1.1. The gastronomic heritage of the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley and Touraine are also known as the Garden of France. For a long time the silty basin of the Loire Valley has provided excellent market gardening. The Gardens of Villandry and Château Gaillard are still today outstanding witnesses of this. We can mention apples, pears, strawberries and green asparagus from Sologne, sand carrots, leeks and other cabbages, as well as green lentils from Berry.
The Gâtinais saffron is another example of the gastronomic excellence of the Centre-Val de Loire. Produced since Louis XIV, it has long been the reference and given the world course.
The gastronomic tradition of the Loire Valley is also reflected in its cheeses, 5 AOC goat cheeses. The Pouligny Saint Pierre AOC to be appreciated with an AOC Reuilly, the Selles-sur-Cher AOC marvelous accompanied by an AOC Montlouis, the Sainte Maure de Touraine AOC to be tasted with an AOC Chinon Rouge, the Valençay AOC in agreement with the wine of the same name (AOC Valençay Blanc or Rouge), and the Crottin de Chavignol AOC but also the Bouchon de Sancerre to magnify an AOC Sancerre Blanc. Cow's milk cheeses are not to be outdone, such as the olivet au foin or cendré with a Coteaux du Giennois, the Petit Trôo perfect with an AOC Bourgueil or the Curé Nantais appreciated with an AOC Muscadet or an AOC Gros Plan du Pays Nantais. Les Vaches de la Vallée de la Loire also produces milk to make butter, in particular the Beurre AOP Charentes-Poitou.
The breeding was not left out with the Geline, the Grey Rabbit and the Goose of Touraine which was eaten on the greatest tables of Europe, like the one of Queen Elizabeth 1st when she learned that her fleet had defeated the Spanish, which gave the Goose of St Michel. In Touraine, the Goose of St. Martin commemorates the elevation to the status of bishop of the one who will become St. Martin, and the Goose of the Harvest celebrates the end of it.
Touraine is also the cradle of rillettes, Rabelais speaks of it as the "brown jam of pig", and Balzac still exalts the rillettes of Tours in Le Lys dans la vallée, Proust evokes the reputation of the rillettes of Tours in La Recherche du temps perdu. In the same register, the rillons of Touraine, called rillauds in Anjou, are no longer to be praised.
The Loire Valley is not lacking in sweetness either, honey from the Gâtinais and confectionery such as Nougat from Tours and tapered pears from Rivarenne have been famous since the Middle Ages. Mazet Praslines were already on the table of Louis XIII and Cotignac d'Orléans was the favorite delicacy of François 1er.
1.2. The architectural heritage of the Loire Valley
1.2.1. The castles of the Loire
Most of the Loire castles were originally medieval fortresses (the royal fortress of Chinon). During the troubled period of the Middle Ages, they had a defensive virtue, and evolved into royal domains during the Renaissance (Amboise, Blois...). It is also during this period that some great characters of the kingdom had their own castles built (Chenonceau, Azay-le-Rideau,...), and that François 1er built Chambord.
The Amboise Castle
The powerful medieval fortress of Amboise of the kings Louis XI and Louis XII, was transformed into a royal residence by the Kings of France Charles VIII and François I. The Court, many European scholars and artists passed through at the invitation of the sovereigns, such as Leonardo da Vinci, who was buried in the park of the castle and whose remains are today in the Chapel of the Castle. François I appreciated the fresh and tasty wine of the Coteaux d'Amboise.
The Azay-le-Rideau Castle
The Château d'Azay-le-Rideau was built in 1518 by Gilles Berthelot, mayor of Tours and treasurer of King François I. The latter confiscated the unfinished masterpiece in 1523 to offer it in 1535 to one of his comrades-in-arms, Antoine de Raffin, captain of the King's bodyguard during the battle of Pavia, at the expense of Philippa Lesbahy (widow of Gilles Berthelot).
In 1905 it became the property of the French state and was classified as a historical monument.
The Blois Castle
The Royal Castle of Blois is one of the favorite residences of the Kings of France during the Renaissance. It is a true architectural and historical synthesis of the castles of the Loire Valley. Four wings of different styles and a monumental staircase gathered around the same courtyard, offer a panorama of French architecture from the Middle Ages to the Classical period.
The presentation of the royal apartments and their magnificent restored polychrome decorations, the furniture and the paintings presented evoke the daily life of the Court and the power of the Renaissance. The private chambers of François I and the royal rooms of Catherine de Medici and Henri III, where the Duke of Guise was murdered in 1588, are steeped in the major events of French history.
The Chambord Castle
The royal castle of Chambord is the jewel in the crown, the dream of Francis I and his master of ceremonies and friend Leonardo da Vinci, in the heart of the domain of a forest park of the same name. Francis I had a grape variety imported from Burgundy, originally for the castle of his mother Louise de Savoie in Romorantin, which gives it its name today: the Romorantin, which is still the exclusive grape variety of the wine growers of the Cour-Cheverny appellation. The Chambord castle is known to be the largest of the Loire castles with 426 rooms, its famous 282 fireplaces, as well as its double revolution staircase. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981.
The Chenonceau Castle
The castle of Chenonceau, also known as the "ladies' castle", marvels at its architecture and its location. It was built by Thomas Bohier under the supervision of his wife Catherine Briçonnet. The latter transmitted to his brother-in-law, the abbot of Cormery, at the manor of Montchenin some plants of Anjou which will give by the same the white chenin.
