Loire Valley: Castles and the Stomping Ground of Great Artists & Thinkers

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My new favourite part of France, the Loire Valley, has an outstanding cultural landscape. But don’t take my word for it, it’s been included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites since 30 November 2000.

I can’t urge you enough to pay this leafy, idyllic region a visit. Castles, lush green countryside, beautiful rivers, cobbled streets, the list goes on. In centuries past the Loire Valley was a strategic area and poised on the crucial frontier between the North and the South. Still to this day, the broad, flat valley is sprinkled with France’s most extravagant castles and fortresses.

The Valley is also said to have been the home to a stream of Europe’s greatest artists and thinkers. Poet Pierre de Ronsard lived there for a while and Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his life here.

There’s so much to do here, and at least a top 10 of castles you could visit, but given we only had four days and we were keen to unwind, here’s what our itinerary looked like:

Day 1: Saumur: A stay in a 5-star campsite for a swim; a 4-mile cycle into town to visit Saumur Castle www.chateau-saumur.com and an afternoon amble around the town with lunch at L’Auberge Saint Pierre. Image

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Pictured above is Saumur Castle and below is the aforementioned restaurant where we lunched – both highly-recommended.

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This was the most heartiest Beef Bourguignon I've ever tasted. Large chunks of beef with a deep, rich flavour.

This was the most heartiest Beef Bourguignon I’ve ever tasted. Large chunks of beef with a deep, rich flavour.

Day 3: Villandry Chateau & Jardins: Sadly the heavy rain that day prevented us from visiting Chateau de Villandry but we’d highly recommend this. We peeped over the hedgerow and the grounds and beautiful maze looked stunning www.chateauvillandry.com

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Day 3 and 4: Amboise: When in Amboise, it’s well worth a visit to Le Clos Luce, the invention-filled final home of Leonardo da Vinci. Built in 1471 on 12th-century foundations by King Louis XI, it’s a beautiful piece of architecture and you can visit the bedroom where Leonardo stayed and took his final breath.

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We then had a delicious lunch at La Reserve restaurant in Amboise (28, Place MichelDebre). Incredible homemade fish soup with rouille.

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CAMPING TIP: Saumur

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Domaine de la Brèche: Five-star camping: This has been by far the best campsite we’ve stayed in. Excellent facilities. Beautifully kept and with a lovely on-site restaurant, swimming pool, water slides, BMX skate park, tennis and basketball court. We visited in May and it was practically deserted. Try to get a lake view, overlooking several families of ducks and a glorious sunset. 18 Euros per night, including electricity.

CAMPTING TIP: Amboise

Camping Municipal de L’lle d’Or: Two-Star Camping. 13 Euros per night including electricity. This was our least favourite campsite but the proximity to Amboise centre was good. Rows of large motorhomes, this site lacked soul. The facilities were basic and be prepared to pay a 25 Euro deposit to use the electricity if you don’t have the regional adapter.

Pictured below: me and my beau enjoying the sunshine in Saumur.

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The above Da Vinci quote translates into something like: “Nature never breaks her own laws”.

 

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