Within this area lie the famed châteaux of the Loire, and many beautiful towns and villages. I'll start from the west with Angers and le Lion d'Angers then work eastwards.
Angers itself is a thriving city, in the centre there is a fine château with black and white stone towers and walls and a deer park where the moat once was. It's strange to walk such a short distance from the Galleries Lafayette department store then look over a wall to see a herd of deer.
There's a nice, simple camp site at Le Lion d'Angers just north of Angers, which is on the banks of the river Oudon, shortly before it joins the Mayenne. The site is across the river from the centre of town, across the road from the race course and handy to a branch of the French National Stud. When we visited we were lucky enough to see a very mixed afternoon of racing, steeplechases, trotting in harness and under saddle. the steeplechase course disappears into the woods and one jockey emerged on foot, it took quite a while before his horse was found and brought out !! The National Stud is very interesting, especially to those who have an interest in horses.
The area around Angers is where Anjou wine is produced, further down the Loire around Nantes is the Muscadet wine region.
The next place to tell you about is Saumur. We have stayed at the camp site on the Ile d'Offard several times, there is a marvellous view of the "fairy tale castle" that is Saumur's château - incredibly beautiful when seen floodlit at night. Like many places along the Loire Saumur is a wine making town. Saumur's speciality is sparkling wines made by the same method as champagne, the red variety is perfect to drink with strawberries ! There are also still wines made here, the "caves" are in St Hilaire. Saumur is another place with equestrian connections, being the home of the Cadre Noir, the French equivalent of Britain's Household Cavalry but with the addition of the type of riding also seen at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
While there's plenty to see and do in and immediately around Saumur it is also a good base from which to visit many other châteaux, including those at Chinon, Azay le Rideau and Chenonceau, plus the Abbey at Fontvraud l'Abbaye. At the latter you can see the tombs of Richard the Lionheart and his father, two Kings of England buried in France because the Plantagenet's were French, being also, amongst other things things Counts of Anjou. Chenonceau is rightly famed as the Château spans the river and has that special air about it, it was once the home of Catherine de Medici, has beautiful formal gardens and a more natural riverside walk.
Left: Azay le Rideau Right: Chenonceau.
Chinon is another wine "appellation", producing a very nice red which I enjoy with a good steak ! In fact there are so many different wines produced along and close to the Loire that you could easily spend an entire holiday sampling them all !
|All photos not otherwise credited are Copyright © S Huddy 2001|
This site was last updated 05-01-2012