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The Loire Valley spans an area of approximately 800 square kilometres towards the centre of France, stretching for 280 kilometres along the middle section of the River Loire. Renowned for its vineyards and fruit orchards, it’s often referred to as ‘The Garden of France’. The region enjoys a favourable climate for most of the year. Although summers are hot, welcome breezes from the Atlantic make it more comfortable by lowering the temperature a few degrees. The spring can be cool and frosty, and the wine-harvesting period a little rainy.
For those who like gite holidays, accommodation is no problem, as there are plenty of gites in the Loire Valley. However, Loire Valley villas also make for a wonderful typical French holiday, and whichever you choose, you’ll be made very welcome in this area teeming with historic and cultural interest.
Beautiful countryside abounds wherever you venture in the Loire valley, and the Perche region is a fine example. Just a one-hour drive from Paris, the rolling landscape, with its ancestral forests, orchards of apple trees, meadows, hedges, streams and other natural water spaces, is a haven for nature. The forests date back to Louis XIV, and in the spring, they are swathed in such flowers as wood hyacinth. There are approximately eleven hundred species of mushroom to be found, although not all of them are edible, so be careful not to pick any, just in case. The place is also home to many different bird species, such as the hoopoe, the spotted flycatcher, the honey buzzard, the black stork and the hawfinch. Water, in the form of peat bogs, can be found all over, giving rise to rich vegetation, as well as attracting butterflies and dragonflies. Whether you are a novice, an enthusiast, or just plain curious, you are sure to be enthralled by this enchanting kingdom.
Near the small village of Chenonceaux lies the Château de Chenonceau, a simply magnificent edifice that straddles the River Cher. Apart from its rich history and the multiple hidden delights that are revealed during a guided tour, in certain rooms, visitors are treated to the most unusual and almost magical experience of the river’s rippling water being reflected on the walls and ceilings.
Chartres, with its gothic cathedral and quaint, charming streets, is another essential stopping-off point. The cathedral, with its 2,600 square metres of stained glass in the nave, has to be seen to be believed, while the streets, with their half-timbered dwellings and ancient bridges, simply beg for you to go on a pleasant meander around the town. There are shop-fronts and workshops of glassblowers, cabinet makers and perfumers nestling side by side with restaurants serving local delicacies such as pâté de Chartres, just waiting to be discovered. And when you’re done, relax in a local café or bar with a glass or two of refreshing Perche cider.
You’re never far away from good food and drink in France, and the Loire valley is no exception. Famed for its high-quality wines, you’ll be pleased to hear that there is more than ample opportunity to indulge your passion through the vast range that includes such favourites as Muscadet, Sancerre, Vouvray and Anjou. It goes without saying that they complement whatever food you may choose and make a perfect meal divine. As for what to eat, the food is both varied and always excellent, being made from the abundant local produce. Dishes made with pork are a great favourite, as are the shellfish, and, of course, no trip would be complete without sampling the myriad of cheeses available, such as Crottin de Chavignol and Valencay. Mouth-watering!