the Loire Valley and you conjure up visions of fairytale
castles set against a backdrop of green fields and
rows of poplars, hillside vineyards and the swift-flowing
Loire. The river, France's longest, gives the region
its name; the Loire's waters nourish this land,
the “garden of France,” a gentle, rolling
landscape that seems to breathe peace and prosperity.
The magnificent châteaux that suddenly appear
on the horizon take one's breath away: these manmade
wonders are surely as dramatic as any natural landscape
could be. Built of “pierre de Loire”,
the porous local limestone, each of the region's
300-odd châteaux played a role in French history,
serving first as fortresses, later as elegant residences
for aristocrats and royalty, and then as barracks
or even quarries after the Revolution. Now the major
châteaux have been restored and transformed
into museums, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors
each year from all over the world. Read
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