The Centre-Val de Loire region amazes lovers of architecture, with the presence of many royal castles, among the most beautiful in the country. There are also very attractive historic towns and villages where life is in full swing in the middle of the "Garden of France". And then there are the numerous streams, rivers where you can enjoy quiet fishing and the inevitable Loire, the largest river in France and certainly also the wildest and most fascinating. And how can we not mention the vineyards? Loire wines have a reputation that goes beyond borders and the region is very keen to showcase them, as is its gastronomy. Green landscapes, exceptional monuments, culture and the pleasures of the table, these are the musts of a region where you simply have to take the time to live
The Saint-Etienne Cathedral of Bourges, a remarkable monument
Stop in Berry to see the sublime cathedral of Saint-Etienne de Bourges, whose construction took place in 1195. It can be seen from afar and, as you go along, you become aware of its immensity and exceptional character. The building is often considered to be a precursor of Gothic architecture. Its tympanum, sculptures and remarkable stained glass windows contribute to its great beauty. After having walked its 120 m long outside, one reaches the interior to contemplate its Gothic vault, passes by the majestic organ before going to see the oldest astronomical clock in France. The most courageous then end up climbing the 400 steps of the butter tower to enjoy a sublime panorama of Bourges
A moment of oenotourism in the Sancerre region
Sancerre is a pretty commune of Cher perched on its rocky peak. One walks there in the old town to contemplate the old houses, the tower of the Fiefs and its belfry of the 16th century. The town overlooks a valley with many vineyards and this very rich vineyard is an opportunity to stop at multiple producers to taste one of the best wines of the region. Along the Wine Route of Sancerre, one discovers the white Sancerre, but also the red and rosé for those who prefer. To appreciate it even more, one does not hesitate to go to the surrounding farms to get some Chavignol crottins, goat's cheese to be enjoyed with a very good bread
The Abbey of Noirlac, an exceptional monastic ensemble
Situated only 40 km from the town of Bourges, Noirlac Abbey is one of the best preserved in France. Noirlac has an exemplary Cistercian architecture. During a stroll in this peaceful place which is also on the banks of the Cher, one takes the time to admire the different elements such as the monks' wing with the dormitory and of course the abbey church and its exceptionally luminous choir. The stained glass windows of the abbey church and the refectory were made in 1975 by the artist Jean-Pierre Raynaud. He respected the Cistercian ideal and the bay windows and rosettes blend perfectly with the stones. Note that the place hosts many cultural events throughout the year.
A discovery of the city of Châteaudun
The town of Châteaudun was built on a rocky spur overlooking the Loir River. During a stop in this charming commune of the Eure-et-Loir, you should start by walking through its historic centre and its maze of medieval-looking alleys. We stop on the Place d'Arklow to contemplate the 15th century Maury house, then we take the narrow alleyway of the Ribaudes before arriving at the cloister of Saint-Roch and later at the foot of the castle, considered one of the first castles of the Loire. Châteaudun is also a must for lovers of religious architecture, with some superb buildings that have stood the test of time: let's mention the abbey church of the Madeleine and the remains of the Notre-Dame du Champdé chapel. Finally, a visit to the Foulon caves reveals an exceptional site that was inhabited as early as Prehistory and where you can see a large number of marine geodes sheltering aquatic animal footprints crystallized in chalcedony and quartz
Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral, an architectural jewel
From the Beauce, you can see Chartres Cathedral from afar, it must be said that its dimensions are impressive. If the history of the building is eventful, its current Gothic architecture was rewarded in 1979, since the cathedral was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During a discovery, one naturally takes the time to look at its façade and its buttresses at the back. Inside, how not to be amazed by its exceptional stained glass, Romanesque and Gothic windows? In fact, it is the only cathedral in the world to have preserved so many stained glass windows. At the end of the day, everything catches the eye, including the spires, the transept and its large attic
Visit of the castle of Valençay
The marvellous building located in Indre overlooks the Nahon valley. Its Renaissance and classical architecture fascinates visitors. One cannot do without contemplating its external splendour for hours on end. Without forgetting the presence of the gardens and the park in which one has the pleasure of spotting deer, to the delight of young and old alike. Inside, its refined layout is a nod to the way Talleyrand, one of France's greatest diplomats and a rich collector, wished to give the place all its refinement when he acquired it. The furniture and precious objects that can be found just about everywhere almost give the impression that a few souls still live there
Cheverny, another remarkable castle
For more than six centuries, the Château de Cheverny has belonged to the same family. It has changed owners over the course of its history, but in 1825, Anne-Victor Hurault bought back the properties from her ancestors. It was indeed Henri Hurault and his wife Marguerite Gaillard de La Morinière who had the castle built between 1624 and 1630. Still inhabited, it is however open to the public who have the opportunity to go through its rooms and see splendid furniture, including a Louis XIV period chest of drawers in the Boulle style and the four-poster bed decorated with Persian embroidery of the 16th century in which Henri IV slept. Around the building, you should not miss a stroll in the English park, the Apprentice's garden as well as the vegetable garden.
