France’s Lovely Loire Valley
The lush Loire Valley is the home to some of the most beautiful chateaux in France. Set near meandering rivers and streams, these chateaux are monuments to the glorious history of France. There are dozens of beautiful and historic chateaus in the Loire area, including the following four.
The Château at Amboise overlooks the river Loire. It is built in the Gothic and Renaissance style in the 15th and 16th century. It was the Royal Residence of Charles VIII, Louis XII and François I. It was also the home of Catherine de Medici until her death in 1483. Clos Luce, the home of Leonardo da Vinci is on the grounds as well as the chapel where he is entombed. The castle provides a wonderful view of the charming town of Amboise.
Chambord is the grandiose creation of François I, but it was mainly enjoyed by Louis XIV. Now completely empty, one can still imagine the glory of this turreted chateau’s past. The castle has 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, 13 staircases, and stables that could house 1200 horses. It stands in a walled park that is 22 miles in circumference.
Our favorite Loire chateau, Chenonceau, is called the Château des Dames (castle of women). It was built over the river Cher, where the unique beauty of its architecture is reflected in the water. Chenonceau owes a great deal of its beauty to women: it was built in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet, enhanced by Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Médicis, and saved from destruction during the French Revolution by Mrs Dupin. Chenonceau is not only remarkable for its architecture and history but also for the fine quality of its furniture collections and art work. The lovely surroundings, including the formal gardens and the grounds, make this a perfect castle visit.
Chateau Villandry is known for its gorgeous formal gardens. Located near Tours, this chateau was built by Jean le Breton, one of François I’s Finance Ministers; he also built Chambord. Villandry gardens were created in the early 20th century by Dr. Joachim Carvallo and are now the castle’s main draw. The gardens are arranged in several parts: an ornamental flower garden, a water garden with a pond, a kitchen garden with aromatic herbs and vegetables, a children’s garden with a play area, a maze made from 1,200 beech trees and a greenhouse garden.
The Loire valley is perfect for the active visitor: golf, cycling, riding and water sports are easily arranged. Many chateaux have light shows or special celebrations in the warmer months.
The Loire is also a wonderful area for barge cruises.
The cuisine of this bountiful area includes freshwater fish, wild game, mushrooms, chevre, and Tarte Tatin. This area is also a wine-growing region. Well known Loire Valley wines are Chinon and Vouvray.
Located just a short drive from Paris, the Loire Valley welcomes visitors with open arms.