Maine Et Loire Places To Visit On Holiday

The chateau at Angers, Maine et Loire, Western Loire, France

Chateau d’Angers

The Chateau d’Angers is situated on a rocky ridge overhanging the River Maine.

Originally the site of a ninth century fortress, the enormous chateau dates from the early part of the thirteenth century. With 17 towers, the chateau spreads across nearly 7 acres.

At the end of the eighteenth century, it was used as a military garrison and a military academy was established to train young officers.

Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington, best known for his defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo, was trained here.

The chateau now houses a museum with the oldest and largest collection of medieval tapestries in the world, including the 104m long fourteenth century Apocalypse Tapestry.

For more information, tel (00 33) 2 41 86 48 77

Cointreau Distillery, Angers

The greatest of the liqueurs of Anjou, the famous orange liqueur known as Cointreau, has been produced in Angers since the middle of the nineteenth century.

Confectioner Adolphe Cointreau and his brother Edouard-Jean initially began making a cherry liqueur in their distillery in 1849. But it is their blend of sweet and bitter orange peels, alcohol and beet sugar, first marketed in 1875, which has made the name of Cointreau world famous.

The visitor centre at Espace Cointreau, Carrefour Moliere, St Barthelemy is open Mon to Sat but opening times vary. Take a guided tour of the distillery to see how the liqueur is made and view objects and film from the past and the classic Cointreau posters gallery.

The Cointreau recipe is still a closely guarded secret but a cocktail is included in the tour price.

Saumur Chateau

The current Chateau dates from the twelfth century. It changed hands many times until 1621 when it was converted into army barracks and later a state prison under Napoleon Bonaparte.

In the twentieth century, the Chateau was restored and it now houses the Museum of Decorative Arts. It also serves as a Museum of the Horse, and the dungeon and watchtower house a collection of toys and figurines, including soldiers and clowns. For more information, tel (00 33) 2 41 83 30 31

Le Cadre Noir, Saumur

At the end of the sixteenth century, an academy of horsemanship was established in Saumur. The black colour of the uniform differentiated the riders from those of the School of Cavalry who were dressed in blue. Visitors from April to October can enjoy watching displays of dressage, jumping etc for which the Academy is world famous. For more information, tel (00 33) 2 41 53 50 81

Le Musee des Blindes, Tank Museum, Saumur

The museum on rue Fricotelle holds one of the world’s finest collections of military tanks - 200 of which are in working order. The 880 vehicles include many prototypes and examples from Europe and the USA.

In all, there are 12 halls dedicated to a variety of battles and periods including World Wars I and II, cannon hall and a curiosity hall. Enthusiasts can follow the history of these armoured vehicles from 1917 to the present day.

Open every day except Christmas and New Year’s Day; 0930 - 1830 from 1 May to 30 Sept and 1000 - 1700 from 1 Oct - 30 April. Family tickets available and under 7s free. Tel (00 33) 2 41 83 69 95.

Le Musee du Champignon, Mushroom Museum, Saumur

The village of St Hilaire on the outskirts of Saumur has a network of caves cut into cliffs of the easy to cut tufa housing the fascinating Musee du Champignon (mushroom museum).

A cool venue on a hot day, it tells the story of how mushrooms are grown and the history of the area’s medieval network of caves (480km) which produce 75 per cent of France’s cultivated mushrooms. A single cave can yield up to 12 tons in a day!

All sorts of mushroom varieties are grown - both wild and cultivated - and you can taste them, buy them and even eat mushroom-shaped meringues in the museum cafe. Tel: (00 33) 2 41 50 31 55.

Parc Oriental, Maulevrier, near Cholet

Inspired by the fashion for things oriental, the original Japanese garden was built by Alexandre Marcel in the grounds of Chateau Maulevrier at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Left in ruins by 1940 and restored in 1987, the current garden 12km south east of Cholet, covers 29 hectares and is now recognized as one of the best Japanese gardens in Europe complete with bridges and pagoda, temples and a summer house.

