The Loire River is just over 1000 kilometers long and is the longest river in France. Along its course from its source in the Massif Central it first travels northwards, before turning westwards and eventually spilling into the Atlantic Ocean through its mouth at Saint-Nazaire, in the Bay of Biscay.
Along its route its valley has produced some of the most attractive landscapes in France and the area is visited by many tourists each year. The valley is occupied by huge numbers of Chateaus that have been built by the affluent of the country, who have wanted to make the most of the beautiful surroundings.
The Loire Valley refers to a stretch of the river that runs for around 280 kilometers in middle of its journey. This area is known as the “Garden of France” and the riches that have been earned from this area have funded the building of the Chateaus that lie on the banks of the river.
There are more than 300 chateaus in the valley. They represent the architecture of the renaissance period as France was coming out of the dark ages. It started with the King having a Chateau built and then the nobility would follow suit and build their own, as a representation of their power.
The chateaus would consist of the finest architecture and some would be massive structures. One of the largest to be built was the Chateau de Chambord, which was built by King Francis I and was so vast that it was never completed.
It was originally designed as a hunting lodge and consisted of there being four major towers on the corners of the building. There was a moat surrounding it and inside there were 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces and 84 staircases. Through the centre of the building was a double spiral staircase and the roof is elaborated decorated.
Despite building work being carried on for 28 years it was never completed. During the French Revolution most of its furnishings were sold and during the Second World War the artefacts from Paris’s Louvre museum were stored in the Chateau. Today it is a tourist attraction and receives around 700,000 visitors a year.
Many of the chateaus in the Loire Valley are used a tourist attractions. Some have been turned into hotels and are used for tourists as a base as they tour. The larger chateaus even have places of worship inside the grounds.
The Loire Valley is a popular location for tourists to visit. The most popular city to visit is Tours which has retained its cultural heritage. It is a university town and is easy to travel around with a modern tramway railway providing easy access to many of the sites.
The architecture of the city is impressive and many of the restaurants and cafes are found in the Place Plumereau which is one of the region’s most impressive squares. The city is full of galleries and museums that house artefacts that represent the history of the region. The city is full of impressive gardens and many buildings represent a bygone era.
The rich agricultural nature if the region is reflected with the numbers of large markets that are held in the Valley. Every town, city and village has their own local market and one of the most popular markets is the Sunday market that is found in the town of Langeais. Over 100 traders open stalls that sell a wide range of produce that includes vegetables, wines, ceramics, flowers and fruits.
The valley also enables tourists to visit the different wines of the valley. The region is the largest producer of wine in the country and many have combined attracting tourists for the beauty of their Chateaus as well as the quality of their wine.
The Chateau des Vaults produces high quality Chenin Blanc wine, and it is located on a world heritage site. The grounds are often visited by those interested by wines plus those attracted by the concerts, literature evenings and art exhibitions that are organized by the management of the Chateau.
The Loire Valley offers a rich cultural opportunity for many who come and visit the region, and is one of the most popular destinations in France.