Loire Valley, a World Heritage Site
The Loire Valley stretches over central and western France and is one of the most visited regions of France.
On December 4, 2000 UNESCO listed a section as a World Heritage Site.
The site is 260km long and about 3km wide.
A natural region, Parc Naturel Loire-Anjou-Touraine, was created in 1996 in order to protect the wide diversity of fauna and flora found along the river.
It groups 136 communities from Maine-et-Loire and Indre-et-Loire departments.
The headquarters are located in Montsoreau.
Loire Valley, a limestone valley
Traces of occupation show that men already lived in the fertile Loire Valley around 40,000BP.
The countless dolmens they erected are today known as Angevins are recognizable by their original structure, where the burial chamber is preceded by a long entry.
They dwelt in the natural shelters the river carved in the soft limestone or tufa left by the Mer de Faluns.
This vast sea covered north-western France during the Mesozoic Era.
Tufa rock is extremely soft, easy to cut, shape and cut.
Their descendants quarried tufa in order to build their churches, chapels, dwellings and chateaux.
Sadly, limestone quarries have since dried out.
Tufa bricks are rare and quite expensive and are therefore exclusively used for the restoration of listed monuments and chateaux.
Loire Valley, Vallée des Rois
Tufa was used to built the marvelous chateaux the kings of France built in the Loire Valley, which has since been known as the Royal Valley.
The kings were indeed the protagonists of the French Renaissance during the 16th century.
They brought back this ‘new culture’ from their military expeditions to Italy and turned the Loire Valley into the land of a thousand chateaux.
In 1884 the dramatist Jules Lemaître wrote:La Loire est une reine : les rois l’ont aimée et l’ont coiffée d’une couronne de châteaux
The Loire is a Queen loved by Kings, a Queen they adorned with a crown of chateaux
The only question is, which of these enchanted chateaux will be your favourite?
As you travel down the beautiful valley of this gently flowing river, you may pick Chambord elegant and impressive, or the fairytale Ussé, or the smaller almost family-size Chaumont, or Azay-le-Rideau with its moats…
Or will you fall for Chenonceau and its arches spanning the sparkling waters of the Cher?
All are so captivating, it is no wonder that royal wives and mistresses fought to possess them…
Loire Valley, Douce France
King Henri IV called the Loire Valley Douce France – the Mild Country on account of its micro climate and soft luminosity due to the proximity of the ocean.
The rich alluvial soil and mild climate are also ideal conditions for the extensive cultivation of vegetables, fruits and flowers that turn the valley into a mosaic of colourful orchards and cultivated fields.
The river carved its way through the soft limestone of the hills planted with vineyards that produce some of the best French AOC wines.
All these contribute to the Loire Valley’s unique colour print; creamy white tufa, gray-blue slates, the sandy beaches’ deep tan colour, the lush and green vegetation of their banks and the blue sky reflected in the shallow waters.
It’s no surprise that the Loire Valley is one of the most visited regions of France!