Centre Val De Loire

Loire Valley, the Royal Valley

This page was updated on: Monday, May 1, 2017 at: 9:35 pm

Loire Valley, World Heritage Site

Loire Valley near Saumur

Near Saumur

The Loire Valley stretches over central and western France and is one of the most visited regions of France.

On December 4, 2000 UNESCO listed a section as a World Heritage Site.

The site's boundaries are delineated by Sully-sur-Loire upstream and Chalonnes-sur-Loire (west of Angers) downstream.

The site is 260km long and about 3km wide.

It includes 159 communities spread in four departments (Loiret, Loir-et-Cher, Indre-et-Loire and Maine-et-Loire) in Centre - Val de Loire and Pays de la Loire regions.

A first natural region, Parc Naturel Loire-Anjou-Touraine, was created in 1996 in order to protect the wide diversity of fauna and flora found along the river.

It groups 136 communities from Maine-et-Loire and Indre-et-Loire departments.

The headquarters are located in Montsoreau.

Loire Valley, a limestone valley

Traces of occupation show that men already lived in the fertile Loire Valley around 40 000BP.

The countless dolmens they erected are today known as Angevins are recognizable by their original structure, where the burial chamber is preceded by a long entry.

Loire Valley - Dolmen near Saumur

Dolmen near Saumur

They dwelt in the natural shelters the river carved in the soft limestone or tufa left by the Mer de Faluns.

This vast sea covered north-western France during the Mesozoic Era.

Tufa rock is extremely soft, easy to cut, shape and cut.

Their descendants quarried tufa in order to build their churches, chapels, dwellings and chateaux.

Sadly, limestone quarries have since dried out.

Tufa bricks are rare and  quite expensive and are therefore exclusively used for the restoration of listed monuments and chateaux.

Loire Valley, Vallée des Rois

Tufa was used to built the marvelous chateaux the kings of France built in the Loire Valley, which has since been known as the Royal Valley.

The French kings were indeed the protagonists of the French Renaissance during the 16th century.

They brought back this 'new culture' from their military expeditions to Italy and turned the Loire Valley into the land of a thousand chateaux!

In 1884 the dramatist Jules Lemaître wrote:

La Loire est une reine : les rois l’ont aimée et l’ont coiffée d’une couronne de châteaux
The Loire is a Queen loved by Kings, a Queen they adorned with a crown of chateaux

The only question is, which of these enchanted chateaux will be your favourite?

As you travel down the beautiful valley of this gently flowing river, you may pick Chambord solid and impressive, or the fairytale Ussé, or the smaller almost family-size Chaumont, or Azay-le-Rideau with its moats...

Or will you fall for Chenonceau and its arches spanning the sparkling waters of the Cher?

All are so captivating, it is no wonder that royal wives and mistresses fought to possess them...

Loire Valley, Douce France

The popular King Henri IV called the Loire Valley Douce France - the Mild Country on account of its micro climate and soft luminosity due to the proximity of the ocean.

Poppy field in the Loire Valley

Poppy field

The rich alluvial soil and mild climate are ideal conditions for the extensive cultivation of vegetables, fruits and flowers that turn the valley into a mosaic of colourful orchards and cultivated fields.

The Loire River carved its way through the soft limestone of the hills planted with vineyards that produce some of the best French AOC wines that go along with quality gastronomy.

All these contribute to the Loire Valley's unique colour print:

The buildings' creamy white tufa, the roofs' gray-blue slates, the deep tan colour of the river sand beaches, the endless array of green on the banks and the pure blue sky and shallow waters.

No wonder why the Loire Valley is one of the most visited regions of France!

Centre Val De Loire - Latest content

A gabare (barge) on the Loire River

Loire Valley, the Royal Valley

The Loire Valley is also known as the Royal Valley because of the many chateaux the kings of the French Renaissance and their vassals built along the river

Chateau de Chinon – Loire Valley – History

Chateau de Chinon, restored ruins of the fortress built by Henry II of England where Joan of Arc came to serve King Charles VII during the Hundred years War

Cycling along the Loire River

The best cycling routes along the Loire River, a series of trails that follow the river from its spring in Auvergne downwards to its mouth in the Atlantic

Villandry Renaissance Chateau – Gardens

The Renaissance Chateau and gardens of Villandry in the Loire Valley, fully restored by Joachim Carvallo, and today registered as UNESCO's World Heritage

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