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THE GARDEN OF France
Nature has given the Loire Valley a majestic river and a light, lustrous variety of limestone whose fine grain is much appreciated by sculptors and stonecutters. During the Renaissance, when great artists like Leonardo da Vinci came to this region of rolling hills as guests of the French princes, they immediately saw the stone’s potential for sculpting mantelpieces, pilasters to frame castle windows and medallions to adorn their façades. In just a few years, a rich and unprecedented architectural heritage was created, in which in each stone is imbued with the history of nations and the history of art. Azay le Rideau is a marvel mirrored by a reflecting pool, Chambord is a tour de force, Cheverny a lesson in elegance, Chenonceau a feminine “Château des Dames” gazing into the waters of the Cher River.
A land of pleasure for the senses and the soul, the Loire Valley has hosted the lives and loves of the kings of France and inspired artists as diverse as Rabelais and Balzac. Still today, strolling the gardens of Chambord Castle, one can imagine François I greeting Emperor Charles V on these very paths with a bevy of young girls dressed as Greek divinities sprinkling the ground with petals. Or chance upon a masked 18th-century élégante in the French-style park of Villandry, where the topiary box trees and yews celebrate human emotion in four gardens dedicated to tender, passionate,flighty and tragic love.
A realm devoted to love and beauty, the Loire Valley has also proven a fertile ground for vineyards: Bourgueil with its raspberry-colored robe, Chinon with its notes of violet, and the effervescent Vouvray, whose slogan is “I gladden hearts,” also owe much to the region’s limestone, which retains the heat of the sun, protecting the vines against the chill of night. The soil yields light, delicate wines that reflect the character of a terroir that was once called “the garden of France.” A region that won the favor of kings and went on to become an emblem of elegance à la française.
Hotel and restaurant in a park. Many great experiences await at Château de Curzay, built in 1710. Survey Romanesque Vienne from the sky in a hot air balloon. Drift in a boat down the Vonne, at the heart of the estate, in search of the secret garden, and have a picnic on the banks of the river, in the shade of 200 year-old cedar trees. Visit the Futuroscope, a fairytale temple of images. Discover the seductive charm of the Poitevin marsh. Stop off in the town of Poitiers to admire the medieval facades. Back at the château, days and nights can be spent in magnificent tranquillity, between romantic strolls, dinner on the terrace, beauty treatments, classical music in the chapel and relaxing at the pool. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in the country. Nestled on nine hectares of grounds, the Château de Noirieux with its tufa stones and bluish slates is an oasis of calm, elegance and privacy. The atmosphere recalls the grandeur of historical stately homes and there is a magnificent inlaid Érard piano. The Maîtres de Maison Anja and Gérard Côme take pride in ensuring that everything is perfect, right down to the slightest detail. Each room is lightly perfumed with its own special fragrance, the welcome is warm, the terrace is surrounded by beautiful nature and, in the kitchen, the chef has discovered the secret of remarkable and inspired cuisine, tailored around the freshest produce that’s in season. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in a village. Delve into history at this magnificent château in the heart of the Loire Valley and the Vouvray vineyards. Its gorgeous stained glass windows, its magnificent staircase and stately gardens transport guests back in time to 1560, when Château de Noizay was the setting of an important episode in the French Wars of Religion. Here, a group of Protestant Huguenots, known as the Amboise conspirators, hatched their plot to abduct the young King Francois II. Each of the château’s rooms has its own unique décor featuring authentic period furniture. It is the perfect base from which to explore the sites and tastes of the legendary Loire Valley. ... Learn moreless
Restaurant and hotel in a park. A hunting lodge, built in 1860, on the wine trail through the castles of the Loire. This historic residence, with walls clad in pepper vine, nestles in an unspoilt setting amidst ponds teeming with birdlife and offers the ideal peaceful retreat for nature lovers. Wake up to a bright new day from the cosy comfort of one of its guestrooms. Two-stars Chef Rémy Giraud serves local Loire cuisine with a modern twist. On the menu: Loire shad, parsley mousse, Monsieur Marpault’s asparagus and “mariguette” strawberries and hibiscus. It also offers a wide selection of excellent wines, including the finest Loire, Vouvray, Montlouis and Touraine whites. ... Learn moreless
Restaurant and hotel in town. In this Renaissance manor house in the heart of Romorantin, the capital of Sologne, the city that made Leonardo da Vinci come to France, talented Chef Didier Clément takes great delight in experimenting with natural flavours. His readings, encounters and walks in Sologne have resulted in his author’s cuisine, which highlights forgotten ingredients such as angelica, elderflower and peppery grains of paradise, and will surprise your taste buds. His white asparagus or chanterelles, seasonal game, fine desserts, accompanied by the best Loire wines, subtly awaken the senses. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant on a big river. Located on a tufa cliff overlooking the meandering Loire, recently listed by Unesco as a World Heritage site, the Hotel Les Hautes Roches, carved into the rocks, is truly unique. In this exceptional setting every room is different. The south-facing cave rooms with a view of the Loire, some carved into the rock, are all elegantly decorated with stylish fabrics in perfect harmony with the place. The classical but creative Breton-inspired cuisine perfectly marries the fresh seafood with local products. Each season brings new things to discover at this treasure on the Loire. ... Learn moreless