Once upon a time, this land of castles was the fabulous playground of French kings and aristocracy. Today, this serene, pastoral region can also be a playground for grand family adventures. Blessed with some of the most extraordinary residences anyone has ever had the gall—or cash—to build, the “garden of France” is characterized by extraordinary châteaux, lining the riverbanks and standing proudly atop the hills.
Here in the Loire Valley, it’s actually the simplest pleasures that you’ll appreciate the most when travelling with your family. Here are some of my favourite things to do for all ages.
Go back in time on a gabare
Make your way down the river on a traditional wooden boat, or gabare. These flat-bottomed boats are fashioned in the style of their medieval forebears. Used originally to transport goods along the river (especially wine) from the 15th to the 17th century, when the Loire was the main trade route for transport, you can enjoy the scenery or even get a fishing lesson from a local.
Did someone say chocolate?
First introduced to France in the 15thC as a gift to the fourteen-year-old Louis XIII from his wife to be, Anne of Austria, chocolate was once an extravagance for aristocrats instead of a commonplace treat. Learn the fine art of chocolate-making and sample your creations afterwards.
Bliss on two wheels…riding to a castle!
Pedalling through the lush Touraine countryside with the family is always a delight, especially if you’re riding through fields of bright yellow sunflowers (if the time of year is right). Arriving at the famous Château Azay-le-Rideau, the most famous castle in the region, and a prime jewel of French renaissance architecture.
Fence like a musketeer
Live out the dashing exploits of a bygone era, where you can learn to fight like a musketeer with fencing lessons on the grounds of a chateau. En garde!
Cook your way through the classics
Experience the rich gastronomic traditions of France with a cooking class from farm to table. Start by picking fresh vegetables from the garden, and transforming them into classic French dishes under the watch of a trained chef.
From castle rock to carving
The traditional stone that formed the chateaux of the Loire as well as the famous troglodyte cave dwellings, tufa stone is easily carved (you can even scratch it with your fingernails). Learn how to sculpt like a pro and make your own masterpiece. (Perhaps not like the masters of the 13thC, but…one can dream!)