A stroll in Amboise
In Indre-et-Loire, Amboise is a must for those who love the medieval atmosphere. It is pleasant to stroll through its alleys, to stop in front of a monument and to take a seat at noon on the terrace of a beautiful address to taste some regional specialities. And then from the banks of the Loire, Amboise catches the eye with its exceptional Renaissance castle, the result of the will of various kings of France. You can visit its various richly decorated rooms, the Council room, the "salle de l'Échanson" and the King's residence. Not forgetting, of course, a stroll through the gardens, just for the breathtaking view of the Loire River below.
Chenonceau Castle, a unique location
Chenonceau is a castle that cannot leave you indifferent, by its incredible location on the Cher river and by its so particular history. First built in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet, then embellished by Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Médicis, the monument has a special bond with women. This has earned it the nickname of "Château des Dames" (Ladies' Castle). Inside, you will discover rich collections and sumptuous decorations. It houses paintings by great masters such as Rubens and Murillo and its 16th century Flemish tapestries are not to be missed. Outside, the Renaissance gardens offer a peaceful way to marvel at its exceptional architecture without getting tired of it
Discovery of the Olivier Debré Contemporary Creation Centre in Tours
During a stroll in the charming historic town of Tours, take the time to visit the Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré (CCCOD). First of all, you will marvel at the beauty of the building designed by the Portuguese agency Aire Mateus, which has been at the origin of many other architectural works throughout the world. Inside, the place has a Nave with very large installations visible from the outside. Also on the ground floor, the Black Gallery hosts various exhibitions of artists of our time. And on the first floor, the work of Olivier Debré is regularly highlighted in the white gallery. A major monument, it is now a must-see venue in the capital city of Tours and a new venue for contemporary art exhibitions in the Centre-Val de Loire region. It also has a bookshop and a café
Chambord Castle, jewel of the region
It is one of the must-see castles of the Loire Valley, proudly asserting its Renaissance architecture in the middle of an exceptional state-owned forest. The Chambord estate is almost a town in its own right. Of its architecture, one retains its incredible facade, its many windows and its many richly decorated chimneys that rise up on the roof. The visit offers the opportunity to take a closer look at them from the terraces. Inside, we stroll through its main rooms and are always surprised by the presence of the double-revolution staircase. The formal gardens have been restored for opening to the public in 2017. They are exceptional and punctuate a stroll that inevitably marks the spirits
A moment of relaxation at the ZooParc de Beauval
With the family, the ZooParc de Beauval offers a gentle moment. It is ranked among the 15 most beautiful zoos in the world. Located in Saint-Aignan in the heart of the Loire Valley, 8,000 animals share the area and there is a wide diversity of species. The facilities are splendid and everything has been done to ensure that the animals can evolve in the best possible conditions. Kangaroos, koalas, orangutans, giraffes - there are many discoveries to be made and one always feels amazed by the tigers and white lions. Without forgetting the unavoidable pandas installed in a Chinese decor. Gondolas also allow you to fly over the zoo, and the recent equatorial dome will allow you to observe species of great rarity
Chaumont-sur-Loire, the meeting of art and gardens
The estate of Chaumont-sur-Loire has become an essential place in the Loire Valley and offers a space where nature meets art. On the occasion of the International Garden Festival of Chaumont-sur-Loire which takes place from April to October, the public can discover beautiful landscape creations, thanks to the work of great artists. Each year, a new theme is addressed, among them we find "Gardens of sensations", "Gardens of paradise" or "Gardens of the Earth, back to Mother Earth", the latest theme to date. On the occasion of this event, walkers are offered a real poetic stroll, full of colour and imagination.
A boat trip on the Loire River from Orléans
The Loire, France's last wild river, can also be travelled on board a traditional boat. Departing from Orléans, you can settle down with family or friends to discover the river and its secrets. Several walks are proposed: on the theme of Joan of Arc, around the History of Orléans or the discovery of the Loire ecosystem... And on sunny days, we embark on an aero cruise with a bottle of sparkling wine and fruit juice, a terrine of Loire fishermen and peanuts. You can then let yourself be told anecdotes about the great river in a very friendly atmosphere
Loches, a walk in the heart of a royal city
Loches is located in the Val de l'Indre and is a unique heritage site. The town has two major monuments: the royal dwelling which proudly dominates the Indre valley and the keep, located 300 m from the castle and whose construction dates from the 11th century. The work of Foulques Nerra, Count of Anjou, it is considered to be one of the best preserved dungeons in Europe. During a stroll in the heart of the medieval city, one should not miss to go to the foot of the collegiate church of Saint-Ours, unique in France with its two octagonal pyramids that cover the nave, as well as strolling in the pleasant rue du Château, totally pedestrian and where you can find some gourmet addresses. Finally, we spend a pleasant cultural moment in the Lansyer museum, the last home of the landscape painter who was a pupil of Gustave Courbet, among others