Долина Луары

Долина Луары:

When the River Loire reaches its halfway point in the very
centre of France and turns west towards the Atlantic, locals
say that it ceases to be a mere rivière, it becomes a fleuve
– which is something altogether grander. In this proudest
stretch, from the hills of Sancerre to the floodplains of
Anjou, the Loire flows past an extraordinary parade of
castles, palaces and fine mansions. In fact, there are so
many of these châteaux that when it came to choosing
which should be awarded the title of World Heritage Site,
UNESCO just bestowed the label on the entire valley.

But behind the myriad châteaux – not to
mention the abbeys, churches and cathedrals
– lies a modest region known for its
douceur, or gentleness. This reputation is partly
owed to the balanced climate, and partly to
the landscape, which is kindly rather than
dramatic. But the Loire’s douceur also stems
from something harder to define, an alluring air of nostalgia perhaps: from
being the noblest waterway of France and the favourite home of the court,
the river valley has literally become a backwater, as trade has taken to the
roads and railways. This is a slow-moving, provincial corner of France,
much further removed from Paris’s energies and fashions than would seem
likely, given how close it is to the capital. The main regional cities may
be vigorous and dynamic, but contemporary life elsewhere seems subtly
undermined by the relative grandeur of the past.
The Loire is, after all, the most palpably historic of French regions. It lay at the
heart of the great but short-lived Plantagenet empire, and the endless battles of
the Hundred Years War between England and France were largely fought here.
Warfare left its mark in the shape of powerful fortresses and proudly turreted
mansions, as well as abiding memories of resonant figures such as Eleanor
of Aquitaine and Joan of Arc. Later generations grew more refined. It was in
the Loire Valley that the great Renaissance monarchs re-created the vibrant civilization they had discovered in Italy. At the beginning of the sixteenth
century, François I even brought Leonardo da Vinci, in person, to his miniature
court at Amboise. When the court abandoned the Loire for Paris, in the
mid-sixteenth century, the region slipped back into provincial obscurity.
If there’s no single word for “the Loire region”, it’s because there’s no
such thing. Historically, the area is divided into separate regions, though
these were replaced after the Revolution by administrative départements
named after local rivers. Touraine became Indre-et-Loire, Anjou changed
to Maine-et-Loire and the Orléanais was saddled with the name of a tiny
backwater, the Loiret. Yet local people never accepted the new names, and
in recent years tourist boards have revived the old ones. As for the region
as a whole, the nearest you can get in French is “Val de Loire”, meaning
the classic royal stretch of the Loire Valley, or the made-up adjective ligerien,
from Ligeris, the Latin name for the Loire.


Where to go

The Loire isn’t all châteaux. The riverbanks make idyllic spots to
picnic with supplies of local cheese, fruit and wine, and there are
some superb restaurants in which it’s easy to while away a surprising
number of hours. More active visitors can rent canoes and kayaks,
follow the well-marked footpaths that run throughout the region, and
ride the dedicated Loire à Vélo cycle network, which mirrors the course
of the river for almost its entire length; even where there’s no official route, bikes make an excellent way to get around. That said, most visitors tour by
car, as relying on public transport mostly restricts you to the towns.
The heartland region of Touraine, long known as “the garden of France”,
has the best wines, the most delicious goat’s cheese, the most regal history
and, it’s argued, the purest French accent in the land. It also has two of the
finest châteaux – Chenonceau and Chambord – and by far the most
developed tourist industry. But Touraine also takes in three of the Loire’s
most pleasant tributaries: the Cher, Indre and Vienne, each of which can
be explored at a slower, more intimate pace. The attractive towns of Blois and Amboise, which have their own exceptional châteaux, make good
bases for visiting the area upstream of Tours, including the wild and watery
region of the Sologne. Downstream, around handsome Saumur, fascinating
troglodyte dwellings have been carved out of the soft local rock. If you
have just a week to spare for the region, these are the parts to spend it in.
Of the three main cities, energetic, historic Tours provides the best
urban base, though Angers, the friendly, low-key capital of Anjou, and
Orléans, the commercial-minded seat of the government of the Centre
région, have their own urbane nineteenth-century charm. Each city has its distinctive cathedral, though none
is as impressive as the three found in
outlying regions: the hybrid Romanesque-
Gothic cathedral of Le Mans,
the perfectly harmonious structure
of Chartres and the epic scale of
Touring the Loire without visiting
any châteaux would be rather eccentric,
and yet the sheer number of them
can make choosing bewildering. Trying
to pack in the maximum can quickly
blunt your sensibilities, and you’ll get
most out of your stay by alternating
château tours with visits to vineyards
and gardens, enjoying long picnics and
restaurant meals, and exploring the
towns and the countryside on foot.
The most famous châteaux usually
justify the crowds they draw, but it’s
often wise to time your visit for lunchtime,
or first and last thing. The headline attractions at less well-known sites
may not be as compelling, but it’s well worth visiting at least one minor
château, as you’ll often have the place deliciously to yourself.
Among the A-list châteaux, Azay-le-Rideau and Chenonceau both
belong exclusively to the Renaissance period, and their settings, in the
middle of moat and river respectively, are very beautiful, rivalled only by the
wonderful Renaissance gardens of Villandry. Blois, with its four wings representing four distinct eras, and Amboise, rearing cliff-like above the
Loire, are extremely impressive, as is the monstrously huge Chambord, the
triumph of François I’s Renaissance. More pristinely elegant are Valençay,
with its Napoleonic interiors, and Cheverny, the prime example of seventeenth-
century magnificence.
Many châteaux that started life as serious military defences were turned
into luxurious residences by their regal or ducal owners: good examples are
Brissac, Chaumont and Ussé, the most fairy-tale of them all. Langeais,
Le Plessis-Bourré and Sully show how elegance and defence can be
satisfyingly combined, while other feudal fortresses have preserved their
medieval feel, among them ruined Chinon, noble Saumur and the entire
citadel of Loches. Others are more compelling for their contents than their
architecture: Beauregard is most famous for its portrait gallery, while at
Angers the stark, largely ruined medieval castle houses the Tapestry of the
Apocalypse, the greatest work of art in the entire Loire Valley.


When to go
The Loire’s climate is dreamily perfect. The region’s situation at
the centre of France makes it distinctly warmer than neighbouring
coastal regions, and warm Atlantic air follows the Loire Valley
inland, creating a pleasantly temperate microclimate. Even at the
height of summer the Loire rarely suffers the excessive heat of the south of France. Rainfall is moderate
and spread throughout the
year, though wet days are
more frequent in the autumn
Spring can be surprisingly
cold earlier on, and sometimes
wet too, though the sunnier
days and the intense green
of the countryside make this
one of the loveliest times of
all to visit, especially from
around mid-April. Be wary
of coming before Easter, as
most of the sights are only
open for relatively restricted
hours. Summers are hot but
rarely sweltering. The chief drawback of visiting during July and especially
August is that these months make up the high tourist season; in the more
popular places, châteaux can get packed out by tour parties, and you’ll need
to book accommodation – especially if you’re renting by the week – and
restaurants well in advance. June and September are particularly lovely
months, offering summery temperatures without the crowds. Autumn can
be a fine time to visit, especially for lovers of game and mushrooms; it’s
also the season for wine fairs celebrating the harvest. Few travellers visit in
winter. It’s not especially cold, but many sights and hotels are closed.



Месчные темпататуры и осадки:


  • Touraine
  • Blois & Sologne
  • Orleanais
  • Haut Berry
  • Saumurois
  • Central Anjou
  • Северная часть