We often hear wonderful accounts of the more popular regions of France, not mentioned quite as often is the undisturbed magnificence of the Loire Valley.
When I first visited France almost 16 years ago, I found myself in the glorious French capital, Paris, parading down its glamorous shops and boulevards, relishing the historic avenues and monuments, and sipping coffee at the many charming cafes. It was a magical experience to say the least, and I promised myself to eventually come back for more. But next time, I thought, I want to see something different. I wanted to explore the other regions of France outside the city and lose myself completely in the French culture and countryside.
Some of the more popular regions, cities, and towns are Burgundy, Bordeaux, Provence, and the French Riviera. Yet the Loire Valley is almost like a secret box of treasures waiting to be discovered. When I found out last year that I was about to embark on a family trip with my husband and my in-laws to this special region, I couldn’t contain my excitement.
The Loire Valley’s rolling landscapes and green pastures have given it the nickname “the Garden of France.” But I believe its old-world charm and deep appeal are rooted in its rich architectural heritage and in the historic towns and villages that dot the region such as Amboise, Chinon, and Saumur to name but a few. But the real gems, in my opinion, are its world-class chateaux (castles). The valley is also rich in wineries and has had its central part listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.
I’d like to now take you through a leisurely walk to some famous sites in the Loire Valley, but also through some of my more personal choices such as the weekend Saumur market and the Martin de Candre soap shop that you won’t find in just any guidebook.