The majestic castles that are reflected in the water, a natural heritage that is remarkable in every way and this art of living known as "à la française": the Loire reflects the great chapters of our history, those that have anchored our traditions. Since then, the Loire Valley boasts a collection of priceless monuments on the outskirts of architectural cities such as Tours, Orléans, Angers or Amboise. This magnificence has made the region's reputation as a tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors every year
The Loire Valley, discovering exceptional castles
Since Charles VI, the ballet of the monarchy was almost constant in the Loire Valley. The river was then considered as the boulevard of the kings who graced it with their first towers and then with their most beautiful finery. Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site as a cultural landscape, the Val de Loire region is home to a heritage like no other. The old stones here tell extraordinary stories, hide intrigues, reveal anecdotes and reveal the great history of France. Most of them were built or heavily modified during the French Renaissance, and the Loire castles are the showcases of a new aesthetic and a flamboyant art of living. Coming from Italy, the Rinascimento was to metamorphose the landscape of the Loire Valley, leaving the old medieval castles to the past for new sumptuous palaces, intended above all for festivities and pleasure. From Louis IX to Henri III, via François I and Catherine de Médicis, all the sovereigns made their residences a showcase of pomp and festivities. This is evidenced by Chambord and its "magic" staircase, the dazzling gardens of Villandry, Chenonceau, which strides over the waters in which the turrets ofAzay-le-Rideau are reflected. But how to approach this crown of jewels? In several stages, since there are 21 buildings belonging to the network of "Great Sites of the Loire Valley". A fitting reverence for the great stars: the National Estate of Chambord, a mighty vessel commissioned by François I, the Château de Blois which was the residence of 7 kings and 10 queens, or Chenonceau, the Ladies' Palace, full of grace and sensuality. But also Amboise and the Clos Lucé where Leonardo da Vinci lived, the monastic immensity of the Abbey of Fontevraud, the sumptuous interiors of Cheverny, the small island where Azay-le-Rideau is enthroned, the austere medieval fortress of Chinon, the collection of flower beds of the Domaine de Chaumont... Apart from the classic tours, there are more unusual alternatives: flying over the châteaux of the Loire in a hot-air balloon, travelling the route des Châteaux in a 2CV, sailing gently and mooring in the vicinity of a royal residence, secretly penetrating the underground passages of the Château de Brézé, watching the stag bellowing in the Parc de Chambord..
Fun and festive visits on the banks of the Loire
The châteaux of the Loire appear in travel catalogues from all over the world. We see busloads of tourists armed with their cameras passing by. Let's enjoy their marathons and take advantage of the opportunity we have to immerse ourselves in their history through various devices. Nightly shows, booklets and interactive games, themed tours, garden activities: each one has its own originality so that children can enjoy visits that are both fun and educational. A bouquet of visits to be programmed since the reopening of these exceptional buildings!
An ideal spot for cyclists
Being green and going green: cycling has been on the rise in recent years, it corresponds to the new trends in tourism, which is now slower and above all more responsible. And on the tracks, the Loire is in the lead with its 800 km of fully equipped and signposted cycle paths. What a pleasure to take your time to commune with nature and be surprised by the beauty of the panoramas! All itineraries are possible, from simple family rides to long-distance tours. From 6.8 km to 55.7 km, these escapades take you through the heart of the Ligurian landscapes and small picturesque villages, with the prestigious châteaux in the background. Along the way, you will certainly come across some curiosities such as the mysterious doors and windows carved into the rock...
On the banks of the Loire, mainly between Chaumont-sur-Loire and Saumur, there is a world hidden in plain sight... Dug into the hillside, the old tufa galleries used for the construction of the châteaux have nibbled away at the earth like a gruyère cheese to be transformed into troglodyte dwellings. Today there are nearly 45,000 troglodyte sites, many of which have been converted into guest rooms, restaurants, churches, artists' studios, chapels, mushroom beds, wine cellars, etc
The Château de Brézé illustrates this tradition, as it was built on a mass of tufa stone in which a network of galleries was dug in the Middle Ages, which can still be seen over a kilometre. If the hamlet of Tröo is one of the must-sees, there are several sites. From the troglodyte village of Rochemenier to the Troglodyte Valley of Goupillières: you can discover farms dug into the tufa rock with their well, their bread oven, their stable and the underground refuge of the Middle Ages. The Biopark of Doué has preserved its old quarries of extraction of falun which are used today as refuge for animals. It is also in the falun that were carved the caves-cathedrals of Perrières, a unique geological space, animated by a magical scenography. In Bourré, you enter a real underground city. If all these sites were developed for tourist purposes, there are others that simply take advantage of the wonderful climatic conditions of these caves. They are ideal for breeding snails, growing mushrooms and aging bottles of wine. This reminds us that we are in a land of good food to which everyone must succumb!
Good food and good wine on the menu!
The third largest wine-producing region in France, the Loire is the longest vineyard in France, stretching from the shores of the Atlantic to the gates of Burgundy. Sancerre, Bourgueil, Chinon, Anjou, Pouilly, Vouvray, Muscadet, Coteaux-du-layon, Menetou-salon... The ambassadors of the vineyards are at the head of 69 appellations and today form a very structured wine tourism circuit. Some epicureans come to travel the great wine route, others simply enjoy it at the local tables. At the table, you can enjoy a feast starting with galipettes, large mushrooms grilled with garlic, or a fouace, a bread speciality topped with rillettes or rillons. We continue with andouillette, pies with larks, pike with white butter or Berrichonne potée. But not only that, one also sings the praises of the asparagus of Sologne, the soup of Tours, the stew of deer, the stew of wild boar and the crispy fried food of the Loire, served in the guinguettes... Small pears are served as entremets and then you can enjoy the cheese boards with crottin de Chavignol, Olivet cendré and Curé nantais. And if we say Tarte Tatin, Pithiviers and Crémet d'Anjou, you'll find a place for dessert? There's no end to the king's feast!
When is it time? Spring is the ideal time to plan a trip to the Loire Valley
How to get there. By car, by train (to Angers, Tours, Orléans, Blois, Saint-Pierre des Corps or Saumur) or by plane (Angers and Nantes airports).
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