The name Centre – which was chosen by the French central government based purely on geography has been criticised for being too dull – it must be reiterated that this is the name only and certainly not the region. Not only that, technically the region is not actually the geographical centre of France and there have been proposals to rename the area more appropriately such as Val de Loire (Valley of the Loire), something which reflects the character of this very beautiful region famous for its chateaux, its wine and its gently rolling landscape. Although not officially named as such, you will often hear it called Centre – Val de Loire; it’s not official since the councils of the Pays de Loire have refuted the councils of Centre’s wish to have the Loire tag – and they have the official backing of Government.
Centre Val de Loire reaches the outskirts of Paris in the North and borders Limousin and Auvergne in the south. The region is split by the River Loire which is the longest of France’s rivers running South to North before diverging and eventually entering the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast of France.
Despite the uninspiring name, the region is popular with visitors thanks to the stunning chateaux which encapsulate the glory, romanticism and extravagance of French history. The turrets, exquisite architecture and awesome extravagance of Chateaux such as Usse, the castle which it is said influenced the drawings for the Disney castle, Chambord and Chenonceau continue to fascinate now as they have done for generations. It is not difficult to see why there is still such fascination,
The region, easily reached from Paris was a central location for French nobility and the abundance of architectural treasure here is so splendid that Unesco declared the area a World Heritage site in 2000. The region is so rich in its collections of architectural treasures, as a result of having been a central location for kings, princes, nobles and dukes, that it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.
It’s not just the chateaux that keep the visitors coming, there are some rather lovely towns in the region such as Orleans where France’s favourite saint Joan of Arc performed heroic deeds which resulted in the English plans to conquer France being thwarted. Chartres too, with its glorious Gothic cathedral and collection of stained glass which has the ability to awe onlookers gets a high number of tourists and Tours with its wonderful 18th century avenues, chic cafes and beautiful public gardens is very popular with tourists.
Of course the Loire is also famous worldwide for its vineyards and the specific nature and the variety of Loire wines come from the climate and the type of soils – the terroir. The five main grape varieties (Sauvignon blanc, Chenin, Cabernet franc, Gamay and Pinot noir) are to be found over the entire region and there is plenty of opportunity to visit a vineyard, take a tour of vineyards or even visit a winery attached to a chateau such as Chenonceau, Amboise or Clos Lucé.
Things to do in Centre – Val de Loire
A visit to one or more of the Chateaux is a must.
Take a hot air balloon rider over the Loire Valley.
A vineyard and wine tasting tour..
Attend the Chaumont Garden Festival – France’s equivalent of the Chelsea Garden Show.