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Around Chinon

Getting away from it all in Chinon country


 

Forty minutes from the city gates along the D751 you arrive at the foot of a high cliff bank on the river, crowned by one of the few medieval châteaux of the Loire Valley. Located southwest of Touraine, at the crossroads of three provinces - Anjou, Poitou and Touraine - Chinon is built on the slopes of Vienne, at the heart of the Loire-Anjou-Touraine Regional Natural Park on the borders of a dense forest of 5500 hectares.

Before entering Rabelais country, and since time is on your side, take the time to explore the green country between the forests of Villandry and Chinon, azay-le-rideau not forgetting Azay-le-Rideau – a "multi faceted diamond, set in the Indre" as Balzac so eloquently put it.

An almost perfect example of the Renaissance, château - elegant, proud and quiet – Azay seduces its visitors with its carved stone façades reflecting in the water, a vast English style park full of calm and serenity, a monument of beautifully traditional French architecture (high roofs, pepper pot towers, bay windows and skylights) and Italian battlements

Visitors invariably have a lovely time in this outstanding setting, and you'll be no exception before you take off for the drive to Chinon through the "green corridor" - twenty kilometers of road lined with oak trees, ferns and conifers.

Arriving in Chinon, another place, another atmosphere. Meiaeval Chinon welcomes you with its crowning towers, battlements and dungeons. Even more impressive that this, one of the largest fortified structures in France is perhed overlooking the river.

A hillside elevator takes you to the fortress as it is today. Five years of restoration work unprecedented in Europe, has rebuilt the walls and ramparts, to ensure the future of this place, so full of History - Joan of Arc met the Dauphin Charles VII here in 1429, for example. A remarkable museum in an interactive and playful design – chinonsounds and touch screens, augmented reality and 3D models allow you to slip into the skin of the great people who left their footprint on the history of France.

As you leave, your breath may be taken away by the starting views out over the valley of the Vienne.

Before returning to your car, take little stroll through the streets of old Chinon, between the banks of the river Vienne and the escarpment of the château, this neighbourhood has preserved all its beautiful medieval houses with their half-timbered facades, oriel carved stone gables and turrets. The 14th century Maison Rouge deserves a lingering look!

After a well deserved break for refreshments, it's time to leave Chinon (the only substantial sized town in France without a single set of traffic lights!) it's off to Langeais via Rigny-Ussé whose château is said to have inspired Charles Perrault's original Sleeping Beauty.

The beautiful vineyards of Chinon, which cover over 2,300 hectares give or take a few vines, are bound to tickle your interest with the ambient aromas of violets or wood strawberry emerging from their foliage... why not find out more with a convivial and educational wine discovery tour.

LANGEAIS

Thirty kilometres farther along, the high walls of the Langeais feudal fortress hove into view. You'll arrive a little late for the wedding of Anne of Brittany to Charles VIII, which took place in the château in 1491... but don't panic! The scene has been fully reconstructed just for you, in wax figures with uncannily realistic faces...

Especially worth seeing is an important collection of tapestries and a set of exceptional Gothic furniture. In total, fifteen richly furnished and decorated rooms are open for the visiting public to punge into the life of a 15th century prince.

Before leaving the monument by the drawbridge - still in working order - walk around the park to pay your respects to the Tower of Fulk Nerra, the oldest castle keep in France!

Leaving the monument, opposite the château, a small, but highly regarded pastry and chocolate shop returns you to the 21st century with macaroons, marshmallows, crunchy hazelnut chocolates and other treats to allow you to continue your heritage tour completely satisfied.

 

Last step before joining the capital of the Touraine, Villandry.

 

No more than 10 kilometres separate Langeais from the bright French gardens and château of Villandry, one of the most recent Renaissance buildings in the Loire Valley. Inside, a stunning Moorish carved ceiling - brought from a palace in Toledo - is one of the jewels of the château. Acquired by Joachim Carvallo,CHATEAU VILLANDRY who bought Villandry and its estates in 1906, it was dismantled in more than 3600 pieces and required a year of work to restore and mount in its new home. An amazing piece!

After climbing the steps of the keep, you will be rewarded with a splendid view of the grounds and the kitchen garden. "What an extraordinary garden - There are ducks who speak English," goes the song by Charles Trénet. And its not far from the impression you have as you walk in the green alleyways, with the scents and flowers leading you far from "the dark buildings and sooty passages” of the same song.

The gardners' reputation is world renowned! Nine full-time gardeners, 200,000 seedlings, 1260 lime trees, miles of boxwood hedges, covering 17 hecatares! The palette of colours is constantly recharged and refuelled - green, red, bronze and yellow, from the heart of the vegetable garden to the Water Garden, the Jardin des Simples and the delightful “Lovers' Garden".

For dessert, enjoy the spectacular computerised show “the 4 seasons of the garden” inside the château, unless the Rose-Litchee ice creams and vegetable tarts of the “Doulce Terrace” entice you more...

Back to Tours, via the village of Savonnières with its toues and gabares (different sorts of local river boats) on the Cher, reminding you that this was an important river port when the waterways of france were the principal transport arteries.

 

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