The Valley of the Kings; the Garden of France; the Land of the Great Châteaux.
Here is a region chosen by Royalty, where the wine flows and history greets you at every turn.
It is also stunningly beautiful, abounding in landscapes both wild and meticulously man-made.
A must see!
The Lion in Winter
With origins going back to Roman times when it was a Castrum (Gallo-Roman fortress), our Loire town became an English possession in the 11th century. It was the favoured home of Henri II Plantagenet, who was the King of England in 1154 - 1189, and his famous wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (that's her depicted reading her book in her tomb on the right). This celebrated pair were the subject of many films and plays, the most famous being "The Lion in Winter" with Katherine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole made in 1968.
It was Henry who commissioned the basis of the present day château.
Thereafter followed a prosperous development and fine medieval houses with beautiful decorative features were built – many surviving today, particularly along the Rue Voltaire. With so many corners to explore, from the heights of the château, to the vineyards with little restaurants hidden away to the peaceful banks of the beautiful Vienne river, abundant with fish and wild birds, you’ll be hard pressed to find the time to fit in the celebrated castles and other historic attractions all so temptingly close!
The Loire is celebrated for its great châteaux, but there is a great range and variety of other interesting buildings to see: mills, slate-roofed cottages, grand abbeys and monasteries, the peculiar troglodytic dwellings, frequently still occupied and the characteristic half-timbered houses that defy gravity with their expanding upper storeys. The “Maison Rouge” is a very fine example of this genre.
There is a wealth of historic buildings to explore in the town including the Hotel Gargantua with its magnificent tourelle (turret), the 15th Century Hotel du Grenier à Sel, just opposite our smaller cottage and the Chapel of St Radegonde embellished by a beautiful 13th century Romanesque fresco.
You’ll discover new corners every time you go out for a stroll!
Apart from the beauty of its buildings, from opulent to rustic, the Loire is a region of both natural and cultivated beauty. Picturesque streams, fields and forests, and formal gardens make up a varied landscape that has something to offer at every turn in the road. Armed with a picnic lunch (“pique-nique”) and a bottle of Chinon red, you can lunch by the Vienne, the Loire or one of the many other charming locations after your visit to a stately home just around the corner.
Exquisite river fish, hazel grouse in truffle sauce, rillettes, fine cheeses of an unimaginable variety accompanied by one or two of the many fine wines produced in Touraine – reds, whites or rosé - and topped off with a slice of Tarte Tatin swimming in crême fraîche is just one example of a truly kingly repast that, alas, won’t be kind to your figure. But this is the region of a highly delicate and sophisticated cuisine : whether you cook at home or visit some of the many little local restaurants, you’ll be pleased to take a holiday from your customary sensible diet.
The combination of climate and rich soil enables the production of some of France’s best fruit and vegetables and it is here that the true champignons hail from, called erroneously, "Champignons de Paris"
Don’t forget to order some “Poires tapées” (overripe pears) a specialty of this region to top off your Pantagruelian debauch.
You’ll make Rabelais dance in his grave!