René Descartes, Francois Rabelais, Honoré de Balzac, Jakelin de Mailly. All came from the French region of La Touraine. Celebrated for its many chateaux in the Loire Valley, it’s a land of beautiful rolling hills and vineyards with a mild climate, fabulous food, and warm, friendly people.
The Loire is the longest river in France at over 600 miles and has been the subject of poetry, prose and love songs. It brings fertility and abundance as the bountiful fruits and vegetables in the many restaurants will attest.
The Touraine is home to many wondrous castles, or chateaux, built by the Kings of France between the 1oth and 20th centuries with the most productive period between the 14th and 16th. They were erected for the pleasures of kings and their retinues and many a courtier found (and lost) favor during a visit. It was in these years that the region became known as “The Garden of France”.
Some of the most noted chateaux of the region are Amboise, Chaumont, Chinon, Villandry, Ussé and Blois. It was at Chinon where Joan of Arc met with the future King of France Charles VII in 1429 and also where Richard the Lionheart was born and died. It has been said that the chateau Ussé was Charles Perrault’s inspiration for the castle in the fairytale of Sleeping Beauty in 1697. Chaumont was acquired by Catherine de Medici in 1550 and there she entertained a notorious guest by the name of Nostradamus.
The Loire Valley is worth a visit not only for the chateaux but for the pleasure of the food, the wines such as those from Chinon and Bourgeuil with its excellent reds and Sancerre and Vouvray whites. Paired with shellfish, rillettes, and mussels or a lovely cheese such as Chabichou du Poitou or Valencay a day spent in Touraine is a day to remember.