The Best Of The Loire Valley

Okay, let's be clear. We're not talking about the whole of the Loire Valley here, we're focusing on the Touraine wine region, which stretches 35 miles east from its principal city, Tours, to Blois.

Okay, let's be clear. We're not talking about the whole of the Loire Valley here, we're focusing on the Touraine wine region, which stretches 35 miles east from its principal city, Tours, to Blois. This gentle part of the French countryside is rich in history, chateaux, world-class wine, goat's cheese and um ... asparagus. White asparagus to be precise, which is a popular spring/ summer item on every good local restaurant's menu.

Roughly contained between the rivers Loire and Cher, Tours is a relaxed and friendly city. History and culture is everywhere from the gothic St Gatien cathedral and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which houses paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Dégas and Monet, to the maze of medieval streets and restored half-timbered houses surrounding Place Plumereau. For a quieter life, head east along the Loire, past the vineyards of Vouvray, to the pleasingly petite town of Amboise where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years.

Best hotel

For city-centre chic, the Hotel du Theatre (00 33 247 05 31 29) at 57 rue de la Scellerie, Tours, can't be beaten. The 15th-century building of timber and stone is delightfully warren-like and each of its 14 rooms, spread over three floors, has its own bright colour scheme which highlights any exposed beams. Doubles from €43 (£29) per night.

Across the Loire in an affluent residential area, the Jean Bardet four-star hotel and restaurant (00 33 247 41 41 11; www.jeanbardet.com) couldn't be more different. It sits in eight acres of grounds, complete with swimming pool, vegetable garden and vineyard. Doubles from €131 (£87).

Best restaurant

On the outskirts of Amboise, the hotel Le Choiseul (00 33 247 30 45 45; www.le-choiseul.com) is celebrated for its chef, Pascal Bouvier, who has earned the dining room a Michelin star. More recently, he has added Le 36, a bright new restaurant for foodies who fancy a little light lunch. If you want to skip the main course, opt for the menu jardin, which will tempt you with starters such as the aforementioned asparagus and tempuras de légumes et poissons in a soya and ginger sauce for €15 (£10).

New competition at this end of the market has arrived with the return of a couple of young hoteliers to Touraine after honing their skills in Cannes and London. Francois and Helene Thévard bought the 18th-century Auberge de Launay hotel-restaurant at 9 rue de la Rivière (00 33 247 30 16 82; www.aubergedelaunay.com), four miles east of Amboise. They opened it in March and the restaurant has since become extremely popular for dishes such as rabbit terrine with Loire white wine jelly, followed by sea bream with artichoke and fresh fruits with Vouvray wine and raspberry sorbet to finish. Expect to pay €20 (£13) per head without wine.

In Tours, La Furgeotière at 19 Place Foire-le-Roi (00 33 247 66 94 75) is a long-established restaurant offering cuisine described as both traditional and personalised. How about semi-cooked duck foie gras with five-berry pumpkin chutney to start, sole with seaweed broth, sautéed oyster plant and anchovy croutons as the main course and crème brûlée with pink sugared almonds and twists of orange peel for dessert? Expect to pay €35 (£23) per head for four courses without wine.

Best cultural attraction

In a region filled with chateaux, most of which have regal and bloody histories, it's difficult to single one out. But the Chateau Royal d'Amboise (00 33 247 57 00 98; www.chateau-amboise.tm.fr) has the considerable advantage of being the place where Leonardo da Vinci is buried. Add to that its many Italian Renaissance features, created by artisans from Naples, and its Disney-esque appearance from the river and it becomes a must-see.

Nearby is the Chateau du Clos Lucé (00 33 247 57 00 73; www.vinci-closluce.com) where Leonardo lived during his time in Amboise. It's now a museum in his name.

Best shopping

Along this part of the Loire, there are man-made caves which serve as excellent wine cellars. At Loire et Terroirs at 29 rue national, Amboise (00 33 247 23 14 79), €5 (£3.30) will buy you a pretty good quality red, white or rosé, while €10 (£6.60) takes you into the serious stuff.

Chocaholics should head for Patisserie Bigot in Place Michèle Debré, Amboise (00 33 247 57 04 46; www.bigot-amboise.com), which has been making cakes, chocolates and ice creams since 1913.

Best sightseeing

During the day, St Gatien cathedral in Tours is a must for its ornate stonework, flying buttresses and stained-glass windows. Just a short walk away is the Musée des Beaux Arts with its Renaissance paintings and a huge 200 year-old cedar of Lebanon tree in the courtyard. In the evening, perhaps the most spectacular sight in the entire valley is to be found in Blois, where, as darkness falls in the summer evenings, its magnificent chateau is lit up by a son-et-lumiere show, recounting its history.

Best nightspot

The Loire is not exactly buzzing with night life, but that, of course, is part of its appeal. Place Plumereau with its countless cafés competing for space in the attractive historic quarter of Tours is where art students, families and tourists come to eat and drink al fresco until late in the evening.

Meanwhile, in Amboise, the young at heart converge on the Shaker Bar (00 33 247 23 24 26), a kind of shack with decking on the Ile d'Or in the middle of the Loire. The atmosphere is lively and stays that way into the small hours.

Best way to get there

Ryanair (0871-246 0000; www.ryanair.com) operates a daily flight to Tours from London Stansted with fares from £108 in August. Eurostar ( www.eurostar.com) runs daily services to Paris with an onward TGV train ride to the Loire region of approximately one hour, with return fares from £79 in August. For further information on the Loire Valley visit www.visaloire.com

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo, writes Paul Scholes
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker