Fun things to do in Pays de la Loire

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    Château du Clos Lucé, Da Vinci's last home

    by Jefie Updated Jul 21, 2014

    This was perhaps my favourite of all the Loire Valley castles. It actually looks more like a Renaissance mansion than a Medieval castle, due in part to the fact that it was built at the turn of the 16th century. However, it is one of the most famous thanks to the fact that this is where Leonardo Da Vinci spent the last 3 years of his life. The famous Italian painter, architect, inventor and so on was invited to stay at Clos Lucé by King François I in 1516 when he was 64 years old. He brought 3 paintings with him, including the famous Mona Lisa ("La Joconde"), which he would hang in the dining room (it has now been replaced by a copy, but it explains how the masterpiece ended up at the Louvre). Da Vinci died in his bed at Clos Lucé in 1519 and was buried in the chapel of Amboise Castle.

    What makes a visit to Clos Lucé so interesting is in fact that connection with Da Vinci. All the rooms have been restored to show what the castle looked like when Da Vinci lived there, and in the basement you find a collection of models based on Da Vinci's sketches. The surrounding park features several real-scale models of Da Vinci's inventions, some of which visitors can put into motion (kids seemed to really enjoy that part!). The park also features a restaurant and two very nice cafes where you should at least take the time to order a drink and take in the lovely surroundings and all the history of the place.

    Ch��teau du Clos Luc�� Walking around Leonardo Da Vinci park Copy of the Mona Lisa in the castle's dining room View of the terrace from the castle Room in which Da Vinci passed away
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    Amboise Castle and St. Hubert Chapel

    by Jefie Updated Jul 21, 2014

    Several members of the French royal family lived in this beautiful Medieval castle built on a hill overlooking the Loire at one time or another, but perhaps the one that had the most influence on this castle's history is King François I. He actually spent most of his time staying in other grand residences such as his hunting lodge at Chambord and Blois Castle, but he's the one who invited Leornardo Da Vinci to spend the last years of his life in Amboise. Da Vinci took up residence at Clos-Lucé (see my tip on this castle) and lived there for 3 years until he passed away on May 2, 1519. His body was taken to Amboise Castle and buried in the Chapelle St-Hubert, initially built at the end of the 15th century as a sanctuary for Anne de Bretagne. Perhaps Amboise Castle wasn't the castle that impressed me the most, but because of its connection with Da Vinci, the beautiful views it offers of both the town of Amboise and the surrounding countryside as well as its small but lovely gardens, it's a visit you definitely shouldn't skip!

    Ch��teau royal d'Amboise Chapelle St-Hubert in Amboise In the royal gardens of Amboise Inside St. Hubert Chapel Da Vinci's grave in St. Hubert Chapel
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    Walking around the castle area in Amboise

    by Jefie Updated Jul 20, 2014

    Amboise is smaller than Blois, but perhaps just as lively and surely just as fun to walk around. The area located just below castle hill is worth getting lost in for an hour or two, especially to walk around rue Nationale, the town's main commercial strip that leads to the castle, and Quai du Général de Gaule that runs along the Loire. As you get closer to the castle on rue Nationale, you'll see the XVth century clock tower that used to be the town's main gate. Visitors still need to walk through it to get to the castle and surrounding historic district. Once you get to the other side, you reach place Michel Debré, also called place du Château, where you'll find plenty of restaurants, souvenir shops, live entertainment, and so on. Definitely a good way to spend a fun evening after a visit to one of the area's castles!

    Tour de l'horloge (clock tower) in Amboise Live orchestra playing on Place Michel Debr�� The town of Amboise seen from castle hill St. Hubert Chapel seen from below the hill
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    The magnificient castle and gardens of Chaumont

    by Jefie Updated Jul 13, 2014

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    Chaumont-sur-Loire is located about halfway between Blois and Amboise. Its beautiful Medieval castle is perched on a hill overlooking the Loire River and, with its glimmering white towers, it looks as though it was taken right out of a story book! Several important royal figures have lived at Chaumont throughout the years, including King Henri II and his wife Catherine de Medicis, as well as his mistress Diane de Poitiers (after the former kicked the latter out of Chenonceau Castle after the king's death). This is another castle I very much enjoyed visiting because the rooms are well preserved and superbly decorated. The stables, which once housed an elephant on top of dozens of horses (there are enough stalls for about 50 horses), are also worth a visit. These were built during the 19th century, at a time when the Broglie family, the last private owners of Chaumont-sur-Loire, lived in the castle.

    Another thing that visitors shouldn't miss in Chaumont-sur-Loire is the International Garden Festival, held every year from May to October. This festival features 20 or so gardens built around a central theme. Each of these little gardens is like an outdoor work of art that combines different materials with flowers, grass and ornamental trees. The theme of the festival when we visited in the summer of 2014 was the seven deadly sins, and we got to see some incredibly original designs.

    The Castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire Sitting room at the Castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire The castle seen from the gardens Walking around Chaumont castle's estate
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    A visit to the majestic Chambord Castle

    by Jefie Updated Jul 12, 2014

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    There's no doubt about it, Chambord Castle truly is the masterpiece of the Loire Valley. Built at the wish of King François 1er (construction began in 1519) in the middle of an enclosed 5440-ha forest, the castle comprises 426 rooms, 282 chomneys 77 staircases, including its famous double helix open staircase, which may have been designed by the king's friend, Leonardo Da Vinci. These figures are even more mindboggling when you think about the fact that Chambord's prime purpose was to be used as a hunting lodge, and that the king only came to live there a few weeks every year.

    I very much enjoyed my visit of the castle. We took a map and went on a self-guided tour of the castle, which offers visitors the chance to see several of its rooms and gives access to the rooftop terraces, from where you get a lovely view of the Chambord Domain as well as a close-ip view of its characteristic turrets. Upon his visit to Chambord, Henry James wrote that "the towers, cupolas, the gables, the lanterns, the chimneys, look more like the spires of a city than the salient points of a single building." You should also plan some extra time to explore at least part of the forest, Since we rode our bike to Chambord, we also used them to ride though the forest, but you can also go hiking, rent a bike, or even go on a carriage ride!

    Chambord Castle in the Loire Valley Stone bridge over the Cosson River Interesting shot of Da Vinci's staircase Louis XIV's bedroom at Chambord Castle The castle's lantern tower
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    Walking around Old Blois

    by Jefie Updated Jul 11, 2014

    Even though Blois is a fairly large city with a population of about 50,000 people, the Old City area is fairly small and compact, which makes it possible and enjoyable to visit on foot. The historic area located between Castle hill and Cathedral hill is incredibly charming, earning it a spot on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. I especially enjoyed walking around the lively Commerce and Denis-Papin Streets; the latter connects with the beautiful Denis-Papin stairs that offer a splendid view of the Loire. Another short detour that’s worth taking is to cross the Wilson Avenue Bridge over the Loire for a fantastic view of the city. Aloso, St-Lubin Street leads to the neighborhood known as the Arts Quarter, which is home to some of the city’s oldest houses.

    An old winding street leading up to the Cathedral With the cathedral and castle in the background On the rue des Orf��vre The monumental Denis-Papin stairs On the Wilson Avenue bridge over the Loire
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    The bishop's gardens in Blois

    by Jefie Updated Jul 11, 2014

    In 1697, a beautiful bishop's palace was built right behind the Cathedral St-Louis in Blois. Right from the start, plans were laid to surround the palace with beautiful gardens. The bishop's palace has now become Blois's City Hall and, in 1991, the gardens were redesigned and open to the public (admission is free). Because they are located on top of the hill where the cathedral is built, they offer very nice views of the city down below and of the Loire. They are divided into three parts: the rose garden, the sensory garden and the aromatic garden. The gardens are also home to an equestrian statue of Joan of Arc to commemorate the Maid of Orleans's stop in Blois in April 1429 during the Hundred Year's War. It is in Blois that she asked the bishop to bless her army and became an official war leader. She would then lead her troops to the besieged city of Orleans and deliver it from the English army.

    The old bishop's palace seen from the rose garden Statue of Joan of Arc in the bishop's gardens Orleans rose in the bishop's rose garden
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    Churches to visit in Blois

    by Jefie Updated Jul 10, 2014

    There are several churches worth visiting in Blois. The first one we stopped by, St-Vincent-de-Paul, was built during the 17th century by the Jesuits. Its architecture reflects the style described in the decrees issued by the Council of Trent in reaction to the protestant reformation. The church is lavishly decorated, mostly thanks to the generosity of Gaston d'Orléans (brother of King Louis XII, who gave the church to the Jesuits).

    Next, we visited St-Nicolas Church, which dates back to the 12th century. This Gothic-style church was built by a group of Benedictine monks who had found shelter in Blois after being forced to flee from the Normans. They had brought with them the holy relics of St-Laumer, the founder of the Benedictine order, and wanted to build a place of worship where the relics would be laid. The church is located in the historic neighbourhood situated just below Blois Castle. In fact, I thought the castle's terrace offered one of the best points of view to see St-Nicolas Church.

