THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS HISTORIC ROUTE

This important route along FRANCE's longest river, the LOIRE, has been used for centuries. The valley is associated with the kings of FRANCE, who from the time of the Capets, established their expanding dynasty in ORLEANS before deciding to make PARIS their capital. The valois and Bourbons were frequent visitors as the Loire Valley was only two days ride on horseback from PARIS. Although the magnificient Loire Valley well deserves its evocative name of « Valley of the Kings'. It's also an important economic thoroughfare. It was here too that architecture as well as the art of living flourished and it remains a melting pot for thought and the exchange of ideas.

 

GIEN

 

Castle 15th c.

Anne de Beaujeu, countess of GIEN and elder daughter of Louis XI, commissioned this large royal castle buitl from brick and stone – a remarquable building which, like the château d'amboise, was a forerunner of Renaissance architecture. Joan of Arc slept here, and François 1er also spent time here. The château houses the renowned Musée International  de la chasse with 15 galleries filled with hunting art and techniques from around the world. An interesting collection of objects, weapons, engravings and paintings by Desportes and Oudry can be seen.

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BEAUGENCY

In the heart of a medieval city this fine ensemble, consisting of an impressive feudal keep and a vast living block, celebrates the memory of Dunois, companion in arms of Joan of Arc, who made his home here for 17 years. The museum houses riche collections of traditional clothing and tools, religious objects, liturgical clothing, ancient toys and games scattered through all the rooms in the castle.

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LA FERTE SAINT AUBIN

One of Sologne's major strongholds, this castle in stone and red brick, with its moat and fine period furnishins and tapestries, was used by director Jean Renoir in filming La Règle du Jeu. It provides a lively panoramic overview of 17th C. architecture, and its vast old kitchens are staffed by costumed actors. The enchanted island is a paradise for children who can play in the wooden houses built to a child's scale.The tour is punctuated by various entertainments, including the Ile Enchantée (Enchanted Island) for younger visitors and demonstrations of cooking the traditional way.

The current castle with its essentially classic styling, owes its renaissance to the strong will of its owner who has restored it to its former glory.

 

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AZAY LE RIDEAU

 

Between the arms of the Indre, the Castle of Azay le Rideau is one of the most beautiful Renaissance successes. Here, beauty is more modest than triumphant and from this comes its purer and more calming quality.

The castle is built on an L-shaped plan and stands on a loop of the river INDRE.

It's one of the most elegant creations of the early Renaissance and the great staircase, within the main part of the mansion is a masterpiece. (16th century furniture and tapestries).

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CHAUMONT SUR LOIRE

 

A typical castle of Loire that deserves its title, as it forms an integral part of the river that it overlooks. Catherine de Médicis gave it to Diane de Poitiers in exchange for the castle of Chenonceaux.Its drawbride is still in working oder five centuries after it was built. Particulary notworhy are the 19th century stables, fitted out by Hermes.

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LANGEAIS CASTLE

A 10 century keep (the oldest existing romanesque keep), a 15 C. fortress of notable architectural homogeneity, make up one of the most important castles in the west of France.

Outstanding furniture and tapestries. Waxworks evoking the mariage of Charles VII and Anne of Brittany (1491).

 

The stern Gothic chateau de Langeais brooding over the town of the same name was built beside the Loire on Touraines's border with Anjou by order of King Louis XI.

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CHENONCEAUX

 

The castle was erected in 16 th C. Henri II gave it to Diane de Poitiers who laid out the gardens and had a bridge built over the Cher. Catherine de Médicis took it from her and added further improvments. Several pieces of historical interest, furniture, tapestries. Wood fire in winter.

 

If this château is nicknamed the « ladies'chateau », due to the influential women have graced it with their presence over the years, it's also fitting in terms of its power of seduction. The harmony between the Cher, over which the château strides with elegance, thanks to a two storied gallery, the castle itself and the surrouding plant life connot fait but to impress.

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CHEVERNY

This is probably the most classic example of the chateaux of the Loire and it's exquisitely furnished. For readers of the Tintin comic books who are familiar of with Hergé's illustration of the château de Moulinsart, this Château is likely to ring a few bells. Its style is the perfect embodiment of 17th C artistic evolution, up to the moment of its construction, since which time it has been the residence of one family line. For a real treat, why not take an unforgettable hot-air balloon ride over the castle park or make up a trip around the park by boat or electric car.

 

BLOIS CASTLE

 

If the Loire was to elect a capital, it would be BLOIS surely, town of Art and History and the veritable center of French Renaissance.

For a long time it was a royal town, marked by the regal touches of Louis XII and Francois 1st, and by important events for the kingdom in general.

The old town in particular the castle, with its staircase that never fails to amaze its visitors, brilliantly evokes the town's royal past. The Maison de la Magie (House of Magic) completes Blois historic heritage.

 

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MONTRICHARD

An ancient square-shaped tower on the hillside attests to the medieval history of a town snuggled down into the right bank of the Cher. The art of falconry is still very much alive here, with regular bird of prey demonstrations. The hill is riddled with numerous caves which are now used for cultivating mushrooms and ageing the local vintages, now that they no longer house troglodyte communities.

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