The rich and cultural landscape of the Loire Valley is an outstanding area of great beauty, containing historic towns and villages and more than 300 chateaux and castles dating back to the early 1100's - the most glorious of which were homes to the Kings, Queens and nobility of France. Many of the smaller chateaux are now hotels or private houses, while others have become international tourist attractions. Among the most notable are Chenonceaux, the famous Chateau straddling the River Cher about 1 hour from Tours; Amboise, the beautiful chateau built by Charles VIII in the 15th Century which has magnificent views over the River Loire; Chinon, which dominates the town, is now ruined but provides a fascinating history back to the days of Jeanne D'Arc; Azay-le-Rideau has a pretty chateau that straddles the river Indre just south of Tours; and Usse, the fairy-tale chateau west of Tours, which is said to be the home of Sleeping Beauty! Nearer to our properties in the region of Maine et Loire are the chateaux of Saumur and Le Lude which provide a great insight into life during these periods.
As well as the magnificent chateaux, the Loire Valley boasts some of the finest landscaped gardens in Europe. In fact, so lush is the Loire that this rural part of France provides a feast for the eyes - whether the manicured gardens of its famous chateaux or the vast expanse of vineyards, forests and open countryside that make the region a joy for drivers, cyclists and walkers.
The Loire Valley enjoys long hot summers (often reaching over 30 degrees c.). Yet with cooler days and a fair rainfall, it has an enviable climate which enables the region to adorn vineyards that stretch from Sancerre to the Atlantic. The Tours region, Anjou, the Saumur region and the Nantes region are the main grape growing areas. The tourist route around the vineyards of the Loire valley leads wine lovers and beginners alike from cellars to vineyards, and from visits to imposing castles and abbeys to cave dwellings. Close to our properties are the St. Nicholas de Bourgueil and Bourgueil appellations and a little further to Chinon and Saumur - all of which are well worth a visit. But be advised - you are expected to buy at least a couple of bottles of wine!
The Loire region is vast, with the the Loire river marking the symbolic division between the north and the south of France. This quiet river, the longest in France spanning over 1010 km, crosses the beautiful regions of Touraine and Anjou, in which these harmonious landscapes invite the "douceur de vivre", meaning the "sweetness of life".
In 2000, UNESCO added the central part of the Loire River valley, between Maine and Sully-sur-Loire, to its prestigious list of World Heritage Sites. In choosing this area that includes the French departments of Loiret, Loir-et-Cher, Indre-et-Loire, and Maine-et-Loire, the committee said that the Loire Valley is:
"… an exceptional cultural landscape, of great beauty, comprised of historic cities and villages, great architectural monuments - the Châteaux - and lands that have been cultivated and shaped by centuries of interaction between local populations and their physical environment, in particular the Loire itself."
The area of France known as The Loire is itself split in two - being Central Loire, and the Loire Valley of Pays de la Loire. Our properties are located in Maine et Loire, a region that is situated almost in the middle of Central and Pays de la Loire - making it accessible to much of the Loire's world renowned attractions and heavenly beauty spots.
There is so much to see and to experience in the Loire that it is impossible to include everything on this site alone. Below are some of the nearest towns and cities to our location, as well as some of the most notable chateaux and vineyards that are easily accessible from our properties.
SAUMUR - is a beautiful white town built in the chalky white tufeau stone that is characteristic of the Loire Valley. One of the region's most fashionable areas, it has a magnificent chateau overlooking the river Loire and has a good selection of shops, boutiques, markets, and fabulous restaurants. Below are listed just some of the things to see in and around Saumur. If you're visiting the Saumur area for the wines, Saumur Brut is the king of the wines of the region but there are other less known wines that are just as nice, almost one to suit every palette. Saumur's lovely old chateau is open to the public and it also houses two museums - the decorative arts museum and the horse museum. Ecole Nationale D'Equitation and Cadre Noir is the world famous riding academy - boasting the largest riding arena in Europe - and is home to the elite cavalry regiment the Cadre Noir. You can visit the stables, watch training sessions and admire traditional dressage techniques in action.
Musee Des Blindes (tank museum) The largest museum of its kind in Europe, displaying not only tanks but a wide range of other armored vehicles - over 150 of them in all - most of them in working order, plus another 700 vehicles. Abbaye Royale De Fontevraud The largest surviving complex of monastic buildings in Europe. In its heyday the abbey was one of the western world's key spiritual and cultural centres. Musee Du Champignon Here in the mushroom caves, you can see various stages of the production of Saumur's famous button mushrooms plus some more exotic varieties as well, like Oyster mushrooms, shiitake or wood blewits. Caves De Saumur, Saumur's wine makers all use traditional methods and are always striving for even higher quality wines. Red, White and Rose, Saumur-Champigny, Cremant de Loire, and the king of them all, the very dry sparkling Saumur Brut, the perfect choice for special occasions. All these wines mature gently in long galleries tunnelled out of the tufa rock. Troglodyte village a village cut out of the rock. Some of the houses or caves have been modernised so you could live in them today.
TOURS - rich with history and a well preserved heritage, is a city of captivating charm. This cathedral city has managed to guard its rich past while keeping an eye on the future. The original home of the French language and the "art de vivre", Tours has a mixture of the old and new, and is a city of harmony and proportion. Tours is a modern and dynamic centre with a thriving university, cultivating economic development, with many cultural and sports activities: A truly European centre, whose heart is the Place Plumereau, a lively square surrounded by tall half timbered buildings dating from the 15th century. The city is permanently alive with the activity generated by the many and varied local shops that offer a considerable choice - from international-class luxury goods to the traditional products of local craftsmen. As well as all this, Tours has many beautiful buildings and things to see. Amongst them is the Cathedrale St-Gatien, the Hotel Goulin, home to the city's archaeological museum, the Wine Museum of Touraine, and Place Pierre-le-Puellier - an evacuated Gallo-Roman and medieval cemetery which once formed part of a Renaissance cloister.
ANGERS - the capital of Anjou and gateway to the Loire valley, is distinguished as much for the richness of its heritage as for its cultural and economic dynamism. The 16th largest town in France, the towers of the imposing castle fortress watch peacefully over the heights of the town, while in the streets, museums, gardens, shops, gastronomic restaurants, art festivals and vibrant life give colour to the famous Angevin softness. With more than 300km of navigable waterways and 250km of footpaths for rambling, Angers provides a range of activities. There are museums, the chateau - which is home to the Apocalypse Tapestries - cathedral and churches, and more than 45 timber framed houses. It is also home to the headquarters of the famous Remy-Cointreau Distillery.
CHINON - is home to the famous medieval fortress which was built high above the River Vienne to protect the valley. History tells that it was here, in the Great Hall, that Joan of Arc recognised the Dauphin. It was also here that Richard the Lionheart came when fatally wounded. The château has three different forts or keeps, waterless moats, underground passages and dungeons. Chinon is a lovely old fortified town with cobbled streets and alleys which wind their way up and down and along the hillside. There are a wealth of eating houses and small shops. The town and region are famous for the 'Chinon' vineyards where superb red wines are produced.