    Last but not least, we visited St-Louis Cathedral. Completed in 1700, this late Gothic-style church was built on the hill that faces Blois Castle. The Cathedral and its distinctive bell tower can therefore be seen from all over the city. The cathedral's crypt, which is open to visitors, was built during the 10th century to house the remains of St-Solenne and is the oldest remaining part of the church. The cathedral was very badly damaged when a hurricane hit Blois in 1678, but it was promptly reconstructed after Colbert, one of King Louis XIV's ministers, brought it to the king's attention (Colbert's wife was born in Blois). I also thought it was interesting to know that most of the stained glass windows only date back to 2000, the main reason being that the original ones were destroyed during World War II.

    Chuch of St-Vincent-de-Paul in Blois Inside the Chuch of St-Vincent-de-Paul Church of St-Nicolas seen from Blois Castle Inside the Cathedral St-Louis Cathedral St-Louis overlooking the city of Blois
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    A visit to Blois Castle

    by Jefie Updated Jul 7, 2014

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    Blois Castle dates back to the 13th century. Historically as well as architecturally, it is one of the Loire Valley's most important castles. Louis XII was the first king of France to call it home, followed by François I and Henri III (in total, 7 kings and 10 queens stayed at the castle). As each new king moved in, the castle was expanded until it reached its current size in the 17th century. It now comprises 564 rooms (including 100 bedrooms), built and decorated in a style that covers the Gothic, Renaissance and Classic eras. Several historical events took place in the castle, including the murder of the Duc de Guise in the king's own bedroom. Because of its historical significance, it was one of the first Loire Valley castles to be restored and open to the public. For this reason, it is one of the best preserved and most lavishly furnished, something that makes a visit to Blois Castle entirely worthwhile.

    Ch��teau royal de Blois In the castle's courtyard The King's bedroom The Queen's bedroom Part of the castle's impressive art collection
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    Historical buildings in Orléans

    by Jefie Written Jul 5, 2014

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    There are plenty of historical buildings in Orléans, but since we were a bit jetlagged, we only had time to see a few. Two that stood out for me were the Collégiale St-Pierre le Puellier and Hôtel Groslot.

    The Collégiale St-Pierre is the oldest church still standing in Orléans. Dating back to the 12th century, one of its most famous parishioners was Isabelle Romée, the mother of Joan of Arc. In 1958, the chuch was deconsecrated, and it now houses cultural exhibitions. We had the chance to visit a fascinating one free of charge when we were in Orléans.

    For something slightly more modern but still of historical importance, don't miss Hôtel Groslot located across the street from the Cathedral. Built in 1549 as a private residence, this lavish house once welcomed King François II (who actually died while staying at Hôtel Groslot) and his wife Mary, later to be known as Mary Queen of Scots. Hotel Groslot now houses the city's tourist office and is open to visitors daily.

    H��tel Groslot in Orl��ans, France At the Coll��giale St-Pierre le Puellier

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    Medieval architecture in Orléans

    by Jefie Updated Jul 5, 2014

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    Even though it's now a moderately-sized city, during the Middle Ages, Orléans was one of France's three wealthiest cities along with Paris and Rouen. Going for a walk around the old part of town (I'd suggest exploring the little streets located between Rue de Bourgogne and the Loire) is the best way to see what's left of that beautiful Medieval heritage - I say what's left because unfortunately, Orléans was badly hit during World War II. But still, there are plenty of lovely half-timbered houses around (some original and some restored) that are sure to make you feel very far away from home :o)

    On the lovely Rue de Bourgogne Half-timbered house in Orl��ans, France Medieval houses in Orl��ans, France Half-timbered house in Orl��ans, France
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    Place du Matroi in Orléans

    by Jefie Written Jul 2, 2014

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    Place du Matroi is the best-known square in the city of Orléans and has recently undergone major restoration work to better showcase its lovely architecture. Archeological digs have revealed that the square was once used as a wheat market and for public executions so, as such, it has always held an important place in the city's history. The statue of Joan of Arc riding a horse that can be found at the center of the square was inaugurated in 1855, after the old one was destroyed during the Revolution. It is also home to the lovely Jules-Verne Carousel.

    Statue of Joan of Arc on Place du Matroi The chancery of Orl��ans Jules-Verne Carousel on Place du Matroi
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    Cathédrale Ste-Croix d'Orléans

    by Jefie Updated Jul 2, 2014

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    This cathedral is dedicated to the Holy Cross, a piece of which used to be housed in the old church that used to stand where the cathedral is now located. The previous cathedral that was built on this site was one the biggest cathedrals in the country. However, it had been built so fast that it collapsed after a mere 200 years. The present cathedral was built between 1601 and 1829 and some of its most remarkable features are its rose window dedicated to Louis XIV, the chapel dedicated to Joan of Arc, and its magnificient organ. It is open to visitors daily from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm.

