Paris, the city of love, a global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture. The 19th-century cityscape is crisscrossed by wide boulevards and the River Seine. Then there are also the 2 most popular monuments in the world the Eiffel Tower and the 12th-century, Gothic Notre-Dame cathedral. The city is known for its cafe culture and designer boutiques. But in my opinion France is so much more than just Paris if you only look beyond.
I’ve lived and studied in Tours for 6 months as part of my degree. During my time there I had a chance to explore a different kind of France. Tours is a little city in the Val de Loire region of France.
There are many Château’s in and around this region. So, a Château is this large French country house or castle, often giving its name to wine made in its neighborhood. I managed to visit a few of these beautiful straight out of a Fairy tale castles. If you ever want to visit any of these places, they are only a train journey away. Whilst en route you will pass many charming little cities and villages which are so enticing.
Château de Chambord
Chambord is the largest château in the Loire Valley. It was built to serve as a hunting lodge for King Francis I. The original design of the Château de Chambord is attributed, to Leonardo da Vinci. It is one of the most recognisable châteaux in the world because of its very distinctive French Renaissance architecture. One of the architectural highlights is the spectacular open double-spiral staircase that is the centrepiece of the château designed by Leonardo da Vinci. The two spirals ascend the three floors without ever meeting each other. The Château also produce their own wines.
Château de Chenonceau
Chenonceau is a French château spanning the River Cher, near the small village of Chenonceaux. It is one of the best-known châteaux of the Loire valley. The architecture is a mix of late Gothic and early Renaissance. This chateau is like a fairy-tale castle. Stunning with beautiful gardens and a maze. It is full of history. The chateau is built across the river which makes it truly magical.
Château de Versailles
The Palace of Versailles was the principal royal residence of France. It is declared as a world heritage site by the UNESCO. The Hall of Mirrors is the main attraction of this palace. Scenes from many famous movies have been shot here too.
Château de Loches
Loches is a tiny beautiful town on the Loire Valley. It has a gorgeous 9th century Château. The huge castle, famous mostly for its massive square keep which looks straight out of a period war film, dominates the town of Loches. It has a museum, which consists of one of the most extensive collections of medieval armour in France.
Château de Blois
It is located in the city centre of Blois really close to the train station. It has been the residence of several French kings. This is a 17th century castle. There are four architectural styles represented at the Chateau of Blois. There is one of the biggest markets I have ever seen with 120 vendors set up in the streets along multiple blocks. It was a wonderful opportunity to stroll and mix with locals.
So, the next time you’re in France and want to experience something different try visiting these places. They are a whole different experience altogether.