The Loire, the longest river in France, rises south of the Central Massif
and flows into the Atlantic Ocean 1020 km later. This is the part that goes from
the city of Orleans to the city of Tours, enclosing that area of the Loire
Valley in which over 100 magnificent castles lie. What we are looking at is
the castle of Beauregard. In this residence?? the central part has a double
gallery with arcades opening onto the ground floor. Which was commissioned by
Jean de Thier, secretary of state to Henri II. There is a collection of
paintings quite unique in the world.
This sumptuous salon, built in the 17th century, which is covered with
exquisite woodwork and has a marvelous ceiling with decorated beams, contains
over 300 portraits going from the first sovereign of the Valois up to Louis XIII
of Bourbon. Here is Charles VIII, Louis XII and Francois I, it was primarily
they who brought to the region: painters, cabinet-makers, sculptors, and
architects, who were to live and work here.
In this chapel, which has a nave and two aisles, there lies the tomb of a
genius: Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo arrived in Amboise in 1517, having been
invited to the court by Francois I, and was put up in this residence which is
called Cols-Luce. The artist lived out the last years of his life here and
Francois I acquired that masterpiece that even today represents one of France's
treasures: the Mona Lisa.
We continue on our way to visit another very special castle: Villandry.
Built on the banks of the Loire in 1536 it is distinguished by its architectural
peculiarity, which is characterized above all by its rectangular pavilions
instead of round towers. But its fame is especially connected to the marvelous
Italianate gardens. Here in Villandry he called Don Pacello da Mercogliano to
the court, which were more a great Italian artist rather than a gardener. On the
lower level, there is the decorative vegetable garden, the most visually
striking and original of the whole estate. It is amazing to see how simple
lettuces and vegetables manage to have this ornamental quality.
Excellent wines are produced in the many vineyards in the ancient province
of Touraine, which lies around Tours. Wines that make you love this area even
more, just as the great writer Honore de Balzac also loved it. And in Touraine
you also learn to love wine. Its history dates back as far as the Gauls and its
reputation has certainly no need of further comment.
The ones here are the dry white Sancere, strong and vibrant, Vouvray,
sparking and clear, it looks like a waterfall of pearls. This wine reminded
Rabelais, the great writer of the 16th century, of taffeta, a silky and delicate
Those who love glowing reds will not be disappointed by the Loirs Valley:
here is Bourgureil, with the strong perfume of raspberries. Chinon, on the other
hand, has a delicate hint of violets.
And so, glasses raised. A toast to the beauty of these dreamlike-places.
A journey on the Loire is a meander in history, art and daily life. It is
in a corner of Europe that etched itself deeply in the heart and mind.