France is an excellent place for a holiday, but instead of following everybody else to Paris, the Mediterranean or the beach resorts on the West coast, why not try something a little different by visitng the Loire Valley. The Loire Valley is a beautiful region but it is famous in particular for its castles (chateaux). There are over 300 chateaux to visit so you can spend a good two or three weeks visiting the regiona dn taking in a chateau or two each day. Cycling holidays are also popular, as the region is reasonably flat.
The Loire Valley is in fact referred to as the Garden of France and the Cradle of the French Language. The most striking castles are the Châteaux d’Amboise, Château de Chambord, the Château d’Ussé (the castle which served as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the fairytale of the same name), the Château de Villandry, the Chateau de Chenonceau and the Chateau de Blois, which has a particularly bloody history as it was here that Henri III murdered Henri Duc de Guise who was his main rival for the throne of France. It didn’t do him a lot of good, however, as the Duke’s followers became even more violent and Henri III was himself assassinated just a few months later by a monk.
The Loire Valley becamse particularly popular after Francois I chose to build a castle there and over time more and more Frencht built a number of huge châteaux in the area. Naturally, the nobility, who were keen to remain close to the Royal family, decided to follow their example, and chose the best architects and landscape designers to design their castles, which is why there is such a rich architecturla heritage in the region..
In the 17th century King Louis XIV decided to move away from the Loire Valley and make Paris the permanent site for seat of government by building the Palace of Versailles just outside Paris. The nobility still continued, however, to renovate their châteaux or to build new ones in the Loire valley which they used mainly as summer residences.