The Loire Valley is best known for its world-renowned vineyards and wine, but what of the towns and villages themselves? This region of rivers and rivulets boasts some of the most beautiful places in France: brick and stone houses overlooking the water where calm currents flow past willows and shrubbery.
Many of these villages date back to Roman times, with remnants of past civilizations still apparent in the town. Most of them are also home to Medieval chateaux and churches. Take a look beyond the obvious, and you will see that each town of the Loire Valley has its own unique flavor, not unlike a fine, delicate wine.
A town of barely three-quarters of a hundred people, Apremont-sur-Allier is a magical town where time itself seems to stop. Nestled deep in the Loire Valley, this town is known for the natural beauty of its Parc Floral. Here, you will find grassy rolling hills, drooping willow trees, and calm rivulets flowing under and around unique architectural monuments. Its two most well-known monuments are the Pagoda Bridge, built in the Chinese tradition, and the Turkish Pavillion, fashioned after architecture from the former Ottoman Empire. In the village itself, you will find quiet streets and small quaint houses, many of which were built in the Middle Ages, with white-washed walls and sloping brown roofs. At historic Chateau and museum, you can admire the collection of horse-drawn buggies from the 19th century.
Settled on the banks of the Vienne about ten kilometers from where it joins the Loire, Chinon was established during the Gallo-Roman occupation of the 5th century. The town has a rich history from the Middle Ages and its Chateau was included as a royal residence from 1205 until the 1600s. As the heir apparent, the future Charles VII sought refuge here, and Joan of Arc came here to acknowledge him. The Chateau de Chinon was founded in the 10th century, and looks over the town from atop a hill. Its royal apartments have recently been beautifully restored. Alongside the Chateau are the medieval Clock Tower and Coudray Keep. Not far off is the Sainte-Chapelle de Champigny sur Veude, an historic church with magnificent stained-glass windows. Today, the town is famed for its Chinon Wine, which is primarily red, an unusual trait for the region.
Arrive in Gargilesse in August to attend the harp festival presented by the town’s International Academy of the Harp. It’s a two-week-long celebration of the music of that particular instrument. The town has a deeply rooted tradition in the arts; it was also the home of Romantic writer George Sand. The writer’s house is available for viewing alongside many other historic homes of the area whose bricked facades flank the small river for which the village was named. Gargilesse also boasts a large number of art galleries and workshops, perfect for the collector looking for local artwork. In the 8th century, the counts of Gargilesse built a fortress to defend their fiefdom. Another historic site, Eglise Saint-Laurent et Notre-Dame, was built in the 12th century. Both are available for viewing today.
The Roman Aqueduct of Luynes is one of the most celebrated Roman monuments in the Loire Valley. Dating back to either the second or third century, the Aqueduct was in use for nearly one thousand years. It consists of 44 stone columns—though it originally had 90—that stretch across 269 meters. The 12th century Chateau de Luynes on one side looks across acres of vineyards, and the on the other, keeps a watchful eye on the village. Across the bridge and through the Chateau’s gates, you will find a picturesque garden and courtyard at the center of the Medieval fortress. Nearby is the ruined Luynes Tower, remnants of the original Chateau de Luynes.
A true river town, Montresor is built along the Indrois River about 60 kilometers from Tours. Since 2011, the village has organized summertime Nuits Solaires, lighting lamps and musical animations in their gardens and homes along the willow-draped Indrois for visitors to enjoy. Even the Chateau de Montresor participates in the fete, colors and lights projected onto its ramparts. The town center boasts quaint alleys and well-kept, traditionally built homes and storefronts with flower-filled window boxes and views of the Chateau from almost every point. You are sure to feel a warm welcome from the people of this village.