What’s The Allure?
The Loire Valley — a breathtakingly picturesque stretch of land in the middle of France – is widely known for its magnificent historic towns, vineyards, and chateaux. Furthermore, its beautiful cascading green hills and peaceful landscape have made it the ideal muse for many an enamored writer, artist or poet. Parts of it have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000 and its eternal natural beauty has indeed earned it the nickname the “Garden of France”.
With origins dating back to the mid-Paleolithic period, the Loire Valley boasts some of the most enchanting towns and architectural monuments in Europe such as Amboise, Blois, Saumur, Tours and remarkable castles including Chambord and Chenonceau. Everywhere you turn, you will be reminded of the artistic influence of the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras. Indeed, a visit here is like taking a historic trip back to a simpler yet aesthetically inviting time period.
A Historic Landscape
In the early 15th century, a young Joan de Arc led French troops in a number of important battles, which eventually resulted in the defeat over the English in the war for total control of this region. Even before this happened, the Loire Valley had been eagerly coveted by kings and queens since the 10th century. It’s of little wonder since this exquisite valley is surrounded by the Loire River – France’s longest river – and abundant with lush green forests, rich fertile lands and offers an ideal climate for wine harvesting.
As was customary at that time, only royalty, nobility, and wealthy citizens could afford the luxury of a superior education in the arts and in cultural pursuits. The best artists, historians, architects and writers of the day where often invited to enhance the court’s artistic cachet. Of these distinguished guests, famed artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci was so intrigued by this remarkable place following an invitation from the king, that he established residence in the town of Amboise in 1516 and remained there until his death in 1519. His house – Le Clos-Luce – was eventually turned into a museum devoted to the genius of this man’s creations. This lovely town also features an inviting castle and a museum dedicated to the history of the postal service.
Another town worth visiting for its unique landscape and historical significance is Blois. Its famous Renaissance castle — Château de Blois – was once the home of King Louis XVII and sits at the very center of the city. The town itself was built on a steep hill with winding pathways that culminate in long stairways at different points – making it a most interesting place to explore. An amusing attraction found in Blois is La Maison de la Magie Robert-Houdin (The House of Magician Robert-Houdin) – the only public museum in France dedicated solely to magic and the performing arts.
The city of Tours also warrants a mention. Known for its charming medieval old town, 12th century cathedral and the distinction of being the city featuring the purest form of the French language, Tours boasts a livelier atmosphere than most other towns in the Loire Valley. On any given day, the main square – Place Plumereau – is alive with the bustling sounds of patrons in the many open air cafés, bars, and restaurants.