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Take your pick from: 6 "véloroutes" and 10 networks looping through the Loire Valley, Touraine, Sologne, Perche and Berry ...

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Loire Châteaux and Heritage

Loire Châteaux and Heritage

With an impressive 21 grands sites in total, the Loire Valley was entirely deserving of its Unesco World Heritage listing as a a living cultural landscape! 

Just after Orléans, Joan of Arc's city whose pedestrian streets lined with half-timbered houses hark back to the mediaeval past, pop into Château de Sully-sur-Loire, which was once owned by the minister of King Henri IV. Carry on towards the famous Château de Chambord, founded by the equally famous François I and which boasts 365 fireplaces, before reaching Château de Blois, presented as a popular residence among the Kings of France. Stop off at Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire which commands breathtaking views over the river, and take a daytime or nighttime stroll around its international garden festival, which showcases some twenty landscape and plant creations on a specific theme. Visit Chenonceau, a superb château straddling the Cher which is also known as the "Ladies' Château", and wander around the pretty town of Amboise, its royal castle, and the Clos Lucé, where works by Leonardo da Vinci – who spent his final days here – are on display. Don't miss such symbols of the Renaissance as Château d’Azay-le-Rideau – "a faceted-cut diamond set in the Indre" in Balzac's words – and the Villandry gardens laid out in terraces, which you can enjoy fully from the Château tower. Last but not least, end your trip to the Loire valley part of the Loire Valley on a mediaeval note with a tour of Château de Langeais and Chinon Fortress.

On either side of the Loire Valley, the cathedrals in Chartres and Bourges – dazzling gems of Gothic art – are also listed as Unesco World Heritage sites and are well worth a visit. If Romanesque art is more your cup of tea, several churches can be found dotted around Berry.

Why not organise a garden day out using the Escapade aux Jardins initiative for ideas? Come for a wander around the vegetable plots at La Bourdaisière and learn about its 650 varieties of tomato! Whilst at Château du Rivau there are long-forgotten vegetables growing amidst some altogether unusual sculptures. Do some globe-trotting in the gardens of the picturesque village of Aprement-sur-Allier, where you can cross over the Chinese-inspired "bridge-pagoda", poke your nose into the "Turkish pavilion" and rest awhile in the Russian-style belvedere ...

Each of these 25 unique, unusual gardens offer up a bracing breath of fresh air, mingled with the subtle or more heady fragrances emanating from the flowers and other plant varieties to be found in bloom.

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