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
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

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

    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...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

    The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album