See Maulevrier’s Bonsai collection, maples, magnolias and flowering cherries and follow the garden’s symbolic ‘cycle of life’ planned around a peaceful lake. Open every day in July and Aug 1030 - 1930; 15 Mar - 30 June and Sept - Nov 15 open Tues - Sun and Bank Holidays 1400 - 1800; 16 - 30 Nov closes at 1730. Check website for days when the garden is open by night

Montsoreau Chateau

Montsoreau Château is built on an exceptional location at the confluence of the Loire and Vienne rivers.

Made famous by nineteenth century writer Alexandre Dumas as the setting for his novel, ‘La Dame de Montsoreau’, the chateau which once had the River Loire at its feet, was built in the fifteenth century.

Half residence and half fortress, the building was originally 4-sided, flanked by 4 square towers and surrounded by deep moats fed from the Loire. After major restoration work, a visit to the chateau now includes an audio-visual tour on the theme of the Loire.

Open at various times Mar to Nov, including everyday from 1000 - 1900 1 May to 30 Sept . See website in English for opening times off-season and prices.

The town of Montsoreau makes an excellent base for sightseeing in the area.

Fontevraud Abbey

Founded in 1101 by Robert d'Arbrissel, the Romanesque royal abbey of Fontevraud, 13km east of Saumur, is first and foremost a place steeped in history: peopled by memories of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionheart and the Plantagenet King Henry II, or of the Bourbon princesses and haunted by its more recent past as a political prison.

Visit the abbey church with life-like tombstone effigies of the Plantagenet royal family and tour Fontevraud’s ancient cloisters, refectory and kitchens. In 1975, the abbey became a Cultural Centre making it more than just a monument and museum. Now an important centre for medieval archeology, it is also the venue for concerts, lectures and art exhibitions. Open daily June - Sept 0900 - 1830 and Oct - May 1000 - 1730.

Brissac Château

This magnificent château set on the River Aubance rises higher than any of the royal châteaux and boasts furnishings dating back to the Middle Ages. Built in the mid fifteenth century, the 2 towers are now all that remain of the original building as the ornamental main façade between them is part of an incomplete rebuild abandoned in the seventeenth century.

The chateau has been in the Cosse-Brissac family since 1502 and is now owned by the thirteenth Duke. The lavish interior in red and gold contains a wealth of ornate ceilings, beautiful furniture and Gobelins tapestries.

Guided tours daily in July and Aug, and each day (except Tuesdays) Apr-June and Sept & Oct. The chateau has its own vineyard and offers wine-tastings after the tour with possibility to purchase. For more information in English visit

Rochemenier, Troglodyte Dwellings

The troglodyte caves around Saumur are some of the best in France and this unusual museum in the village of Louresse-Rochemenier will certainly amaze and delight adults and children alike.

Rochemenier consists of an underground farming community all carved by hand out of the ancient tufa limestone by peasant farmers in the Middle Ages. Unlike other troglodyte dwellings hewn from the limestone cliffs along river banks, Rochemenier was excavated from flat land.

You can recognise barns, stables, a village oven and even an amazing underground church. Guided tours in English are available or you can just explore on your own. Open Feb - Mar weekends and holidays 1400 - 1800; April - 1 Nov 0930 - 1900; Nov weekends and holidays 1400 - 18.00. Tel: (00 33) 2 41 59 18 15

The Cave of Sculptures

49700 Deneze-Sous-Doue

A troglodytes cave known as the Cave of Sculptures approximately 22km from Saumur where visitors can see hundreds of characters cut in sculptures in the round walls of the cave, tangled up in a gigantic carved cartoon.

These carvings date from around the sixteenth century and were undertaken by an unknown artist. Open April to October daily (except Mondays) 1030 to 1300 and 1400 to 1830. For more information telephone (00 33) 2 41 59 15 40.

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