The chateau and vines at Breze
A breeding pair of leopards at Doue Zoo
The chateau at Mongodffroy - has original interiors & furniture
Medieval gardens just north of Saumur at night time
The extensive abbey and cloisters at nearby Fontevraud
The incredible gardens at Villandry
The Chateau at Villandry - magnificent interior
Japonese gardens at Maulévrier a must in early spring
Most amazing architecture at Chambord
The rose garden at Doue la Fontaine
The rose festival at Doue - only mid-July

Visiting chateaux (see map here)

There are some 300 designated chateaux and other historic buildings and monuments in the UNESCO World Heritage area of the Loire Valley. La Charpenterie is adjacent to a beautiful 16C petite chateau called La Ripaille and there are two other 19C chateaux within a short walking distance in addition to the renaissance Chateau de Breze, unique by having a subterranean chateau below. Their wines are also highly regarded.

Not a chateau, but within easy cycling distance is the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud. The restoration of the abbey was only finished in 2006. It was originally built as a double monastery, with both monks and nuns on the same site. In the early years the Plantagenet dynasty were major benefactors. Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart are all buried there.

With the completion of the A85, the magnificent chateaux in Touraine are easily accessible. If you have just one place to visit in the Loire Valley, then visit Villandry. Joachim Carvallo purchased the property in 1906, and poured enormous amounts of money and devotion into repairing it and creating what many consider to be the most beautiful gardens anywhere. The family still owns the chateau and it is impeccably furnished to their own style and choice.

Smaller and less well know is Chateau de Montgodffroy. this chateau is superb as all of its furnishings survived both the revolution and occupation. What sets it apart is simple, it has remained the same as it was when it was built. A time capsule of sorts, it provides a glimpse into everyday life among the privileged few just before the outbreak of the Revolution. It was one of the first homes to include a formal dining table which still has the original table and porcelain. The stables include period carriages and tack as well as photos of visits by the Royal Family.

One of the most significant attractions in Saumur is the Cadre Noir at the French National Equestrian centre. There are international dressage competitions in April and September but most Thursdays there are displays and visits to the stables. This covers how the horses are trained from walking to vaulting.

Visiting Parks, Zoo and Gardens

The Loire valley is know as the garden of France, that is why so many kings and noblemen made it the location of their country homes. It has also become a centre for some exceptional botanical offerings. This website lists all them all but a few nearby to look out for are: Villandry - you can take-in the chateau and gardens in an afternoon and the entrance fee is far less than many others. The gardens are so very special that you will wonder how you ever only managed to plant your vegetables in straight lines, but there is so much more than just the spring and summer vegetable plantings, water garden, rose garden and about 56km of neatly clipped box hedging in Fleur-de-lis designs and more.

The Japanese gardens at Maulévrier, near to Cholet is best to be visited in springtime when the Azaleas are in full lso blossom. The gardens can also be viewed at night time when they are illuminated, but the sound of running water and tranquillity of Lily ponds are perfect at any time.

Doué la Fontaine is the centre of rose growing in France. It naturally has a garden dedicated to roses, but around Bastille Day in July it hosts an International rose festival where local landscape gardeners put on displays in caves and themed sculptures are formed - all with roses.

Doué is also a great place to buy roses if you are after something specific. So if you want a climbing yellow rose that has nicely scented flowers all year round in a difficult soil type; they will tell you which one is right for you.

On a slightly different tack there is a superb WWF breeding Zoo set in a disused quarry at Doué. The enclosures have all been formed by nature features - islands for monkeys; caves for Bats and a netted quarry for an aviary etc. Many clients visit the Zoo each year as exhibits are constantly changing, or new babies arriving.