A rich cultural heritage
The architectural abundance of the Centre region evokes the diversity of its many castles. The region is principally known for the Val de Loire which is the largest UNESCO site in France. It is formed of towns with particularly strong cultural appeal. Orléans, liberated by Joan of Arc, opens the way to the Val de Loire. "Orléans is a city to discover and rediscover, its city centre having undergone significant transformations over the years. Culture vultures will love the Fine Arts Museum," says the hotel owner.
On the events calendar, the Loire and Jazz festivals have become unmissable. Chartres with its wonderful cathedral, "the Acropolis of France," as the sculptor Auguste Rodin liked to call it, is exceptional. Regarded at the capital of light and perfume, this city is not to be missed. Bourges, the capital of Berry, boasts some magnificent private mansions and abundant museums. Further south, Poinçonnet near Châteauroux is scattered with characterful residences where you can walk in the footsteps of the "Comtesse de Chabrillan".
Marc Langmann has run the INTER-HOTEL Les Cèdres, a 3-star establishment in Orléans, since 2006. He will introduce you to the Centre region.
To the west, the city of Tours with its wonderful medieval lakes completes the incredible historical route. Classed as a 'city of art and history', it will bowl you over with its architecture and many historical monuments. Its nickname, "Petit Paris", is testament to its rich architectural heritage. Similarly to Tours, "Blois is punctuated with illustrious historical monuments in a unique environment," says Marc Langmann. The Royal castle stands out in the town as it offers a real overview of French architecture over the years. Blois also boasts some wonderful buildings from the Middle Ages such as the half-timber houses of the Medieval town and the Jacques Cœur Palace. Beaugency is also packed with history: Saint-Etienne church, the medieval house, the clock tower and the Templars' house are all unmissable sites in the town.
Situated on Beauce's doorstep, the towns of Villebarou and Saint-Gervais-la-Forêt are in an ideal location to cover all of Loir-et-Cher and explore the magnificent castles in Chambord and Cheverny. Finally, Bourges has some unmissable sights such as the Saint-Etienne cathedral, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To re-energise, you are sure to love the marshland in the town centre with almost 130 hectares of gardens bordered with rivers and canals.
A distinct medieval footprint
Architecture and legends combine in the Centre to form an abundant heritage. Between medieval castles, manors, Renaissance palaces and Gallo-Roman relics, there is something for everyone. The medieval footprint is particularly evident in Montbazon, near Tours, which plays host to one of the oldest medieval donjons.
In close proximity, explore Chambray-lès-Tours and the Saint-Symphorien church in addition to the Cangé castle in Saint-Avertin, built on the site of an ancient fortress. Finally, a stop-off in Villandry will give you chance to visit the eponymous castle. Dominated by its donjon, Montrichard is an ancient medieval town. Currently in ruins, its castle is classed as a historical monument.
Similarly, visitors are entranced with the royal residence of Loches. "This jewel of the French Renaissance is regarded as one of the most beautiful fortified sites in France," says Mr Langmann.
A lush green setting
The Centre region reveals an incredible abundance of natural landscapes: Beauce and its farmland stretching as far as the eye can see, Perche and its extensive forests, Sologne and its hidden lakes. And Chinon is the wine-making capital of the region.
This natural abundance will delight keen joggers and mountain bikers with its lush green setting. The banks of the Loire, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are the perfect point of departure as you set off to explore the area. "Sporty visitors can explore the region by cycling along the banks of the Loire," adds Mr Langmann.
The 175 miles between Sully-sur-Loire and Villandry are perfect for hiking and cycling. Visits to the small town of Anet near Dreux will also tempt you to explore the banks of the Eure and the rich natural heritage of the region. An extensive planning programme has already resulted in 500 miles' worth of clearly-defined and secure paths. This is sure to delight nature lovers during a holiday or trip to the region.
"I recommend this region to people seeking a lovely weekend and a complete escape, an hour away from Paris. Its close proximity to the Loire castles is a definite asset which ensures real touristic potential for the region," Marc Langmann concludes.