A fairy-tale in the Loire

When asked if I would like to compile a small article on the region I have lived in for the last 12 years I jumped at the chance, that was back in January and given a deadline of June I naturally left it aside and thought I would deal with that later. When it came to write the article, the day before the deadline, oops! I thought to myself what could I say about this stunning area of France without sounding like the typical Brit moved abroad. It’s difficult. The region is the Loire valley, known for its hot summers and soft winters, stunning chateaus, great wines and fantastic food. To me, all afore mentioned points are a great reason to live or holiday here, however there are other practical elements to consider. As I still have my family located in the north of the UK accessibility is key. Travel by plane and there are numerous airports in the Loire valley serviced by low cost airlines, these offer short commutes from Tours, Angers, Nantes to London, Manchester, East Midlands, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Ireland, most flights averaging around 1h30 minutes. If however you travel mob handed and kitchen sink to boot then car travel is also attractive, with the ferry ports of St Malo, Roscoff, Le Harve, Brest and even Calais, for example Calais to Angers taking around 4h30 minutes, off the boat in the morning, easy motorway drive to Rouen, stop for lunch and Angers in time for the gouter, (kids afternoon snack), now that’s not too stressful is it.

The Loire valley is named after the river that runs through it, from Sully sur Loire to Chalonnes, the many historic towns and villages along its banks are referred to by UNESCO’s world heritage convention as “noteworthy for the quality of the architectural heritage, in its historic towns such as Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours, but in particular in its world-famous castles, such as the Château de Chambord.”

The Loire valley spans a little over 280 kilometres (170 mi), and is located in the middle stretch of the Loire river in central France. Its area comprises about 800 square kilometres (310 sq mi).It is referred to as the “Cradle of the French” and the Garden of France due to its huge amount of vineyards and orchards.  

In addition to its rich history, picturesque villages and stunning castles, the Loire Valley is also wine country, where you can travel to vineyards and sample the different varieties the most notable being the Muscadet region on the atlantic coast, Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé just southeast of the city of Orléans in northern central France. Loire wines tend to be dry and fruity, with a fresh crispness to them, great as an aperitif or with seafood, moules frites with a great bottle of muscadet, or filet of sandre (pike perch, river fish) with sauce beurre blanc, washed down with a cool glass of Pouilly Fumé.

As the “garden of France”, the Loire Valley produces a huge variety of fruits and vegetables as well as an assortment of game and fish.

Many restaurants menus are based on seasonal produce, hunting season for example brings a selection of tasty game to dining rooms across the Loire Valley, including deer, boar, duck, pheasant and quail.

Many of Paris’ best restaurants get their fresh produce from the Loire Valley.

The climate is favorable most of the year round, cool in springtimewhilst the months of the vendange (grape harvesting) may have some rain, in general summers are hot, however influences from the Atlantic moderate the temperature with breezes.

The summers in Loire Valley tend to be hot and sunny where the temperature usually averages around 26C daytime and not dropping much below 15C in the evenings, allowing for long barbecues that stretch late into the night.

Winters tend be cold and crisp average temperatures of around 9C but with lots of blue sky and sunshine, great for walking, bike riding, spring can be wet when most of the annual rain falls, and average temperatures still around 20C.

The region is home to numerous cultural events and festivities throughout the year, and just some of these include the Printemps de Bourges, one of the most renowned music festivals in Europe and the August Folklore Festival in Montoire, otherwise a visit to one of the many art galleries in the Loire, due its many chateaus fantastic country side and hours of natural sunlight artisits have found inspiration here for years. The final abode of Leonardo da Vinci, the chateau Clos Lucé sits right in the heart of the Loire Valley.

There are a few main styles of property in the Loire, the most typical being the Longere, a building made of granite style stone and limestone for openings, around windows and doors, the longere is typically a rural property and is built as a rectangle, usually south facing with the gardens to the front. Maison de Maitre, or masters house, again usually built of stone with limestone for openings these properties tend to be more square with a central entrance and equal sized rooms to either side of the hallway, with fireplaces at either side of the house. Then we have old agricultural buildings these can vary from farms with large hangars to Chais, (old wine distillery), and of course chateaux.

Property pricing in the Loire Valley is pretty stable, like everywhere the prices have dropped since the crash of 2007 and are now more reasonable, for example a longere and separate gite with stunning views onto sunflower fields and woods can be bought for just 199,000€, a home and a business, retire and allow for a little extra seasonal income. If it is something more prestigious you seek then what about this chateau with over 500m² of living space, including 7 bedrooms, 2 large reception rooms, large snooker room, views on the river Layon and vineyards, numerous outbuildings, heated swimming pool and 3 hectares of land for 690,000€. Fantastic as a retirement property, easy to access with Nantes airport less than 1 hour drive away or 2h30 minutes by car to St Malo.

So in summary the Loire Valley, the “Valley of the Kings”, the “Garden of France”, the “Cradle of the French”, says it all really, however, good climate, great food and wine, abundance of culture, and not to forget, easily accessible.

Mike Tonkin

Selection Habitat


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