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La Grange lies about halfway between Sancerre in the east and Saumur in the west - about two hours by car in each direction.

Wine

The Loire Valley is one of the best wine growing areas in France, stretching from Sancerre in the east, through Vouvray, Chinon, Bourgeuil, and Saumur around Tours, to Anjou and the city of Angers and beyond. Here you can find fine whites (Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé, Vouvray), deep reds (Saumur Champigny, Chinon, Bourgeuil), and pretty much everything in between, to suit every occasion and every wallet. You might like to read more about it on a site dedicated to the wine growing regions of the Loire valley.

The local white wine is usually made from sauvignon blanc. The local red can be more varied: gamay is traditional, as is côt, but generally the local reds are blends of grape sorts.

We really like the wines from Bruno Curassier at La Domaine de la Grange in Bléré. We're especially fond of his sauvignon blanc.

Also close to La Grange are the caves of Père Auguste in Civray-de-Touraine where you can taste the wines and buy them direct from the chais (place where wine is made). There are pictures on the walls of the original Père Auguste. The last time we were there his son was still active in the business and delighted to talk about his father.

A little further away, close to Amboise, are the caves of Xavier Frissant. Try his Rose du Clos!

The "coopératives" are a good place to learn about, taste, and buy, the wine of the area. These are organisations which are owned by the smaller growers in the region and to which they send their grapes to be pressed and vinified. We have found the one in Vouvray to be especially worth a visit, and many of our guests have been very pleased with the wines from the Gourmandière at Francueil which is very close. Then, armed with an overview of the area and some names and addresses, you can visit the individual independent wine growers / makers.

(map courtesy of The Wine Society & McHale Ward Associates)


Other points of Interest

Close to Montrésor there is a large water sports area at Chemillé. Here you can swim, paddle about in a boat, or just laze. There's a café there too.

If you would like to see the maximum number of chateaux in the minimum time, visit the Mini-chateaux. Here are small scale models of the major chateaux in one place, close to Amboise. You may also like to visit the Grand Aquarium de Touraine.

And then there's the Zoo Parc de Beauval ...

Châteaux

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This is the château of
Cheverny as drawn by Eveline Schoorl, a good friend of ours. It's well known as the model for Château Molensloot in the popular Tintin strip cartoon.

Chenonceau is said to be the most beautiful château in France. It is built over the river surrounded by formal gardens. It's only about 15 minutes drive from Lavignon.

Azay le Rideau is probably my favourite château, it's built on a human scale and furnished, I could picture myself living there.

Villandry is famous for its carefully laid out and tended gardens.

Chambord is a highly decorated hunting château. My fondest memory of it is sitting on the terrace of a nearby restaurant with a glass of cool white wine on a warm day with a view of the château.

Chaumont sur Loire - this is Joke’s favourite chateau, situated high up on the banks of the Loire affording panoramic views (alternative web site here).

The Château of
Montpoupon is very close to La Grange, it's a small hunting château which is still lived in so only parts of it are visitable.

In the heart of Amboise, there’s a magnificent château high above the town - with frequent wine fairs in the caves underneath. There is a circular "staircase" up to the château large enough for horses drawing coaches. Just outside the centre of Amboise there’s the Clos Lucé, this is where Leonardo da Vinci lived and it now houses a museum of his inventions.

Apart from being a wonderful collection of buildings (I especially appreciate the kitchens!), the
Royal Abbey of Fontevraud is rich in history, it hosts frequent musical and other artistic events, and is a cultural centre in the widest sense. It's a couple of hours' drive from La Grange - but to get there you have to pass close to Chinon / Bourgueil (see the wine section!).

To find out more about historic monuments, you might like to visit the
Monum web site which provides background information about historic sites all over France including the Loire Valley.

Towns & Markets

Amboise is about 15 minutes drive from La Grange. On Sunday mornings there is a large market along the banks of the Loire with a wide range of stalls including food, local produce, plants, clothes, garden equipment, kitchenware, and wine. There is also a market there on Friday morning.

Loches (alternative web site here) is about half an hour's drive to the south of Lavignon. We like the market there, we often go on a Saturday morning to buy the ingredients for our weekend meals (it's also open on Wednesdays). The market is smaller than Amboise, not so popular with tourists, and concentrates on local products and foodstuffs. It's also spread through the middle of the town which has a lot of character, and it has more of the atmosphere of a local market for local people. A short walk up the hill brings you to the Logis Royal of Loches.

Tours has two web sites, here's the second one. We like to visit Les Halles, Place des Halles, a covered market (plus open-air in the summer). It is quite expensive but hard to beat for fresh produce! We’re also fond of Place Plumereau, it’s the old heart of Tours with lots of cafés around it with tables and chairs to sit out and watch the world go by. There are also some small streets around Place Plumereau with several small restaurants which are worth investigating for lunch!

Blois is an attractive small provincial town on the Loire. The chateau is in the middle of the town and has a unique octagonal external circular staircase - and it’s a double helix so that the people going up don’t have to meet the people coming down!

Montrichard has a "beach" on the river Cher with a children's playground, public tennis courts and boating. I find its narrow main street very attractive and the bridge over the river used to have a restaurant on it!

Bléré is our nearest town with around 5000 inhabitants. Our favourite baker is in Bléré, close to the swimming pool. There’s a local market there on Tuesday mornings and Friday afternoons.

Luzillé is our nearest village, with a bakery and an épicerie. For information about the commune you can look at the Communauté de Communes site.

Montrésor is a small town, situated on the river Indrois, its own web site has a useful interactive map. There’s a chateau that’s worth a visit too.

Montlouis is the centre of a well known wine growing area, just on the other side of the river from Vouvray. There are some nice cafés and restaurants along the river.

Chenonceaux is probably best known for its chateau - but that’s Chenonceau (without the “x”!). The village has some good restaurants along the (very narrow) main street.