The castles of the Loire Valley, “Val de Loire”, are part of the historic and architectural heritage of France. From the “Renaissance” to the “Age of Enlightenment”, the Kings of France have been attracted by this region where they found a mild climate and a serenity they could not enjoy in Paris, the center of power. They built, along the river, some of the most overwhelming castles, with beautiful gardens where the ladies of the court could stroll while the men were hunting in the forest. The King gave lavish parties to entertain his court and his mistress of the moment!
François I, who was the first to incorporate the italian Renaissance into french life, invited some of the greatest italian artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci to visit his court and participate in the decoration of his castles. The famous painter died in Amboise and is buried in the chapel of the castle.
As beautiful as the castles are, it can be a little wearisome to visit too many of them, especially in one day. There is another attraction, in the Loire valley, its vineyards. Because of the mild climate and the soil, it has always been a region producing a variety of good red, white and rosé wines. Visiting one typical vineyard, with its cellar carved in “tuffeau”, the white and yellowish stone of the Loire valley, you will be able to taste, compare and enjoy different wines.
Our program will include the visit of 3 castles which we have selected because they are particularly interesting for different reasons, and the visit of a Vouvray vineyard and winery. Our first contact with the castles of Loire will be Chambord, the most magnificent of all, built by François I, when he was 25. One of the curiosities is the roof , with something like a little village, where the members of the court could meet casually and enjoy the beautiful view over the park and the woods. After the magnificence of Chambord, the smaller castle of Cheverny will delight you with its rich furniture and more intimate atmosphere.
A quick lunch in a typical restaurant in a village nearby, will allow you to rest before the last visit. Chenonceau, built over the river, was called the castle of the Ladies, because it always was the property of women who took great care in its decoration, with a definite feminine touch. Two of the most famous of these ladies were Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medicis, the mistress and the wife of king Henri II. We will not leave the Loire valley without stopping in the Vouvray vineyard, near Amboise, visiting a troglodytic cellar, carved in “tuffeau”, where we will taste different wines proposed by the producer.