The Loire Valley region has been classified by UNESCO as a world heritage site, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a number of monuments within the region have been specially recognized by UNESCO as well. Everyone knows the châteaux of the Loire, now it’s time to discover their magnificent setting. Medieval cities brimming with secrets, artistic treasures, renaissance gardens and heroic legends like the story of Joan of Arc, are all part of the legacy of the Loire Valley.
Art has a special place in the heart of Amboise, the city where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life at the invitation of François I. Over 40 plans, writings and reproductions of da Vinci’s work are on display in his former residence, the majestic Château de Clos Lucé. Outside, guests can stroll through the Leonardo da Vinci park and enjoy over 14 acres of landscaped gardens and Italian Renaissance rose garden based on a plan drawn by Michelangelo. Amboise is also close to the excellent shopping and restaurants of Tours. Famed as a former Gallo-Roman city, the center of Tours isfull of preserved buildings and winding medieval streets. Nestled in the heart of its historic center, the picturesque Place Plumereau is a great place for people watching, especially over coffee and a croissant at any one of the delightful cafés surrounding the square.Another great way to relax is to head to Blois, where history comes alive at the Blois Château. Over four centuries of style have come together in this architectural masterpiece that has been the home of kings and legends from Louis XII and Francis I to Catherine de Medicis with her cabinet of poison. In the evening, Blois dresses up with a sound and light show drawing on the latest sound and imagery technologies to highlight some of the magical features of the château. Another musical reason to come to Blois is the celebration “Everyone on the Bridge” that gathers locals and visitors each year in the town center from the end of June through the middle of July for the much anticipated music festival.
Traveling back beyond the Renaissance we arrive in medieval times in two beautiful cities, Bourges and Chartres with their UNESCO-recognized cathedrals. One of the most renowned medieval monuments in Europe resides in Chartres, the Notre Dame Cathedral with 2,600 square meters of stained glass. In Bourges the center of the city is dominated by the Bourges Cathedral, one of the most beautiful in France, and especially captivating during the Nuits Lumières illuminations when, along with the half-timbered buildings of the medieval district, it is illuminated by ethereal blue lanterns that create a unique and captivating tour of some of the architectural highlights of the old city.And finally, legends come alive in historic Orléans, home of heroine Joan of Arc. Wandering through this city it is hard for guests to imagine they may be treading along some of the same streets that Joan of Arc once walked, and it is still possible to visit her “hide out” in the house where she stayed during the ten day siege of Orléans. The beautiful Loire River provides another draw to Orléans, and is equally interesting for the important role it has played in the history of the city, bringing to the town boats, fisherman and a lively vinegar trade. And no visit to the city would be complete without taking the time to explore the renowned Parc Floral de la Source, a fantastic park complete with a tropical greenhouse full of butterflies.
For more information about the Loire Valley and Western France, visit http://westernfrancetouristboard.com/
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