    Cath��drale Ste-Croix in Orl��ans, France The cathedral's organ A view of the nave The Cathedral seen from rue Jeanne d'Arc Inside the Cath��drale Ste-Croix
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    Chateau du Lude, le Lude

    by gwened Written Jun 19, 2014

    one of the first castles you see coming south to the Loire area; just south of Le Mans on the D307 road. The castle origins goes back to the 9C, it passes thru several owners until the current one the Count Louis-Jean de Nicolay and his wife countess Barbara.

    Located among the castles of the Loire the further north, the site is occupied since the middle ages and becomes a strategic point on the borders of Maine, Anjou, and Touraine. Occupied by the English during the hundred years war, the castle became the property of Jean Daillon, Chamberlain of King Louis XI, in 1457. For two centuries, the Daillon work enhances the beauty of the Castle, and transformed the old medieval fortress in logis of pleasure. Refurbished at the end of the 18C by the marquise de la Vieuville, then a century later by the marquis de Talhouët, the Lude Castle bears witness to four centuries of French architecture.

    Gardens, shaped by various owners of the place, served as framework for a sound and light which made the fame of the Lude for nearly forty years. They welcome since the beginning of 2000s several events, as Fête de jardiniers, during which is awarded the P.J. Redoute. The Lude Castle holds the label "remarkable Garden".

    Its a very nice property to see in the deep loire country but you need a car.the main here of course its a castle but the gardens are the ones that brings in the attention of all. A bit of description here
    The Epernon or spur: the garden owes its name to the spur of masonry that protected the fortress on the side of the river. In the 18C, when the lower court and its two towers were razed to the ground to give way to the Louis XVI wing, foundation walls were backfilled in order to accommodate a garden. It has been redesigned in 1997. Hedges of ifs point out the walls of the old fortifications. A boxwood maze is the triangle of the spur while a rose garden was planted against the terrace.

    The jardin bas or low Garden: at the foot of the spur extends the formal garden which follows the course of the river more than 200 meters. Rigorous design, highlighted by ifs pruned Topiary around large basins, contrasts with the agricultural Park stretching on the other Bank of the river Loir.

    The garden of the Source or jardin de la source: on the edge of the Park, a small perennial garden surrounds a Chinese kiosk. The source is buried in a cave, she reappears in the Loir, at the foot of the old pier. These decorative elements characterise a romantic garden in the 19C.
    The promenade in the Park: leaving the garden of the Source, the path is committed under the purple beech, which offers a beautiful prospect towards the Castle. On the left stands the water tower, built in the century last on the highest point of the Park. Returning to the Castle, the path runs along the walls of the garden which can be seen through the grille on the left (it is accessible a weekend a month and during the weekend of the Fête des jardiniers). Laid out on three terraces, it retains today outlined his original drawing.

    Chateau du Lude side the entrance on back of castle the gardens with roses
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    Marais Salant, Guérande

    by gwened Written Apr 30, 2014

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    one of the main attractions here is to come and see how sea salt is collected and process here, one of the oldest sites in France and still in use.

    The sel de guérande is well sought after by chefs and lovers of good food all over the world.
    At terre du sel, you will see it all. In addition to the tourist office in contact, this is the official site for the terre du sel museum and tour
    http://www.terredesel.com/index.php?id=107&L=1
    where you have information in English for all your needs

    more you can read at the cooperative site in English
    http://www.seldeguerande.fr/index.php?l=e

    a bit of it
    The salt marshes of Guérande are approximately 1 700 hectares. Parts of the Marsh and "Tracks" are classified as a nature Reserve (major step for migratory birds) or under the control of the Conservatoire du littoral. The Tracks and swamps are classified Natura site. These marshes are also listed since 1971 on wetlands to protect the Ramsar Convention list.The salt marshes of Guérande, include two salicoles basins:The basin of Guérande: the largest and best known between Guérande and the peninsula of Croisic, on the Track Basin of the Mes, more modest, to Mesquer. It is the salt basin more distance in Northern Europe.They are part of salt marshes of the Atlantic, located for more than three quarters of them, between the Gironde and the peninsula of Quiberon.
    We talk about salt marshes because it is the place where the region harvest about 15,000 tons of brut salt per year for approximately 300 tons of flower salt.

    just by D99 the cabin for storage and salants from overlook bridge the sel of guerande marais salants, the sel of Guerande
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