The Loire Valley spans 280 km and is situated by the Loire River within central France. This area comprises approximately 800 sq km. There is an abundance of fruit orchards, vineyards, and cherry, artichoke and asparagus fields lining the riverbanks. The Loire Valley is noted for the historic towns, the architecture and the wines. The central Loire Valley has been added to the list of the World Heritage sites. Historic towns that are found in this valley include Tours, Saumur, Orleans, Nantes, Chinon, Blois, Angers and Amboise.
Paris is two hours drive away from the valley. A train ride will take one hour. A bicycle is a lovely way to see the sights of Loire Valley. Shops in the various towns will rent out bicycles for the day.
The valley has a mild climate through the year. Springtime can be cool with frost while rain can occur during wine harvesting. Summers are normally hot with Atlantic breezes moderating the temperatures.
The wine region of the Loire Valley includes the Atlantic coast region of Muscadet to the Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre regions southeast of Orleans. Loire wines exhibit characteristic fruitiness complemented with crisp, fresh flavors. Most wine producers showcase their own wine cellar ‘cave’ which is carved out from local tufa rocks. Wine tasting and tours are offered.
Chateaux in the Loire Valley
The historic towns in the Loire Valley are noted for their architectural heritage, especially with their castles. These include the Chateaux d’Amboise, Chateaux de Villandry, Chateaux de Chambord, Chenonceau, and the Chateaux d’Usse. There are over three hundred chateaux that were built starting from the 10th century. When French kings started building their enormous chateaux in this region, the nobility hastily followed suit. The presence of these chateaux in the fertile, lush valley attracted the best in landscape designers.
The lower Loire Valley comprises two regions. These are the region of Centre-Val de Loire which stretches from Paris to Auvergne(with plenty of chateaux and historical cities to enjoy) and the region of Pays de la Loire which includes cities like Angers and Nantes.
Natural Regional Parks
There are three nature parks that protect the untamed nature of the Loire Valley :
- Brenne is a natural paradise for wildlife, rare birds, plants, lakes that reflect the sky, vast expanses of water that are dotted with forests, fields and moorland. Birds migrate and nest here.
- Perche is a green haven with wooded hillsides, apple tree orchard landscapes, and plenty of water that runs through the meadows.
- Loire-Anjou-Touraine has alluvium forests that are covered with plant ‘verdiaux’, vast expanses of sandy islands, and fields that regularly flood. Some sandbanks that are heated by the sun will allow the tropical plants to thrive. These areas are essential migration paths for fish and birds as well as for plants.
With 35,000 hectares, Orleans Forest is France’s biggest forest and lies within the northern area. The Gaul forests have left behind legacies in the form of ancient trees. There are giant sequoias growing here. These trees can grow up to 40 m and live for 2000 years.
There are more than one thousand ponds, many springs and fifty lakes in this region, as well as three eagle species. The area of Sologne has wild as well as maintained lakes that offer a rich diversity of birdlife.