France as a whole remains as popular as ever with holidaymakers whether they are first time visitors or regular Francophiles. The Loire Valley region is world renowned, particularly for its famous chateaux, but with its marvellous food and wines, beautiful scenery, traditional markets, as well as its historic towns, it has much for the visitor to discover.

Local AreaThe Loire ValleyChateauxWineOther Attractions

Local Area
The gîte is on the south side of the River Loire about one mile from Gennes, downstream from Saumur. The area is known as the quiet, picturesque side of the river and the gîte is well placed for enjoying rural tranquillity with walking and cycling routes on the doorstep.

Nevertheless Le Petit Bijou is ideally situated for all the attractions of the area, and being close to river crossings at Gennes/les Rosiers and Saumur, the whole of the local area is easily reachable.

Gennes, with its historical dolmens and ancient Gallo-Roman amphitheatre, is about a mile from the gîte and provides for all daily shopping needs with bakers, butchers, greengrocers, etc., a branch of SuperU supermarkets, as well as a number of restaurants. Over the bridge on the opposite bank les Rosiers-sur-Loire offers a similar variety of shops and restaurants.

Picture of the French Chateau at Saumur, Loire FranceSaumur, with its imposing chateau and renowned Ecole Nationale Equitation, is about 8 miles away to the east, and can be reached in about 15 minutes, but the journey could take all day if one stops to admire the chateau and church at Cunault, enjoy the river views at Chenehutte, the mushroom caves before St Hilaire, and the sparkling wine producers on the edge of Saumur.

And then there’s lunch! A French institution that begs the phrase, "If you can’t beat them, join them".

The Champigny vineyards lie behind Saumur, and the abbey of Fontevraud with its graves of English kings a further 10 miles along the Loire. The "rose" town of Doue la Fontaine is a short run to the south, while many of the byways in the area are marked as "parcours pittoresque"- scenic routes to meander at one’s leisure.

There are tourist offices in Gennes and Saumur (www.ot-saumur.fr) that offer information on all the local attractions.

The Loire Valley
The Loire is the longest river in France, rising way down south in the Ardeche. Its many tributaries contribute into making it one of France’s great arteries, literally the divide between the northern departements of Brittany and Normandy and the south.

French chateau on the LoireThe Loire in this area is famous for its rich cultural history, with more than 50 chateaux in the region and over the years it has either been visited by, or is the home to many famous people. Eleanor of Aquitaine, her husband Henry II, and son Richard the Lionheart are all buried at Fontevraud, Jules Desbois the 19th century sculptor was born in Parcay les Pins, Coco Chanel, the French fashion designer was born in Saumur, and latterly the actor/director Gerard Depardieu has a house and vineyard close to Saumur, whilst Mick Jagger of Rolling Stones fame is President of Saumur Cricket Club.

In the region there are at least 50 chateaux, many of which are in private hands, but most of the larger and more famous are open to visitors. They are too numerous and diverse to describe here, but whether your interest be in fortified castles such as Chinon or Angers, large country houses with picturesque gardens such as Villandry or Chaumont, or the fairy tale Rigny-Usse which inspired Sleeping Beauty, there is something for everyone.

Anjou grapes growing in the Loire Valley, FranceWine
The acclaimed wine writer and Master of Wine Jancis Robinson describes the Loire as France’s most varied, and neglected, wine region. The local area around the gîte produces a host of fruity reds, dry whites, and roses, some racy sparkling whites, as well as the occasional sweet wine.

The closest vineyards to Le Petit Bijou are in the countryside south of Saumur, home to Saumur-Champigny. Further up the river are St Nicholas de Bourgeuil, Bourgeuil and Chinon, whilst downstream the area south of Angers produces the lovely sweet Coteaux du Layon and Coteaux de l’Aubance. Further afield towards Nantes is Muscadet with its light white and appetisingly tingly "sur lie".

A holiday in the area would not be complete without a visit to one of the sparkling wine producers such as Gratien & Meyer or Langlois-Chateau (owned by Bollinger) whose premises can be found in Saumur.

Other Attractions
The area abounds with interest from the bustling towns with their weekly markets, to the tranquil countryside and picturesque villages, boat trips on the rivers, troglodyte houses, and a number of excellent golf courses. The Futuroscope and Puy du Fou theme parks, and the Atlantic coast are all within reach for a day out whilst Le Mans, home of the famous 24 hour races, is about an hours drive to the north.

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