The Loire Valley isn't only for adults, the region tries hard to 'sell' its cultural treasures as family attractions and to a great extent succeeds. Where chateaux might, from a child's prospective, be considered boring and stuffy they have endeavoured, in many examples, to include them in their itineraries. If your budget permits because its not cheap, you could visit the Mini Chateaux Parc just outside Amboise. Here you will find models of the most
beautiful castles of the Loire valley. On two acres of landscaped grounds, over 40 reproductions in miniature of the most prestigious chateaux of the Loire .
A walk in around the park will help you discover in a few hours, all of the architectural treasures of the region: Chambord, Chenonceau, Amboise, Villandry and many more ... in a matter of hours! It will allow you to confirm your potential favourites plus, with 1.5 km of paths to explore, keep the kids amused for a short time. They are also given the option of dressing up in medieval costume to add to their excitement.
If you do go and are interested in in also visiting the aquarium - buy a joint ticket and save money.
If you are green fingered or just love looking at gardens, then the Loire Valley might just be your paradise! Blessed with not only the gardens of its famous Chateaux, here we also have its beautiful city gardens, formal public gardens and natural parks. Of the chateaux gardens Villandry towers over its rivals and is a joy to behold.
Something different can be viewed annually at the garden festival in the grounds of Chateau Chaumont-sur- Loire.From over 300 proposals 20 to 30 gardens are selected for inclusion in the festival. Including contributions from the UK, Japan, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.
Probably the most popular chateau within the Loire Valley is Chateau de Chenonceau which straddles the river Cher - its Renaissance style makes it easy on the eye and a must for photographers. Its situation 32 km east of Tours makes it very accessible by car or by organized tour coach. It is also on the train line so you have plenty of options for getting there. You should try and get there early, especially in high season as it can get very busy. More details on this and the other chateaux of the Loire Valley can be found on our website...here
A visit, for our site research, on a wet July day to the Priory Saint-Cosme just outside of Tours, could have proved disappointing but even the weather couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm for the place. Not overly publicised, this little treasure, the one-time home of French writer and poet Pierre de Ronsard, is a delight and we could imagine the tables and chairs, set among the tidy rose gardens, playing host to picnickers sheltering form the currently absent, summer sun. History, architecture and poetry - all there for your appreciation.
Which chateau to visit? A question that almost all visitors to the glorious Loire Valley must address. The problem is you are spoilt for choice, from renaissance castles to medieval fortresses, from lived in homes to almost empty extravagances.
Your decision may be influenced by a number of factors, your holiday location, the dynamics of your party (are children travelling with you?) or perhaps the length of your stay. You may also be more interested in the gardens of the chateaux or their history rather than their architectural merit.
To help you decide we will feature postings on individual chateau as well as grouping them in categories such as ‘gardens’ or ‘with children’ Perhaps starting with our favourites..
You can see a list of chateaux by clicking the tab 'Loire Chateaux' above or following this link
At Experience Loire we have decided that we should ‘do’ as many of the tourist attractions ourselves, in order to offer an opinion on where they might rank in the ‘must see’ list of the delights of the LoireValley. We have visited almost all the major chateaux (more of that later) plus some lesser known gems. We have also visited many of its towns and villages and tried to find the best parks & gardens, things to entertain the kids, things to entertain the adults plus the less obvious attractions. Because we are fortunate enough to live here we can go off the normal beaten-track and explore using our ‘stumble upon’ method where we follow a road/direction we have not travelled before. We can also earmark a specific tourist attraction/event to visit and offer our humble opinion. We are based in the Southern Touraine area of the LoireValley and when heading north (to Tours for example) we often choose the more picturesque D50 route. We take the direct road most of the time but sometimes choose to wander off this and explore. One such trip yesterday took us through the pretty village of Tauxigny, not somewhere your average tourist (is there such a thing?) would probably visit but a place that has a little surprise up its sleeve. Here you will find the unlikely, maybe it is the clarity of its night sky, location of the observatory and planetarium of Touraine! Small but apparently perfectly formed - they were closed when we arrived - but we found a nice man who explained they were busy preparing for their annual festival, (http://www.festivaldelacontemplation.fr/index.htm) The itinerary seems to include live music, things astronomical, things arty, eating (you have to book) and of course walking.
We are never really surprised when we find what might seem random events here in the Loire Valley as the region goes into a ‘festival frenzy’ during July, August and September with every town and village seeming to have an annual festival of some sort or other. It is one of the many features that make the area special. As a point of interest, or not, there is actually an annual banana, yes banana, festival in a small village in Southern Touraine (will get back to this later).
We are 'Experience Loire', dedicated to bring you information on the Loire Valley to allow you to make the most of your holiday/vacation in this delightful part of France. Our website is:;http://www.experienceloire.com
We have decided to start this blog to answer questions you may have and to keep you up to date with what we are up to with regards to our exploring and experiences while we live and work here.
We thought a good starting point would be in establishing exactly where the Loire valley or 'Val de Loire' is within France.
To ask the question can open up a geographical debate.We thought we should give our take on this.
Lets start with theriverLoire itself --the longest in France--it has its source in springs on the mountain sides of the southern Cevennes hills within the department of the Ardeche. It flows north to Orleans, west through Tours and on to the Atlantic coast at Nantes.-- over 1000km . It would have been so much easier to have headed south for the Mediterranean!
Over such a distance it leaves its mark and valleys over a huge geographical area. The area commonly referred to as the 'Loire Valley 'or 'Val de Loire' -- is the area along the river that takes in the majority of the famous chateaux -- and became formalised with its inclusion on the list of world heritage sites in November 2000. This was identified as the area along the river Loirebetween Sully-sur-Loire in Loiret and Chalonnes-sur-Loire in Maine-et -Loire (Anjou) a distance of 280km. It also takes in the Loire-Anjou-TouraineRegionalNaturalPark and the park at chateau Chambord.
So the 'Loire Valley' as far asUNESCO is concerned takes in the departments of Loiret,Loir-et-Cher,Indre-et-Loire(formerly Touraine) in theCentreregion plus the department ofMaine-et-Loire(formerly Anjou) in the Pays de la Loire region. The historical names Touraine and Anjou have been chosen by the respective departments to market their tourism industry - where we can understand the desire to link to their rich heritage we wonder if it does not dilute their international marketing efforts.
Even though the Loire river flows through four of its six departments the region of Centre,which contains most of the UNESCO site,failed to include the river in its name! This mistake had, in fact, been made at the assignation of names for the newly formed Regions (1982) as Centre, rather than Pays de la Loire (with only two) had the stronger claim to have it included in its name. Ithasnow incorporated it into its tourism marketing to great success as 'Centre-Val de Loire', promoting not only the UNESCO site but the whole of the region which includes thehistoric former provincesof Berry, Touraine and Orleanais.
The Loireriver gives its name to a number of departments of France as it flows towards the Atlantic: Loire (no connection with Val de Loire), Haute-Loire, Loire-Atlantique, Indre-et-Loire, Maine-et-Loire, and Saône-et-Loire.