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For a fairytale-like trip, consider the Loire Valley for your next cooking vacation. Situated only about an hour from Paris by high-speed train, it’s also quite accessible. The region is rich in many ways, from its history, as it was the seat of the French Renaissance, to the gastronomic delicacies. Here are just four reasons we recommend you visit this stunning part of France.
The valley is a land of chateaux, so much so that today they exist as private residences, B&Bs, and landmark museums. In fact, it’s the chateaux that, in large part, give the region it’s magical quality. With more than 1,000 chateaux in the region, many located outside of the larger towns in the breathtaking countryside, there’s plenty to see and do. Experience the famed Chenonceau – also known as the “Chateau des Dames” as it was once home to Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici – to the lesser-known but still quite magical Chinon, which was home to Henry II and the birthplace of Richard the Lionheart.
Many of the chateaux also have their own beautiful gardens, which is one reason the region has been nicknamed the garden of France. There’s the sprawling gardens at Villandry, which was the last of the great chateaux built during the Renaissance. The gardens are one of the biggest reasons this chateau is famous, and they’re laid out in formal patterns with low box hedges. With its water garden, ornamental flower garden, and vegetable gardens, they’ve been designated a monument historique.
The chefs of the area also have gardens all their own, both where they gather some of their ingredients for cooking classes, as well as enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning.
Speaking of chefs and cooking, the food of the Loire Valley exemplifies the best of French gastronomy. Also known as France’s ‘bread basket,’ the Loire offers so much more than bread (although that alone is a treat all its own). The fertile lands of the valley give rise to truffles, and feed the goats who produce some of the best goat cheese in the world, including Crottin de Chavignol and Sainte-maure. Fish too is popular in the region, both fresh water and seafood, and some cooking courses focus on not only how to prepare fish dishes but also how to identify your fish and ensure it’s fresh. Last but certainly not least, classic French desserts are a must at any dinner table!
Along with all those fabulous dishes, winemaking traditions have been rooted in the valley for centuries. Explore the wineries and experience firsthand the region’s popular white wines, including Chenin Blancs and Vouvray. Red wines are available too, and with the Loire’s cooler climate, they tend to have bright flavors and just the right amount of acidity.
Ready to start planning your Loire Valley cooking vacation? Contact us at any time.
By Peg Kern
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Originally published February 15, 2016.