The Loire Valley, the garden of France, once graced by the French royalty of a past age.
Many monuments still stand impressively tall along the banks of the Loire. There is one however which doesn’t look over the last wild river of Europe but instead guards the medieval town of Chinon overlooking the Vienne. It is not a Château but a mighty Fortresse, a powerful reminder of a King that ruled from there in the 12th Century. Henry ll, Henry Plantagenet, who created an interesting and intriguing conjoined history between England and what is now known as Western France which, at the time, came to be known as the Angevin Empire.
Henry was born in Le Mans in 1133 and died in 1189 during that time he created the great kingdom of Angevin due to his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, the former wife of Louis VII, and by rightfully claiming all the land that belonged to her.
The France that we see on the map today is very different from the 12th Century. The area of land being controlled by the French King was much smaller and mostly east of Blois to include Paris. Further areas were dominated by the Duchies of Brittany, Normandy, Gascony and Toulouse while King Henry reined over his Angevin Empire.
After his illustrious reign Henry was buried at Fontevraud-L’Abbaye, not far from Chinon, along with his wife Eleanor and later by Richard the Lion heart, their son and successor to his throne, here you can still see their sarcophagus in the Abbey.
Very many years later as we look up from the cobbled streets in Chinon to the Fortresse the history of this powerful King evokes many images from where and when he reigned and we can see for ourselves the remains of his dynasty that is so romantically remember to this day.
You probably all know the story of the Three Musketeers, Porthos, Aramis and Athos and of course d’Artagnan ‘Musketeers of the Guard’ in King Louis Xlll’s Court.
The book, written by Alexander Dumas, plays out the story of many fictional characters and is set in the 17th Century, but some in his book were real life characters. Cardinal Richelieu was one of these, born in 1585, he went on to become one of the most powerful and richest men in the known world of its time. He was appointed as Foreign Secretary in 1616 after becoming a Consecrated Bishop in 1607 and later a Cardinal in 1622. Perhaps becoming a Cardinal would not have been his choice, but one chosen by his Mother, this was to protect an important income from an ecclesiastical source for the family. His rise to power was one of court intrigue, with plots and counter plots. The death of the King’s favourite, the Duc de Luynes allowed Armand Jean du Plessis Duke of Richelieu to rise to be the most powerful man in France.
What is his connection with the Loire Valley?
In the National Park, 22 km south of Chinon, lies the small and historical walled town of Richelieu which was constructed under the watchful gaze of the Cardinal. The vast open park next to the town was once the site of the Cardinal’s Palace just few buildings are now left of this magnificent building.
Some years earlier, 1343 to be exact, salt became a State monopoly and was subsequently taxed via the Gabelle tax. The ‘Great Gabelle’ area encompassed sixteen special tribunals or ‘salt grannaries’ including Richelieu. The wealth of the Cardinal enabled him to buy the village of his ancestors and proceeded to, in 1631, commission the construction of his new model town and which was completed in 1642. The town still stands today but the Chateau was destroyed in 1835.
This brief history and life of the Cardinal Richelieu and of the town of Richelieu can be expanded upon by following on of the links below or by booking some time here in the Loire Valley with us.
Richelieu is one of the towns we visit on are cycling experience holidays. We also visit Chinon, Candes st Martin, Fontevruad l’Abbaye and many others in the region. You will stay in a single centre for your entire weeks holiday. For more details follow the link to our cycling holidays.
The word ‘bespoke’ is going to mean so much this year as our guests and visitors start to travel and get back to having very well earned short breaks and holidays here in the Loire Valley – whether it be a Winter Weekend, an uplifting Spring Break or one of those Lazy Hazy Summer Holidays! Here at Loire Valley Leisure Holidays we can understand that somethings will be different – the availability of flights and where from, the attractions and places that can be visited and the precautions we may still have to take.
We have our Cycling and Wine Experience Holidays, Our One Day Experiences and our Gîte and Chambre d’Hôte and there are various events we are already planning for – Chinon Classic, Fete de la Musique and the Tour de France to name just a few!
Whether you are a returning guest, one of our visitors who has postponed or a new and very welcomed addition to our ‘family’ we would both like to say that we are here to welcome you and help you have the best time, so please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your ‘Bespoke’ experience. We are very happy to have a face to face meeting via social media to help make your plans become a reality.
We are delighted to announce that throughout the Summer and Autumn of 2020 you can join us for a one day guided tour in a part of the Loire Valley we love and know well. This experience starts at the confluence of the Loire and Vienne, central to the National Park. On this leisurely guided bike journey you will be immersed in ‘the Story’ – the local history and geography, the hows and whys, an abridged tale of the people, places and of course the wine.
Setting off at 9.30am the duration of your day will be approximately six hours with wine tasting and an alfresco lunch included.
Tour caves and visit the supermarket, this will give you an understanding of what to look for when back home.
The weekend typically will be if collected from Tours airport.
Arrive at Tours airport late afternoon on Friday where we will take you to a vineyard in Vouvray, there you can taste the special sparkling and still white wine of this small area.
On to your accommodation at La Voyette where a 4 course meal will be waiting for you.
Saturday morning after breakfast we will whisk you off to a vineyard. Here, weather permitting, we will go in to the vines to explore the wine making process then taste the wine in the cave. Afterwards back home for a light lunch.
In the afternoon a trip in to Chinon for sightseeing then on to the supermarket to explore the wine of the wider region.
Saturday evening will be a 4 course meal matched to the wines bought that day.
The vines of Couly-Dutheil Chinon
Sunday is more chilled – first brunch then in the afternoon we will go to a cave in the Saumur-Champigny appellation where the wine cave is an old troglodyte palace. After buying the wine, head home for the evening meal via Candes-St-Martin to catch the view of the confluence of the mighty Loire and the Vienne rivers.
Vines of the area
Monday it is time to say goodbye so, after brunch, we will meander back to the airport via a sightseeing tour of the area. If time allows, possibly another vineyard tour on the way.
The group size is 4/6 people
Chinon fortress in autumn
Winter in the Loire Valley
How to book.
Simply let us know which weekend you would like, follow the link to Ryanair to book your flight or train line for rail costs (these costs are not included in the advertised price for the weekend) and we will pick you up.
We use TransferWise to receive monies into our bank account. When you are ready we will send the link.