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The Loire Valley region of Central France


Regional Departments
Indre-et-Loire, Indre, Eure-et-Loir, Loiret, Loir-et-Cher, Cher.

Main Towns
Tours, Blois, Orléans, Chartres, Châteauroux, Bourges.

The Loire river sweeps gracefully through the Loire Valley and it is in this region that you can see some of the most beautiful neo classical and Renaissance châteaux in France.
Along with its architectural treasures and vineyards, the Loire Valley is also famous for its food and wine.
The Loire borders on the Ile de France around


Paris, Normandy, the Pays de la Loire to the west, Burgundy to the east and the Limousin to the south. The landscape is pastoral, crossed by small rivers and streams, lakes, forests and historic towns and villages.

Amboise is worth a visit for its château, lovely old buildings and very good food shops. Leonardo da Vinci was invited by Catherine de Medici to work on the château and spent the last years of his life until his death, in the 15th century manor house of Le Clos-Lucé, just outside the town. It is now a museum dedicated to his life and work and has a lovely garden.

Tours has been in existence since before the Romans and is today, a cosmopolitan university town with a relaxed atmosphere with a lovely old centre around the Place Plumereau, cafés, chic bars and clubs. There is always an event going on somewhere, concerts, exhibitions, theatre. The shops include tempting food shops and a range of other specialist shops from fabrics to antiques.

Blois is a busy market town for the thriving agricultural area that surrounds it, but is known mainly for the massively magnificent château of Chambord nearby. Further south is Valençay, where you should taste the wine and visit the château with its spectacular formal gardens.

Orléans and its association with Joan of Arc lies at the most northerly point of the Loire river and there is more than enough here to keep you busy for several days. It is also the centre for its own wine producing area, from where you can visit some of the surrounding vineyards to taste.

Food

The larder of the Loire is one of the richest in France. Fish from the Atlantic, shellfish from the estuary and freshwater fish from the rivers. Fresh, simple dishes like gravette, a sweet flat oyster, near the coast and in the western part of the Loire; lamproie, an eel like fish caught in the estuaries and cooked in walnut oil; grilled chard, tench, or carp with a sorrel sauce; friture de la Loire, small fish caught in the Loire and deep fried, piled high and served with a wedge of lemon and salad. There are delicious fish stews such as chaudre, conger eel and white fish in garlic and white wine with potatoes or try a matelote, different kinds of freshwater fish with onions, mushrooms and wine.
As you travel through the region, fish dishes give way to meat and game, pork with plums and cream, stuffed cabbage with hare, partridge with wild mushrooms. Vegetables are used in abundance, a variety of salads and charcuterie, potato cake, duckling with tiny fresh peas and baby turnips, pumpkin pie, asparagus.
The people of the Loire have a very sweet tooth and tarts and pies, using local fruits, figure prominently. Clafoutis is a batter cake stuffed with cherries, which used to be served to pickers during the grape harvest. There are baked apples and jam, pancakes and fritters and excellent cheesecakes.
Cheeses are numerous and often very local made from goat, sheep and cows milk: Bondaroy au Foin, a soft cows milk cheese with a tangy flavour, cured in hay, Frinot, from Orleans, is a soft lightly cured cheese with a strong flavour, sometimes coated with smoky wood ash, or Valençay, a pyramid-shaped goat's cheese with a mild nutty flavour, Olivet Bleu, is a rich blue cheese, wrapped in plane tree leaves, are just some.
As always, it is worth hunting out small village restaurants, or making friends and with luck, being invited to someone's house to dine.
Vouvray, a sparkling wine as good as any champagne, Montlouis, Chinon and Bourgeuil, reds and whites, are wines to look out for.

Activities

This is great riding, walking and cycling country and possibly the best way to explore. There are stables and equestrian farms throught the Loire, where you can hire horses for an hour or a day to suit all levels, take lessons or go on organised treks.
Golf courses range from local to International standard with club houses and Pro Shops. Green fees are minimal, booking is usually unnecessary, except in high summer, so it is best to check beforehand.
River fishing is possible almost anywhere and on many of the lakes. A visitor permit can easily be arranged and costs a few euros. Some of our holiday properties in the Loire also have private fishing, see Sports and Activities.


 
 
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