Welcome to the Loire Valley!
Often called the "Garden of France". the Loire Valley is an enchanted land of vineyards, flowers and rolling green hills dotted with more than a thousand chateaux. It is perhaps the charm of its gentle pace life that has, for centuries, made it a sought-after location for poets and writers. It is a step back through the history of some of France's finest works of art. (See map)
Highlights of the Loire Valley
Chartres: The world-famous Cathedral of Chartres which Rodin called the Acropolis of France, is a remarkable testament to medieval architecture. Must sees include the sculpture, the 12' and 13' century stained glass and the amazing collection of ancient musical instruments.
The Old Town of medieval cobbled streets, gabled houses and charming footbridges lies at the foot of the cathedral. Places of interest to visit nearby: the castles of Anet and Maintenon.
Orleans: Once France's second largest city and now the vinegar capital of France, Orleans was liberated from the British by Joan of Arc in 1429. Each year in May a celebration commemorating her exploits is held; the house in which she stayed during the ten-day siege of Orleans can be visited. The city also features the Hotel Groslot, a brick and stone Renaissance mansion which served as the Town Hall, and the Gothic Cathedral of St-Croix. Places of interest to visit in the surrounding area: the castles of Chamerolles and Sully-sur-Loire.
Bourges: Located at the geographical heart of France, Bourges is a rich historical town of paved stone streets, medieval and Renaissance architecture, ancient ramparts and the remarkable Gothic Cathedral of St-Etienne which dominates the hilltop. Places of interest to visit in the surrounding area: the château o' Meillant, George Sand's House in Nohant, and Noirlac Abbey. And of course, Sancerre and its famous white wines.In the summer be sure to stay in Bourges for the Iluminated Nights. certain monuments and buildings in the town are brought to life with music and light.
Blois: Its famous castle has been linked throughout the centuries to the history of the Kings of France. Every Wednesday at the castel, there is night spectacle for english speaking visitors. Places of interest to visit in the surrounding area: the châteaux of Beauregard and Chaumont-sur Loire, which holds a famous International Festival of Parks and Gardens from mid-June through mid-October.
Chambord: The largest of all the Loire Valley castles, this magnificent Renaissance edifice, built by François I, is surrounded by an immense park and hunting preserve which can be visited by horsedrawn carriage. Not far from it, the beautifully furnished Château of Cheverny can be admired from the ground or from the air in one of the captive balloons available on site.
Tours: At the junction of the Loire and Cher Rivers, Tours is a busy university town and the traditional point of departure for exploring the Loire Valley. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the great pilgrimage sites of Europe. Today, the city boasts wonderful Renaissance and neo-classical mansions, which are clustered around the famous Plumereau square, fine museums including a collection of craftsmen's masterpieces and the Cathedral of St-Gatien. Famous wine region, especially Vouvray, Chinon, Bourgueil... The most interesting sites in the Surrounding area are the châteaux of Azay-IeRideau, which reflects on the river, Villandry, surrounded by Renaissance gardens, Ussé, said to be the original Sleeping Beauty's castle, Langeais and Loches, as well as the splendid medieval city of Chinon.
Amboise/ChenonceauxHuddled under the shadow of its impressive royal castle, Amboise is a pretty town with white stone houses dating from the 15th century. Also of interest is the Cbs Lucé, the former residence of Leonardo da Vinci. A few miles away, the Château of Chenonceau, also called the Ladies Castle, has a famous viewing gallery, built by one of France's great Queens, from which to admire an impressive view of the Cher River.