Things to Do in Loire Valley - page 2
Home to the awe-inspiring ‘Le chant du Monde’, a collection of exquisite 20th-century tapestries by Jean Lurcat, the Jean Lurçat Contemporary Tapestry Museum (Musée Jean-Lurçat) plays a vital part in Angers’ artistic heritage and it’s unsurprisingly one of the city’s top attractions. The tapestries, designed as a contemporary interpretation of the city’s iconic Apocalypse tapestry, feature themes such as the threat of nuclear war in ‘La Grande Menace’, the ‘Conquest of Space’ and ‘Man in Glory in Peace’ and they’re as epic as they sound, accompanied by the artist’s commentary to help you decipher their complexity.
The dramatic setting of the museum further adds to its appeal - housed in the 12th-century Hospital Saint Jean, a grand Gothic complex, where the tapestries hung from the vast vaulted ‘Salle des Malades’, the former sick ward. The neighboring 17th-century building, a former orphanage, hosts a further collection of Lurçat’s paintings, ceramics and crafts, as well as tapestries by Thomas Gleb and Josep Grau Garriga.
Peering down over the Loire riverside from its hilltop perch and framed by the cobblestone lanes and half-timbered houses of Saumur’s atmospheric Old Town, the majestic Château de Saumur is among the most picturesque of the Loire Valley and its imposing silhouette is omnipresent. Built in the 14th-century for Louis I, the Duke of Anjou, the castle has served intermittently as a government residence, an army barracks, a prison and a munitions depot, but is now home to the Saumur Municipal Museum.
The château’s biggest selling point is its dramatic location and walking around the castle grounds, dotted with picnic benches and lookout points, offers unbeatable views over the city below. Inside, the museum’s exhibitions include an impressive array of ceramics and tapestries dating mostly from the Middle Ages, a varied collection of decorative art and a fascinating exhibition on Saumur’s equestrian heritage.
It may not be as famed a wine region as the rest of the Loire Valley, but the vineyards around Nantes still produce some of France’s finest Muscadet wines, and the unique Musee du Vignoble Nantais (Nantes Wine Museum) is the perfect introduction to the little-known wine region.
Tucked away in Le Pallet at the heart of the Nantes vineyard region, the museum’s varied collection of artifacts include grape-picking baskets, corking machines, a Dujardin-Salleron ebulliometer, antique barrels and wine presses, and exhibits cover the history of the region’s wine production, the Muscadet grape and French wine culture. As well as learning all about the local terroir, visitors can climb onboard an original straddle tractor, stroll the surrounding vineyards or enjoy wine tasting.
With its arched walkways climbing with candy colored blooms and row upon row of pink, red and white rose bushes, Les Chemins de la Rose is a vivid tribute to the ‘Queen of all Flowers’. The 4-hectare rose gardens of Saumur are home to more than 13,000 rose bushes, displaying over 1,250 different rose varieties between May and September, from classic English roses to vintage blooms and modern creations.
Recently redesigned, Les Chemins de la Rose now features a number of outhouses displaying antique farm equipment, a rose distillery, vegetable garden, a themed walking trail and a terrace café-restaurant, and hosts regular presentations, workshops and gardening displays. As well as admiring the vibrant roses, it’s also possible to buy one of the famous rose bushes during the season, along with a variety of rose and rose-oil based products from the onsite shop.
Zoo de la Flèche claims to be the oldest zoo in France and currently hosts over 1,200 animals from 130 species (including 25 endangered species), originating from five continents and spread over 15 hectares. More than just an entertainment, the zoo aims to protect the animals as well as sensitize and educate visitors to the 21st century challenges our natural environment faces. The zoo offers three different shows: “Marine World”, which features seals, “Lords of the Skies” and its prey birds, as well as the “Parrot Jungle” show.
The zoo is mostly famous for its five epic sleepover safari experiences with polar bears, arctic wolves, lemurs, white tigers, and grizzly bears.
For centuries, the cliffs around Saumur were home to cave houses (habitations troglodytiques). Rochemenier Cave Village (Rochemenier Village Troglodytique) is one of the Loire Valley’s most interesting cave-dwelling sites. Its Cave Museum covers two underground farmhouses, including a cave chapel, complete with historic farming gear.
In the French port city of Saint-Nazaire, near Nantes, get a glimpse of what life would have been like aboard a historic ocean-going vessel. Escal’Atlantic, an interactive museum dedicated to “the historical ocean-liner experience,” displays more than 200 artifacts, all of which hail from ships built in Saint-Nazaire.
Built in 1958 and launched in 1960, Submarine Espadon was France's first submarine to travel under ice. When in operation, it had a crew of 65 living in its cramped quarters and traveled 360,547 nautical miles, the equivalent of 17 times around the circumference of the earth. Visit to get a feel for what life was like under the sea.
Founded in 1984 and located 45 minutes from Nantes, the Zoo de la Boissière du Doré is home to over 800 animals and 70 different species, from giraffes to panthers to blue poison dart frogs. A popular destination for families, this conservation center and zoo gives visitors the chance to learn about wildlife from around the world.
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