Why September is the Perfect Month for a French Escape to the Loire Valley
Are you still finalising your September holiday plans? September is the Perfect Month for a French Escape to the Loire Valley, a realm of picturesque landscapes, storybook castles and exquisite wines, the Loire Valley is an alluring tapestry of beauty and history nestled in the heart of France you need to visit stat.
Are you still finalising your September holiday plans? Sure, Greece is lovely that time of year and you’re guaranteed some autumn sun in Croatia, but have you ever considered the Loire Valley? Just a short car or train ride away from Paris, France’s lesser-discovered gem spans over 170 miles along the meandering Loire River and is a captivating wonderland of French splendour, style and gastronomy defined by lush vineyards, plenty of charming little towns and picturesque castles that appear straight out of a fairytale.
The region was, after all, home to kings, queens, dukes and nobles who journeyed here to establish these feudal castles and, later on, sumptuous palaces. It’s no wonder the entire area is an enormous UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Still on the fence? You won’t be after reading all our reasons why the Loire Valley is the perfect choice for a September escape.
The entire Loire area is an enormous UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the perfect spot for a stylish September getaway.
The Loire Valley: A Grape Escape
First things first, the wine. And we’re not talking any old wine. The Loire Valley happens to be one of France’s top wine regions – and the third largest AOC wine-growing regions – dispersed with many different grape-producing territories and dominated by Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne. Nicknamed the ‘Garden of France’ for its lush rolling hills and orchards, it houses 56,900 hectares – more than 143,000 acres – of planted vineyards, so it can be hard to know where to start.
Much of the winemaking activity, however, is concentrated in four subregions, and it’s easy to experience thanks to the Route du Vin – wine roads that stretch 500 miles long and bring wine lovers up close to more than 400 wine cellars.
The Captivating Cuisine of The Loire Valley
You’d be wise to line your stomach before a Loire Valley wine tour, but luckily you’ll be spoilt for choice with its regional cuisine.
As to be expected, cheese takes pride of place, with goat cheese at the centre of local gastronomy. You’ll find five different AOC variations including crottin de Chavignol (a small, round, slightly bulging delight) and Sainte-Maure de Touraine (a bûche famously tied up with a strand of hay).
If you’re after something with a little more substance, other well-known specialities hailing from the Loire Valley include Rillettes de Tours (slow-cooked pork), poached eggs au Chinon, saupiquet nivernais (game in a red wine sauce), pâté berrichon with eggs (the French equivalent of a Scotch egg), chicken en barbouille chicken in a rich brandy cream sauce), nougats de Tours (a sweet almond pastry), Chinon peaches, prune candies and dried pears. In other words, you’re in for a treat.
Make Anjou your first port of call
One of the Loire Valley's most diverse and largest regions, Anjou has been a happening place for wine since the Middle Ages. Touted for grapes like Savennières, whose voluptuous dry Chenin Blanc wines are considered unmatched in the world, it has more recently become popular for its Cabernet Francs and Cabernet Sauvignons, which are both great quality and excellent prices.
Base yourself in Angers, Anjou’s former capital, which represents the best of historic and modern France. A very cycle-friendly city, with paths that follow the Maine and the Loire, you must definitely hire a bike and explore all the different vineyards, but be sure to check out the castles and châteaux too. La Châteaux D’Angers is particularly impressive with 17 shale and limestone towers and nearly half a kilometre of ramparts, making it the city’s leading landmark that has been standing proud since 1230.
An ex-château entirely renovated by a passionate antique dealer, we suggest staying at Le Château des Forges, which comes complete with heated swimming pool open until the end of September, overlooking the lower valleys of Anjou and the Ile Saint Aubin island.
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Spend Some Time in Orléans
Steeped in mediaeval charm, make Orléans your next stop, which boasts an impressive architectural heritage with the stunning Cathedral of Sainte-Croix dominating the skyline.
History enthusiasts can delve into the city's past at the Joan of Arc Museum, commemorating the iconic French heroine who played a pivotal role in the city's liberation during the Hundred Years' War, while there’s nothing quite like taking a leisurely stroll or a romantic boat ride along the scenic banks of the Loire.
Spend a day exploring its vibrant markets and charming bistros, where traditional French dishes come paired with regional wines (of course), before hitting the hay at Hôtel de l’Abeille, a unique boutique bolthole with kitsch individually designed rooms with Louis XIV-style touches and an incredible organic breakfast..
Fall in Love With Blois
Journey an hour further south and you’ll come across Blois, which makes an excellent base for visits to the châteaux, villages and towns of the central Loire Valley. Its highlight is undoubtedly the majestic Château de Blois, an architectural masterpiece that boasts a unique fusion of four distinct styles, reflecting the city's rich past and the influence of its various royal inhabitants, while you can also check out the Museum of Fine Arts and the Maison de la Magie, dedicated to the world of magic and illusion.
If history isn’t your thing, you can still spend hours getting lost among the streets of the Old Town which come lined with charming cafes, boutiques, and picturesque squares. For a real treat, stay at the five-star Fleur de Loire which is housed in a historic building commissioned by Gaston d'Orléans, brother of King Louis XIII and home to a signature restaurant from Michelin-starred chef Christophe Hay. Bon appétit!
Take a Whistle-Stop Tour of Tours
Another firm favourite on the Loire Valley map, Tours blends history, culture, and charm in spades. A great shout for a day trip, a splendid Old Town complete with cobbled streets lined with half-timbered houses, lively cafes and quaint boutiques lies at its heart, while the iconic Cathédrale Saint-Gatien, which showcases exquisite Gothic architecture and stunning stained glass windows is also worth a visit.
After a more leisurely escape? Spend some time in nature at the enchanting Jardin des Prébendes d'Oé and Jardin botanique de Tours - two serene green spaces in which it’s a pleasure to relax with a good book.
Why should I Visit The Loire Valley in September?
Fewer crowds and fewer people to battle for a carafe of Sauvignon Blanc, the summer continues well into September with warm sunny blue-sky days and temperatures averaging around 24°C.
Travelling to The Loire Valley
Travelling from the UK to the Loire Valley is simple – all you have to do is hop on the Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris (or jump on a flight if you prefer), then connect on a TGV from Gare Montparnasse station to your desired destination. Bon yoyage!