Loire Valley: Terraces on the Banks of the Loire

What a better way to while away a beautiful lazy summer day than sitting on the terrace of one of the many open-air cafés overlooking the gently flowing waters of the Loire as it follows its leisurely course across the region. Or better still, an outdoor lunch at one the fine restaurants on the grounds of the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire. Or taking a boat ride in a traditional boat where you’ll get a first-hand glimpse of the river’s magically emerging sandbanks, the charming villages that line its shores, and the extraordinary variety of its wildlife and landscapes. 

Lunch ‘Al Fresco’ at the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire

The Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire with its sweeping vista of the Loire river, is an awesome sight to behold. Home to both Diane de Poitiers and Marie de Medici, this majestic Renaissance château is surrounded by a sumptuous 21-hectare stretch of “English-style” landscaped parkland. There’s much to feast your eyes on, but also your palate as Chaumont has no fewer than 6 restaurants and cafes on its grounds, four of them outdoors and a delightful stop in the warm summer weather. 

For an elegant and inventive gourmet lunch, try ‘Le Grand Velum’ and its ‘sturgeon ravioli’ and ‘goat’s cheese croquette’ or if you’re after something more informal, the ‘Café Mediterranee’, an easy-going and friendly self-service buffet that serves fresh pasta dishes, crisp olive-oil bread, eco vegetable juices and delicious homemade ice-cream. Both are open for lunch from the end of April through Oct. and have large terraces, so you can relax in the shade of the linden trees and take in the splendid view. 

The International Garden Festival at the château, which presents the best in landscape design from around the world, is a unique event that attracts over 400,000 visitors each year. This year it will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a panorama of innovative gardens highlighting the great issues of our time, such as climate change, rising sea levels, ‘floating gardens’ and the link between habitat and gardens. There’s a lot to see, so stop for a snack at ‘l’Estaminet’, an open-air café set right in the heart of the Festival, and give your weary feet a break! 

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Drink in Those Fabulous Views!

Come join Robin and Sylvain on board l’Amarante or La Belle Adèle and discover the historic hillside villages of Montsoreau and Candes-St-Martin along the waterfront where the Loire and the Vienne rivers merge into one. Whether you opt for a nature tour, lunch, dinner or even a romantic overnight stay for two, you’ll be swept away by the view of the Loire Valley with its colourful little villages and wonderful scenery. Or mosey down the Cher river on a lunch or dinner cruise with the Bélandre:  you’ll get a fantastic close-up of the magnificent Renaissance Château de Chenonceau as you pass under the famous bridge that spans the river and sample a great selection of local specialties.

Take the time to hang out at the ‘guinguette’ at Tours-sur-Loire or Rocheorbon and enjoy a glass of wine or dinner, music included, in the cheerful, friendly atmosphere of this quintessentially French open-air café on the banks of the river. Or come enjoy an exclusive AOC Touraine-Chenonceau wine-tasting soirée on the grounds of the château itself. Sip a glass of some of these fine red and white vintages under the stars as you watch the Cher river drift peacefully by.

While you’re in Tours, check out the hip bars and shops on the Place Plumereau, the ‘old town’ square with its gracious half-timbered houses and narrow cobbled streets. Another cool option: a picnic in the huge 60-year-old wooden wine barrel set on a hilltop at the Domaine Lamé Delisle Boucard in Ingrandes de Touraine, on the Loire and about a half-hour from Tours. It’s crazy place to try out some very exceptional wines!

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5 of the Top ‘Guinguettes’ in and around Orléans

Guinguettes, that oh-so-French institution, began as popular drinking spots on the waterfront in city suburbs where workmen would come on Sundays and holidays to drink, dance ‘the bal musette’ and have a good time. They’re back in fashion big time now and understandably so: they’re fun, lively and a great way to mingle with the crowds!

Orléans and its surrounding area are home to a number of these charming little open-air cafés. So come down and join us this summer – it’s only a 1 ½ hours from Paris - and relax in the shade of the weeping willows of one of these riverside havens and chill out to the sound of the old-time accordion music, contemporary pop, or some really cool jazz. 5 hot spots we think you’ll enjoy:  

La Sardine, a trendy ‘guingette’ on a riverside dock in the town of Orléans itself, with a panoply of artistic events and food stands featuring local products. Meet up with the townfolk at La Guinguette au parc, at Saint-Jean de Braye, just outside Orléans. Lots of fun, and lots of atmosphere from 3 to 10 pm every day of the week during the summer. L’Ephémère Café in Olivet, also nearby: a deliciously old-fashioned open-air tea garden café with an incredible view of the Loiret’s riverbanks and its famous ‘Mill Walk’. Take a boat ride on the river like in the olden times (reservations required). Gentlemen, don’t forget your boaters and ladies, your parasols! 

A bit further away: La Ginguette de la corne des pâtures, in Baule, 25 km west of Orléans: a friendly café on the banks of the Loire offering a range of activities, from open-air cinema to writing workshops. For a culinary treat, venture north to La Guinguette de par-ci par-là, in Dordives, and try out the tiny fried fish dishes typical of the ‘guinguettes’ of yesteryear. Come on a Sunday, when there’s music and the place really swings!   

For more information about ‘Guinguettes’ in and around Orléans:

or Tel: +33/ (0)2 38 78 04 04 - email: info@tourismeloiret.com

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