Local Gems of the Loire Valley - The Most Beautiful Villages of Central France
When you are exploring the Chateaux of the Loire Valley, you might feel a bit overhealed by all of them. It is reasonable to visit one or two castles per day. However, the Loire Valley is not only about the castles and, after all, you deserve a change of scenery and to take a break from the Royal Chateaux to appreciate them even more. I would recommend to use the opportunity to visit some of the Plus Beaux villages de France. There are actually 11 of them in the center of France. If my time would allow it, I would visit more, but I managed to see just (yet a lot) three of the local gems of Central France. I have chosen Apremont-sur-Allier, Lavardin, Noyers-sur-Serein and I have not been disappointed! I recommend highly that you visit these places but, of course, feel free to consider other villages such as Candes-Saint-Martin, Crissay-sur-Manse, Montrésor, or Yèvre-le-Châtel as well. So let me share my experience with those villages and make you fall in love with them.
The village Apremont – Sur – Allier is situated in the Burgundy region at the Allier River and close to the historical and famous town of Nevers. It is a quarry workers village and has been build from the local rock (the same stone that the cathedral at Orleans is built from), making it look unique, robust, and very pretty. The ancient buildings have just been refurbished in the 20th.
What is more, the village is very cleanand beautifully decorated with flowers by locals. This is not a surprise as the village is well-known for its gardens. The Parc Floral, designed by Gilles de Brissac in the park of the Chateau d'Apremont, is just one example. The ministry of culture has listed it as a jardin remarquable. The garden landscape shows the style of 18th century gardens but it is just 20 years ago when it was brought back to life. You have to pay a fee to get to the garden but you won’t regret it. The garden will take you to a magic place. You will relax and admire beautiful flowers and the view of the village, not to mention the Chateau which is next to the garden.
So once you enter you are welcomed by beautiful white flowers and silver leaves which have been inspired by the “White Garden” of Vita Sackville-West in Sissinghurst, England. You will have an opportunity to admire enchanting buildings designed by the Russian painter and architect Alexander Serebriakoff and his sister. There is a lovely pagoda bridge and from the belvedere you can see the whole village. On top of that, you will find the stables museum next to the chateau where you can have a look at the various horse-drawn carriages. If you are in the area and still have some free time, you can visit other interesting places around such as abbey and the cathedral at Fontmorigny , and Duke's Palace at Nevers.
Village of Noyers-sur-Serein is a another pretty village located in the area, this time in the Yonne department of the Burgundy region and at the River Serein. The village is tiny but it has a total of 78 beautiful historic monuments worth visiting. Sounds impressive, doesn't it? You can admire for example the House of La Toison d'Or, the Municipal Museum of Art Naïf, House of La Toison d'Or, the Castle of Noyers-sur-Serein, the Door of Tonnerre, or the Town Hall of Noyers to name just a few.
But don't get stressed out, it actually does not take that much time to visit this lovely (yet small) village. But if you are already there, make sure you try the local wine. The village was once famous for its wine and grain trade — in 1861 there were still 128 vine-growers and 25 tillage-farmers — and is still home to best wines in the country. I like the village also because of the local people who are so nice and welcoming. There is a nice boulanger in the village who sells really tasty banettes, the local houses are beautifully decorated with flowers and other ornaments which shows how much the locals actually care about their village. The town of Noyers-Sur-Serein also offers a free city guide for those who want to be well-prepared for their visit.
And lastly the third village I wanted to tell you about is Lavardin. This beautiful village is located 20 km south-west of Vendome and 40 km north of Tours. It is really tiny and has no more than 260 inhabitants. As far as I remember there is just a couple of shops, a coffee place, a restaurant and a cosy store with a few local products... and a small museum, of course.
Moreover, Lavardin has the impressive romanic-style Church of Saint Geneste. I loved the architecture which is so unique and different. It is filled with old frescos, drawings and carvings. There is also a castle, the Chateau de Lavardin, which is quite impressive. It opens its doors at 11:30 in summer and has the cheapest ticket price I have seen for a Chateau! Its ruins, which date back to the 11th-14th century, tower above the rocky cliff. The castle gives the tiny village a special atmosphere. But the village is also unique thanks to the local people who are very helpful, nice and welcoming.
Other monuments worth visiting are the Maison Perrault on Rue de la Barriere, a gothicstyle house dating back to the 13th century, and the Maison Florent Tissard, a substantial medieval building with a tower and a raised balcony. I also liked the different looks of the buildings in Lavardin, which have been influenced by the 16th century. They display some fascinating features like colombage, ornate windows and slate roofs. You will be impressed what this tiny place has to offer!
I hope you like the sound of the medieval side of France? You dont need to get as addicted as I am to visiting all those beautiful villages of France, tough. After all, there are about 155 of them. I have already visited some located in the South of France, some around Lyon. Take a look at the list of all of them and try to find some around you.
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