louis XIV it became a prison and later a military barracks. All that chopping and changing took its toll on the castle’s famous good looks. However, it has been partially restored after architect Jean Drapeau found a picture by chance in a chapel in Paris showing it as a fairy-tale looking castle in 1410. The painting was once in the collection of the Duc de Berry and shows the castle with golden finials on beautiful pointy turrets. Drapeau restored the towers and gold details of this quite enormous building. You won’t find much furniture inside, there’s a small collection but go for the view over the town and the river – it is stunning. In July and August there are free shows in the gardens (details on the Saumur Tourist Office website, below).
Abbey Fontevraud: A few kilometres from Saumur, you’ll find the biggest abbey in Europe
Chateau Azay le Rideaux: One of the most enchanting castles in the world - Azay le Rideau looms like a fairy tale out of the waters of the River Indre in the Loire Valley.
Angers, a city with a multi-era legacy of stunning architecture; a history that saw it as the pre-Revolution capital of Anjou province, and a modern-day trade in Anjou wines and liqueurs, notably Cointreau and Menthe Pastille. Don’t miss seeing the famous tapestries of Angers. At the chateau of Angers is one of the oldest tapestries in France to have survived since the 14th century. Not far away in the Hopital Saint-Jean is a modern masterpiece, a series of tapestries by Jean Lurcat – utterly stunning.
Chinon: Chinon nestles in the heart of the Val de Loire resting by the banks of the majestic Vienne river in the Indre-et-Loire department. The medieval town has a colourful past and is dominated by the Chateau de Chinon, an ancient fortress which is steeped in history.
La Fleche: Situated half way between Angers and Le Mans in the Sarthe department, La Fleche is a colourful and buzzing little town that nestles on the banks of the River Loir in the Vallée du Loir (which translates as the Valley of the Dormouse). The Sunday morning market is wonderful and there are loads of great restaurants, boulangeries and cafés. Nearby is a zoo and the wonderful Chateau du Lude.
We love to help make your holiday dreams come true and have loads of fabulous holiday rentals we have in and around Saumur – Bons Vacances!
Cannes, a resort town on the French Riviera, is famous for its international film festival – but there’s much more to this lively town than that. It’s the perfect city for a sunshine winter break.
Although it’s cooler in winter months, it’s often warm enough for T shirts during the day. Strolling the Boulevard de la Croisette, the wide road that curves around the coast, lined with sandy beaches, upmarket boutiques and palatial hotels, is always a pleasure…
Just a short ferry ride from mainland Cannes, are the “Iles de Lérins”, a small cluster of islands. Here you’ll find a totally different vibe from the hustle of Cannes. On the Island of Sainte-Marguerite, inhabited since Roman times, you’ll discover the Fort Royal, where the “Man in the Iron Mask” was imprisoned.
You’ll also see the ruins of an old fort, vineyards, forests and walk ways. The views from the top of the island are well worth the climb. Ferries run throughout winter.
Marché Forville is a fabulous market which offers local fresh foods, seafood, meats, pasta, cheese, breads, nuts and oils, spices and wines, fruits and vegetables. Open six days a week (Mondays are antiques and art) and in winter when the mimosa blossoms in the area – it’s an absolute feast for the eyes.
As Cannes is most well known for its role in the film industry its not surprising the walls of the buildings in the main town reflect this heritage. Wall murals depict film scenes, directors filming and film reels, including older classic films and stars. There is a Petit Train tourist ride you take to see the paintings, but you can get closer by walking through the town, or take a guided tour on foot from the tourist office - it’s well worth it.
Right in the heart of the oldest part of Cannes, perched up high is the church of Notre Dame d’Esperance. It is well worth the hike to the top, but if steep hills and stairs are tough for you, take the Petit Train from the town. It stops here for about 10 minutes, allowing you to take in the scenery along the seafront and the bay.
The church is small but has beautiful stained glass windows and statues. From the courtyard with its walled entrance, you’ll have the most incredible views over Cannes.
Follow the winding paths through the beautiful nature reserve of the Hill of La Croix-des-Gardes in a smart district of Cannes. There are acres of grassland with beautiful wild flowers, shrubs and trees, with spectacular views from the high point.
With numerous fabulous restaurants, bars, bistros and cafés to indulge in the local gastronomy, a winter break in Cannes is perfect for blowing away the winter blues.
French Connections has lots of accommodation in and around Cannes, take a look and find your dream holiday home…