Castles and wine – when I think about Loire Valley, I think about these two things. Regarded as The Cradle of the French Language and The Garden of France by many, its vast array of vineyards and old historic chateaus are just a splendor to behold for anyone who personally witnesses them. I am proud to count myself as one of those people. Loire Valley has a potent historical significance in its architectural wonders, and yet offers a contemporary and whimsical feel in its wineries.
A gorgeous castle, Chateau de Cheverny simply exudes elegance and sophistication. Its architecture is made up of a blend of very old designs and modern structures. Its modern ones were built in the 17th century. Today, it is owned by a wealthy French family who has opened the doors of Cheverny Castle for public viewing. You can even rent the facilities there for special occasions. The interior of the chateau is just spectacular. I also got to ride the electric boats and carts and toured around its vast and beautiful park. Did I mention the Tintin Hall? Yes, the Marlinspike Hall in the famous Hergé books, The Adventures of Tintin, is actually based on the Cheverny Castle. These days, the real Marlinspike Hall in the chateau functions as more of a museum commemorating the famous Tintin and his adventures; it can be rented for functions, parties, etc.
The Brissac Castle is a medieval mansion constructed by Count Anjou in the 11th century. The castle reflects the Baroque style of architecture predominant at the time. When I entered its Golden Drawing Room, I could just bask in the vivid and captivating Don Quixote tapestries. The Chateau de Brissac, with its 7 stories and 204 rooms, is regarded as the Giant of Loire Valley, and is one of the tallest castles in France. Not surprisingly, it is also one of the most popular French castles. This castle will leave anybody awe-struck and speechless. I know I was.
The Chenonceau is a magnificent white castle floating on a river. It’s affectionately called the Chateau de Femme because women were its main inhabitants in the past. It actually has a chamber called the Five Queens Bedroom wherein 5 past queens of France used to reside. Nowadays, the Chateau de Chenonceau is a gorgeous museum and function hall complete with first class restaurants and top notch facilities.
When I heard others say the roofline of the Chambord Castle looks like the rooftops of a small city, I could not believe it; but it really does look like them. Several tower-like heads stick out at the top of the castle; I’ve not seen anything like it. The Chambord was originally a hunting lodge and housed a number of noble people in the past. Its great centerpiece is this elaborate double helix spiral staircase that reaches the top of the castle. It’s simply a stunning sight.
A visit to Loire Valley would not be complete without sampling the great wines it produces. Loire Valley wines have quite a fresh taste and are a bit high in acidity. The Muscadet wine in Western Loire has a greatly pronounced fruity and nutty flavor. The Chenin Blanc wine, produced in the middle regions of Loire Valley is quite sharp and acidic. It has one of the longest shelf life amongst the dry white wine varieties in the world. Of course, I cannot leave Loire Valley without tasting its Sauvignon Blanc. Arguably, the biggest success of Loire Valley in white wines, the Sauvignon Blanc is vastly popular around the world, especially New Zealand.
A peaceful and tranquil locality, Loire Valley is indeed a magnificent destination for a laid back and easy vacation.
Photo by ninasimonds on Flickr