Monday, April 6, 2015

Anjou- the Western Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is one of France's most popular tourist destinations.  The longest river in France, the Loire to which the region gets its name crosses it from east to west.  Stretching  some 200 km from Orleans to Angers, the Loire Valley's  mild  climate and natural beauty attracted kings and other royals who built castles  along  the banks of the Loire and its tributaries: Indre, Cher, Loir and Maine.  There are so many beautiful castles from the Middle Ages to Renaissance and Classical periods to discover. Tourists come from far away to the heart of the Loire Valley to visit primarily the most famous chateaux like Chenonceau, Chambord, Blois, Cheverny and Azay le Rideau.   But linger  and explore the western part of the Loire Valley, the area of Anjou, the historical land of the Plantagenets that was hotly contested between the English and French kings during the One Hundred Years War.

Angers Fortress
Start in Angers, the ancient capital of Anjou.  This laid-back green city is home to an imposing fortress castle.   Built in the 11th century, it is fortified by 17 round towers and surrounded by a deep and wide moat.  Today, this moat has been filled by  beautiful parterres of flowers and shrubs.  Inside you can't miss the astonishing Apocalypse Tapestry - a 14th century needlework -depicting the hallucinatory Revelations of St. John.

Did you know, Angers is home to Cointreau, the orange liquor?  At Carre Cointreau, you can tour the distillery, its museum  and enjoy a tasting.

Saumur is located about 45 km southeast of Angers.  Built on a broad stretch of the Loire River, the town is dominated by its 14th-15th century castle that stands majestically high on a promontory overlooking the town and river below. Today, it houses the Decorative Art Museum and the Horse Museum.  Saumur is notably renowned for its Equestrian School - Les Cadres Noirs.   Surrounded by vineyards, Saumur is famous for producing a sparkling white wine. At famed producer Bouvet-Ladubay,  enjoy wine tasting and a visit of its underground cellars built in the local Tuffeau (white limestone).

One should not miss a visit of the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud located a few miles outside of Saumur.  This large religious complex was founded in 1101 by Robert d'Arbrissel, a visionary itinerant preacher and crusader for the poor.  Abbesses throughout its history culminating at the French Revolution when the last abbess was evicted in 1792 led this monastic institution.  Napoleon, subsequently turned the monastery into a prison and it remained as such until 1963.  Fontevraud's famous resident was Eleanor of Aquitaine who late in her life took the veil and retreated in the abbey.  She died there in 1204 and was interred in the abbey near her husband, Henri II of England and son, Richard the Lion Heart.  Their remains are long gone , probably removed during the French Revolution, but you can view their tomb effigies  in the  nave of the abbey church.  For an unforgettable experience, consider staying in the former abbey that now runs a 4 star hotel with a gastronomic restaurant. Walking at night in the grounds of the Abbey when tourists are gone make for magic moments.

To plan your visit of  the Loire Valley, visit us at We here to assist you in planning memorable vacations.

#France, #Loire Valley # Angers, # Saumur, # Fontevraud,

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