I’ve long loved the Loire Valley. Playground to French aristocrats through the centuries, the wilderness of the river Loire, the picturesque villages nested into its banks, chateaus enough to satisfy any real estate fantasy one could conjour.
Sixteen years ago, having introduced me to Paris, then Versailles, Himself took me down the Loire on a whirlwind grand chateau tour. One glorious estate after the other. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It was the France of my dreams, pulled into reality by virtue of an exceedingly well considered birthday gift.
We haven’t really stopped travelling since. I wish I’d written my thoughts down then – in that first decade of travel, the first time I saw the world’s famous places, places I’d dreamt of, as they became real to me. I wish I’d captured the excitement, the wide eyed wonder, the heartstopping joy they inspired in me. It’s the thing I love about writing the most – the abilty to relive how I felt in that moment. A little present, to my future self.
And here we are again, in the lovely Loire Valley, as we head ever west. We’re heading to Loches one of the region’s best preserved mediaeval towns. A royal residence no less.
It’s blisteringly hot, getting even to Himself. But needs must and off we set, along the river seeking shade wherever possible.
Divided into the Citi Royal (with a very solid Port Royale entrance)
and the village below, Loches’ history goes back to the 3rd century when the Romans built a fortification here. The Royal Chateau, built on top of the Roman fort in the 11th century was extended in the 14th and 16th centuries.
With impressively high fortification walls surrounding it,
the grounds also contain a massive keep for storage of one’s treasures. And retinue – no castle accommodation for them.
Used by kings in transit, or when hiding out from enemy attack in France, the chateau was gifted to Charles VII’s favourite mistress, Agnes Sorel, in the 1400s.
Dying in childbirth, her tomb lies in the church Collegiale Saint-Ours within Citi Royale’s grounds.
It was this site that Joan of Arc fled to, fresh from the Orleans battlefield, to convince Charles VII to travel to Reims to be crowned, to rally the troops.
Below Citi Royale, Loches teams with living history.
There’s the unusual Hotel de Ville, incorporated into a city gate,
the Ancien Palais de Justice,
the impressive 50 metre Tour Saint-Antoine
and the Porte de Cordel
We pop into the 100 year old gardens
and learn of their poor luck with their foundation sycamore trees – 2 lost to disease, the last struck by lightning, exploding in the process. Its base has been left in memoriam.
Himself calls time for drinks. Having walked the length and breadth of Loches in the heat, I’m inclined to agree. There was more to explore – there always is, but I’m hoping there will be a next time. Perhaps on a slightly cooler day.
What’s left of the day is spent by the river, reading in the shade, listening to the occasional fish backflip out of the water.
With the heat restricting late afternoons, I’m burning through books at a rapid rate.