It is still today a private residence, and owes its nickname to the succession of ladies who stayed there: Catherine Briçonnet, Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Médicis, Louise de Lorraine, Louise Dupin or Marguerite Pelouze. In the heart of an enchanting park, and provided with a magnificent furniture, it is today the most visited private castle in France.
The Cheverny Castle
The castle of Cheverny is known to have served as inspiration to Hergé to design the castle of Moulinsart. Built from 1620 by the architect Jacques Bougier, it is a precursor in the classical French style. This furnished castle in the heart of a wonderful park is the property of the Marquis and Marquise de Vibraye, whose family has owned the estate for 600 years.
The Chinon Castle
The royal fortress of Chinon, from its rocky spur, dominates the Vienne river and the city. Over time, the space was structured into three distinct parts, which the kings called their "three castles", appearing in a stylized manner in the form of three towers on the city's coat of arms.
From west to east, the rocky bar is barred by a series of ditches - dry moats - which separate the three castles: the fort of Coudray, the castle of Milieu, and the fort Saint-Georges. Each of them has an independent enclosure. It is in the main castle, the Château du Milieu, that the main dwellings and the Saint-Melaine priory are located.
It was the royal citadel of the Plantagenets, kings of England and counts of Anjou. Henry III Plantagenet appreciated so much the local pineaux d'Aunis, that he had some planted to store and send to England.
On March 9, 1429, a 17-year-old girl met the Dauphin of France (the future Charles VII). Joan of Arc swore that day that she would lead him to Reims to be crowned.
Chinon is also closely linked to François Rabelais (1494-1553), one of the greatest writers of the Renaissance. Born in Seuilly, not far from Chinon, he could designate in his 5th book, the "Temple de la Dive Bouteille" in the same Painctes cellars located in the heart of the city, today the headquarters of the Syndicat des Vins de Chinon where the Confrérie des Bons Entonneurs Rabelaisiens pays homage to him during its Chapters.
The Clos Lucé
The Château du Clos Lucé, or formerly known as the Manoir du Cloux, is a residence in the Loire Valley, in the center of Amboise. Built in 1471 as a former fief under the castle of Amboise, it passed from hand to hand until it was bought by Charles VIII and became a summer residence of the kings of France. It will keep this function until 1516 when Francis I put it at the disposal of Leonardo da Vinci, who will live there for three years, until his death on May 2, 1519.
It is registered as a historical monument by the list of 1862, as the house of Leonardo da Vinci. Property of the Saint Bris family since 1855, it is today a place dedicated to the discovery of the universe of Leonardo da Vinci.
It has been owned by the Saint Bris family since 1855.
The Gaillard castle
The Château-Gaillard is a royal estate built for Charles VIII after the first Italian war in 1496.
Neighboring Clos Lucé and the Château d'Amboise, the Château-Gaillard is built on an open terrace. Facing south and sheltered from the north winds by a vast, steep concavity of the Châteliers spur (on which the Château Royal d'Amboise stands) forming a cliff some 20 meters high, this site has a microclimate comparable to the southern climate, and allowed the first French transposition of the Italian garden. It was a "laboratory" of the French Renaissance: the first acclimatization garden in France with the first French royal orangery, the first French Renaissance garden created by Dom Pacello da Mercogliano and the realization of the first axial landscape perspective as well as the first "French-style" parterres. The royal dwelling of Château-Gaillard was registered as a historical monument in 1963.
Castles and Gardens of Villandry
The castle was built by Jean Le Breton, Minister of Finance of François I. He used his exceptional experience in architecture acquired on numerous building sites, including that of Chambord Castle, which he supervised and directed for many years on behalf of François I, King of France. Upon his arrival in Villandry in 1532, he razed the old feudal fortress except for the keep, witness of the interview of July 4, 1189 during which Henry II Plantagenet of England acknowledged his defeat by Philip-Augustus, King of France, and signed the treaty known as "the Peace of Colombiers" two days before his death.
The Château and Gardens of Villandry are a unique testimony to the architecture and gardens of the Renaissance.
The Abbey of Marmoutier
The abbey of Marmoutier, on the right bank of the Loire upstream from Tours, is an ancient Benedictine abbey. Founded by Saint Martin, bishop of Tours, perhaps as early as 372, he is said to have planted the first vines of chenin blanc, giving birth at the same time to the vineyard of Vouvray. The abbey reached its peak in the Middle Ages and its dependencies extended throughout much of medieval France and even into England. It was dismembered during the French Revolution. Bought by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the buildings were restored and some of them were built to house a private educational institution still in operation.
1.2.2. The troglodytic cellars of the Loire Valley or troglos
The troglodytic habitat is a type of dwelling dug in the rock. The troglo in the Loire Valley has two main origins..
The construction of the Loire castles and other architectural buildings based on tufa rock, gave rise to huge underground quarries. They were reused for various purposes: mushroom beds, mushroom cultivation; silkworm farms; and wine cellars, for the storage and maturing of wine. These old quarries are today for the most part cellars dedicated to the improvement of the wine.
After the revolution, a tax on doors and windows was introduced. This one pushed some very modest people to take refuge in the rock, removing by the same way a maximum of opening in their dwellings. These troglos, of modest origins, are today often transformed into gites and other guest houses.
1.3. The great characters of the Loire Valley
Chenin Blanc developed in the Loire Valley where it was named "Plant of Anjou" around the 10th century. In Touraine, it takes its name of "Pineau de la Loire" as Rabelais wrote in the 16th century in Gargantua "it is pineau wine, O the nice white wine and, by my soul! It is only taffeta wine".