The beautiful Loire valley made up of the above 5 departments has often been referred to as the Garden of France. This region, steeped in history was the favourite residence of the Kings of France during the Renaissance period. French history records with pride the exploits of a 17 year peasant girl Joan of Arc,’the maid of Orleans” who at such a young age, defeated the English before escorting Charles V11 north to Rheims to be crowned King of France. Tributes to Joan of Arc are everywhere in Orleans especially in the Cathedral Ste-Croix where her pedestal is protected by two golden leopards.
This is an enchanting part of France and today, there are still in excess of 800 chateau that can to be explored and when you sample the tranquil countryside you will understand why the nobility of France regarded this area so highly. From Paris, you can reach this area in about an hour
Les Pay de la Loire, is located below Brittany and Normandy on the western side of France and stretches to the French Atlantic coast where you will find not only some spectacular unspoilt beaches but also the famous salt marshes of Guarantee, Salt production has recently be revived and the” White Gold” is among some of the best quality sea salt in the world. If you journey to this region, you will soon see why people affectionately call it the garden of France, not only is the land a riot of cover at certain times of the year but there are endless vineyards producing many famous quality brands such as Gros Plant & Muscadet Chinon,Vouvray & Bourgueil.
The capital of the region is Nantes which is Frances seventh largest city with a population of nearly 500,000. Previously, Nantes used to be the capital of Brittany and still it retains a large number of it’s Breton customs and traditions. However, due to it’s association with Henri IV and the Plantagenets Nantes became linked to the Loire river and established itself as the capital of the Pays de la Loire region. Nantes is a fascinating modern city which manages to mix new high-tech industry and living accommodation with splendid Art Nouveau squares, canals and a lively medieval centre. Some of the best medieval buildings are situated in the Place du Change and Place St-Croix where you’ll find popular bars and restaurants. Nantes along with Lemans & St Nazaire houses the regions universities and in a recent survey it was voted the best best to live in France.
The countryside of Les Pay de la Loire is beautiful and the region is famous for two things; the river and the stunning chateau. The soft undulating countryside is dotted with holiday homes and large fairy tale mansions and you would be forgiven for thinking that you were on part the Disneyland complex. The French love the peace and quite afforded by this area, it is affluent and it is the second most important agricultural area in the country, the land is a mixture of flat in the west to undulating hills in the east There is plenty to do in this popular region of France, there are many charming towns to visit and all manner of outdoor activities with cycling being especially popular because of the topography There are over 700 religious monuments including Chartre And Bourges Cathedrals. There are three National Parks to visit, Brenne, Loire-Anjou-Touraine and Perche The Loire valley can boast a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Loire itself is perhaps the most famous of European Rivers and it stretches 1000 kilometres from it’s source in the Massif central, it’s clear flowing waters make there way to the Atlantic coast, Past fairy tale castles. In days gone by the river was an important trading route used by many boats and barges, alas little of this survives today but the valley remains as beautiful as ever and the whole region is simply teaming with wildlife.
Holiday Homes can be purchased in this region reasonably cheaply, which is quite surprising bearing in mind it’s popularity. There is always a large amount of property to choose from and although there have been some increases in recent years, don’t let this put you off, most have been confined to the coastal locations which are usually more expensive anyway. This region is very popular with holiday makers and property is easy to rent. Because of it’s proximity to the main French ports, you can drive in to the region within a few hours of leaving the ferry. The coastline is 160kilometers in length from the beautifully long beach at La Baule through to the mouth of the Loire at St Nazaire
Surprisingly for such a beautiful and tranquil location, the area also attracts Motor Racing fans to the world famous circuit at Le Mans. The 24 race is a top annual event and large numbers flock to the Bugatti racing track to watch the event. Apart from motor racing, Le Mans has lots to offer and is a very busy town with Vieux Mans it’s star attraction. This area is the’old town” partly fortified by 3rd to 4th-century Gallo-Roman walls. The gothic cathedral has been compared to those at Chartres and Athens.
The modern centre of Le Mans is Place de la Republique, an elegant square of buildings lined with restaurants, cafes, bars that are immensely popular and noisy.
Another popular town in the region is Tours which lies at the junction of the rivers Loire and Cher. It is a busy university town and is considered the traditional starting point for visiting the Loire valley and during it’s history it has been a site of European pilgrimage. Therer are many famous buildings and museums worth visiting. Tours is one of the most appealing cities of the Loire and it is claimed that in this area, the purest form of French is spoken. When entering the town you are struck by it’s cosmopolitan prosperous feel, it has many grand avenues and a thriving population.
Place Plumereau is in the l centre and one of the city’s most interesting and entertaining spots. Here you’ll find cafés, quality restaurants designer boutiques, museums and art galleries. Ever popular half timbered houses and courtyards are found just a step away in Rue Briconnet with Gallo-Roman remains and a Romanesque church Place St- Pierre-le-Puellier. Tours has always been popular but in recent years it has become more so, it has much to offer and often a trip is concluded with a visit to the region’s castles such as Chenonceau, Langeais and Villandry!
Industrially Les Pays de la Loire is fourth most important in all of France, although mainly associated with agriculture and food products, there is some shipbuilding and Renault have a large factory in Le Mans. As with other parts of France, a number of high tech companies are moving in to the area providing work for Frances highly educated workforce.
The ability to reach your French holiday home is always an important consideration and this region of France is fairly easy to reach. As mentioned, the popular French ports decant no end of holiday makers and holiday home owners and many UK airports now have budget flights to La Rochelle and Nantes.
Guide to Les Pays de la Loire (Western Loire), France- Departments.
44 Loire Atlantique
49 Maine et Loire
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