A gentle jaunt along the waterways of France is a great way to experience some of the country’s cultural highlights. To whet your appetite, this article will describe just a few of the heritage sites you will encounter. |
The best French river cruises in the country are bound to include visits to the following places.
Châteaux of Chenonceau, Amboise and Clos Lucé
The Loire Valley is renowned for its incredible châteaux. These three should be at the top of your to-visit list as they ooze French elegance and bring to life the region’s fascinating past.
Of all the magnificent castles in the region, Chenonceau is one of the best. French river cruises approach the building via the River Cher as the castle overlooks this beautiful waterway. The building was bought by the French King Henri II for his mistress. However when he died Henri’s widow, Catherine de Médici, moved in and made the castle famous for wild garden parties.
Château Amboise sits imposingly high above the broad River Loire. Many French royals have lived within its luxurious walls. The castle has seen its fair share of violence. During the Tumult of Amboise in 1560, a group of Protestants tried to kidnap Louis XII but drastically failed. Hundreds of people were hung from the railings of the château or thrown in the Loire.
• Clos Lucé
Near Amboise Castle is a manor house called Clos Lucé, famous for housing the celebrated Italian genius Leonardo da Vinci during the last years of his life. Francois I set da Vinci up in the house, paying him a pension. Da Vinci provided conversation, inventions and designs for the king, some of which wowed guests at royal parties.
Gardens of Villandry
The best French river cruises will guide you towards the oasis of calm at the gardens of Château de Villandry. Located in the beautiful Loire Valley, the Château de Villandry is a five-hundred-year-old castle surrounded by intricate formal gardens. Dozens of geometric gardens lined with box hedges, called knot gardens, are filled with vibrant blooms.
The gardens fell into disrepair in the 1800s but were recreated at the beginning of the twentieth century. Each of the six gardens has their own unique character. They include a vast vegetable garden – inspiration to any green-fingered holidaymakers – a calm water garden and the impressive ornamental garden with its seasonal flower display.
Silk production began in Touraine in 1470 under command of King Louis XI. As the royal court was based in the Loire valley, the precious fabric was in great demand. The industry only came to a halt when the French revolution brought chaos to the country. With nineteenth-century mechanical looms, the silk industry in the region was revived.
Silkworms were bred in alcoves scooped out of local caves. However, it used to be common for people to live in caves in this region also. People who live in cave dwellings are called "troglodytes". The best French river cruises will include visits to discover the history of silk production in the region, as well as exploring the traditional troglodyte cave dwellings.
The Loire Valley is a very popular place visit – with so much to offer, it is not surprising.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of the best French river cruises with all-inclusive, luxury itineraries. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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