The main attraction of the Loire-Valley is the lush scenery pervaded by France’s most splendid castles. In the northeast, the agricultural region of Beauce, France’s “breadbasket, stretches out. In the southeast, the deep forest region of the Sologne with its countless lakes and ponds spreads out, once the favourite hunting ground of the French monarchs. The Touraine, also known as “France’s Garden”, is characteristic for its chalk plateaus, mild climate and lovely, peaceful scenery. The Loire itself is Franc’s longest river and is also described as “Europe’s last wild river”.
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Culture & Sights
The feudal Loire-Valley is a resplendent showpiece of royal France. As in the Middle Ages royals did not reside long in the same place, they had several magnificent castles built along the Loire. Chambord and Chenonceau, two of the biggest castles of the Renaissance glitter amid the forests. Chambord stands out for its wonderful roof gardens, vaulted rooms – once ballrooms, and the large winding staircase. The aspect of the pleasure palace Chenonceau caused Flaubert to say “it seems to be floating on air and water”. Wonderfully furnished rooms, airy bedrooms, exquisite paintings and carpets make up the interior of the castle. For its central location as well as for its cultural offer, Tours has become the main tourist destination. Most worth visiting in the capital are the Cathédrale St-Gatien and the Hôtel Goüin from the Renaissance. Untouched by age seem the historical towns Samur, Amboise and Blois. There is hardly any other castle of such historical importance as the Château d’Amboise. In this region anyone will feel transposed back to the Middle Ages!
In the inviting pubs and restaurants, the traveller will stop for a while for game and fish with a light Vouvray or a full-bodied Bourgeuil. In Saumur you may taste local sparkling wine, considered the best, outside the Champagne. In the L’Orangerie du Château in Blois you may enjoy a lavish dinner and good wine in the conservatory of a 15th century castle.
The Country and its People
The people of the Loire-Valley are known as leisurely and kind pleasure-lovers. “There is no other province for which this holds more true than for this land along the Loire, where everyone spends their time in peace and quiet (…) and preserves the manners and customs of an age which was not yet slave to speed, money and machine”, the French historian Pierre Gaxotte once said about the inhabitants of the UNESCO world heritage of today.