The Loire Valley offers the chance to explore France’s glorious countryside and delve into its historic past. Situated in central France, you’ll find yourself in the heart of the country, lost amongst vineyards, orchards and fields in the ‘Garden of France’ whilst enjoying the July summer highs. Here’s my guide to visiting this beautiful region.
The Loire Valley- The Basics
Covering over 800sq km, The Loire Valley is nestled alongside the Loire River in central France. During July, you’ll be enjoying average temperatures of 19C (66F), climbing to highs of 25C (77F). Rainfall is lowest through these summer months and July is traditionally the sunniest month in the region. Flights are available direct into Tours Loire Valley Airport or connect via train from Paris or Lille. Being a countryside destination, there are a wide range of villas available to hire for accommodation which really do provide the perfect atmosphere to accompany your stay here.
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The Loire Valley is filled with historic towns and cities that you’ll want to put on your to-visit list. If you’ve chosen to fly direct in Tours, begin your stay here and explore the city which is filled with medieval squares and architecture to enjoy. Alternatively, begin your stay in Orleans. Here you’ll find one of the oldest towns in France which has deep connections to Joan of Arc and many beautiful churches to visit including the gothic Cathedrale St Croix.
Personally, I would make sure that Amboise is on your itinerary. Sitting on the banks of the Loire River, the town was once home to the French Royal Court and home to Leonardo Da Vinci. The town truly comes into its own during Summer as it’s Renaissance beauty is perfectly illuminated. Visit Da Vinci’s final home at Clos Luce manor house where you can see many of his machines recreated from his original sketches.
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This area is famed for its châteaux and there are many to explore and enjoy. July is arguably the most apt day to be visiting as France celebrates Bastille Day on 14th July. Due to its Royal roots, the Chateau in Amboise is possibly the most elegant and impressive castles to visit and is also the site of da Vinci’s tomb. A great rival however, is the Chateau at Chenonceau which is an architectural masterpiece both inside and out, set beautifully on the river. To enjoy sheer extravagance, take time to see Chateau de Chambord which is the largest Chateau in the region. And finally, get swept up inside a fairytale by visiting Chateau D’Usse which was the inspiration behind Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the original story and Disney’s adaptation.
Eat, drink and be merry
The other must for your trip to the Loire Valley is to indulge your culinary side. The region is famed for its winemaking and sumptuous foods so it would amiss not to dine like a king. Begin by exploring the wine caves that have produced wine that has made this region so famous for its vineyards. There are a number of ways to take a wine tour here, including days spent at the vineyards, learning about how the grapes are grown and processed or simply just indulging in some wine tasting. Personally, I would recommend visiting Pouilly-sur-Loire to try some of its famous Pouilly-Fume or take a trip to Saumur.
Saumur is a gastronomic delight, with not only vineyards to enjoy but also high-end restaurants for as far as the eye can see. Enjoy gourmet dinners, traditional French cuisine or even have the experience of dining within a cave for a unique evening! Saumur also has a wonderful Farmer’s Market which is the perfect place to sample and buy the local produce. One final stop off in the Loire for those with a sweet tooth is the Bigot Patisserie in Amboise which has been delighting chocoholics since 1913.