cheese. And Tours itself isn’t short of great places to dine. One popular bistro is Le Zinc, south of the Loire, where diners can enjoy country classics made with market-fresh ingredients for the small sum of €25.
THE GARDEN OF FRANCE
Head further east and you arrive in the ‘Garden of France’ where you’ll find glorious châteaux boasting verdant gardens, and remarkable villages fringed by sun-dappled vineyards. Another jewel in the Loire Valley’s crown is the elegant town of Amboise, perched on one of the widest stretches of the Loire.
Sitting majestically atop this riverside town is a 15th-century château that was once the home of King Charles VIII and was partially designed by leading Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci, who spent the final years of his life in Amboise and is reported to be buried inside the château.
This inviting town is also a shopper’s paradise with a smattering of boutiques and numerous markets, the most notable of which is the large Sunday market, where traders assemble along the Loire and a friendly smile and ‘ bonjour’ are quickly followed by customers’ requests for locally produced wines, cheese, meat and sungorged fruit and vegetables.
South of Amboise lies the Château de Chenonceau, one of the most elegant and bestknown in the Loire Valley. A series of graceful stone arches span the limpid waters of the River Cher, which, together with the château’s reflection in the water, creates an indelible image. Landscaped gardens which burst out into a riot of colour in the spring add to the fairy-tale setting, and are the perfect place to sit and enjoy a picnic.
For full-blown majesty, it’s impossible to top the Château de Chambord, the largest and grandest of the Loire Valley châteaux. This magnificent structure, surrounded by extensive parkland, began its life in 1519 as a hunting lodge for King François I and quickly turned into one of the most ambitious architectural undertakings ever attempted by a French monarch.
A crowning example of French Renaissance architecture, this château boasts an elaborately crafted roof and truly opulent interior, making it the Loire Valley’s pièce de résistance, and like the rest of this idyllic corner of France, is a sight to truly behold.
Anjou tourist office Tel: 00 33 (0)2 41 23 51 51 anjou-tourisme.com
Angers tourist office Tel: 00 33 (0) 2 41 23 50 00 angersloiretourisme.com
Saumur tourist office Tel: 00 33 (0) 2 41 40 20 60 ot-saumur.fr
Val d’Amboise tourist office Tel: 00 33 (0) 2 47 57 09 28 amboise-valdeloire.co.uk
Where to stay
Hôtel Château de Verrieres 53 Rue d’Alsace 49400 Saumur Tel: 00 33 (0) 2 41 38 05 15 chateau-verrieres.com
Le Grand Hôtel de Tours 9 Place du Général Leclerc 37000 Tours Tel: 00 33 (0) 2 47 05 35 31 legrandhoteltours.com
Where to eat
L’Hélianthe Rulle Antoine Cristal 49730 Turquant Tel: 00 33 (0) 2 41 51 22 28 restaurant-helianthe.fr
La Brèche 26 Rue Jules Ferry 37400 Amboise Tel: 00 33 (0) 2 47 57 00 79 labreche-amboise.com
The nearest airports are Angers and Tours. British Airways runs a seasonal service from London City to Angers. Regular flights run from London Stansted to Tours with budget carrier Ryanair.