Châteaux of the Loire
The châteaux of the Loire look like a vision straight out of a fairy tale, with their gables, dormer windows, chimneys, turrets and pinnacles. Drift down the royal river on a traditional boat (a gabarre or toue) and embark on a journey back in time. These gems of art history keep alive the memory both of the kings, princes and great families who commissioned and lived in them, and of the artists and craftsmen who built and embellished them.
Chambord and its intriguing "magical" staircase, Chenonceau and its gallery straddling the waters, Azay and its delicate reflection, Villandry and its fabulous gardens, and many others, are dotted along the banks of the river. From Orléans to Angers, from Blois to Tours, consider including in your itinerary some of the officially designated Villes d'art et d'histoire nestled at their feet, or the former homes of illustrious artists, such as Rabelais, Leonardo da Vinci and Balzac.
The Loire Valley also boasts miles of cycle paths, huge forests where mushrooms can be picked, and cellars where you can sample the region's famous wines.