A Trip in the Loire valley
A trip around the land of châteaux
First of all, the Medieval Era
Although Touraine and the Loire Valley are naturally associated with the Renaissance, exceptionally historically important medieval buildings are also worth visiting.
The Royal Fortress of Chinon stands high on a rocky outcrop, and visitors are immediately struck by its long silhouette. A defensive structure built on the once turbulent borders of Touraine, Poitou and Anjou, its towers, turrets and hundreds of meters of ramparts is very imposing! Chinon will always be associated with the famous people who entered its walls, such as Joan of Arc who came to meet the future Charles VII here during the very famous “recognition scene”.
Langeais is a perfect illustration of the transition which took place at the beginning of the Renaissance. The château still bears all the hallmarks of a stronghold with its massive ramparts, parapet walk and drawbridge. But on its façade are the first decorative features symbolising the dawn of a new era and a façade aspiring to be decorative with wide openings out onto the gardens. Langeais is also where Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany’s wedding took place, an alliance which attached the rich dukedom to France.
Times were now more peaceful and leading figures of the realm started building superbly attractive and ornate châteaux which opened out onto extensive gardens.
The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is a subtle blend of French tradition and innovative Italian decor. It is one of the icons of the new art of building in the Loire Valley in the 16th century. Built on an island in the middle of the meandering River Indre, it is a genuine architectural masterpiece, a “facetted diamond” as Balzac described it. It has recently been beautifully fully restored and refurnished, and now more than ever it’s one of the essential places to visit in the Loire Valley.
The Royal Château of Amboise needs no introduction! Nursery of the kings of France, the site is an integral part of France’s great history, particularly the reign of François I who was so inspired by his Italian conquests. All year round, the superb Italian-style terraces offer a stunning view of the River Loire, and in the little Chapel of Saint Hubert, you can see Leonardo da Vinci’s tomb. A must.