In the heart of the Loire Valley, ten minutes from the fortress city of Chinon and the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud, located in a tranquil valley with spectacular views, this renovated, 18th Century stone barn was new to the rental market as of April, 2011. Many of the grand Chateaux of the Loire Valley: Villandry, Chenonceau, Usse, Azay-le-Rideau and Saumur are easy half-day trips. For cycling enthusiasts, we are less than a kilometre from the main bike route through the Loire Valley; and for food and wine enthusiasts, the Loire Valley, is known as the 'garden' of France. We are surrounded by the vineyards of Chinon, Bourgueil and Saumur which produce some of France's finest wines and best values. From its famous chèvre, the mushrooms of the troglodyte caves of Saumur, to the white asparagus grown in sandy Loire soil, the region offers a rich bounty. Your hosts, former restaurant owners from San Francisco, are available to cater meals and conduct local food and wine tours.
Chinon Château: The mount of Chinon was first fortified as a stronghold by Theobald I, Count of Blois in the year 954. In the 12th century Chinon was then independent of the kingdom of France, and was a primary residence of Henry II Plantagenet, Angevin King and King of England. King Henry died in Chinon Castle after being defeated by his sons Richard and John in a rebellion aided by Phillip Augustus of France; he, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their son King Richard the Lionheart were all buried at nearby Fontevraud Abbey. Later, the château was a residence of Charles VII, the Dauphin of France in the early 15th century, when Joan of Arc arrived at the castle, at the beginning of her quest to liberate France from the English on March 8, 1429; it was here that she recognized the disguised Dauphin from amongst his courtiers, a feat which helped to persuade him to accede to her urging to declare himself king and raise an army to liberate France. A visit here is a must for any history buff.
Royal Abbey of Fontevraud: The Abbey was founded in 1100 by Robert of Arbrissel, who had just created a new order, the Order of Fontevrault. The first permanent structures were built between 1110 and 1119. The abbey was a double monastery, with both monks and nuns on the same site. An international success, the order established several 'Fontevrist' abbeys set up in England. Robert of Arbrissel declared that the leader of the order should always be a woman and appointed Petronille de Chemillé as the first abbess. She was succeeded by Matilda of Anjou, the aunt of Henry II of England. This was the start of a position that attracted many rich and noble abbesses over the years, including members of the French Bourbon royal family. In the early years the Plantagenets were great benefactors of the abbey and while Isabella d'Anjou was abbess, Henry II's widow Eleanor of Aquitaine became a nun there. During the French Revolution, the order was dissolved. The restoration of the abbey church was finished in 2006.
Wines of Chinon: The red and rosé wines of Chinon are made from the Cabernet Franc grape, and are typically dry and light to medium bodied and go well with food. In good vintages the red wines can be cellared for 10 years or more. Cabernet Franc grown on the stony terraces of the area tends to be a young wine with dominant notes of blackcurrant and anise. Though typically thought of as lighter wines, reds from good producers and strong vintages can be full bodied and well structured for aging. Their white wines, though lesser known, are quite good and are made from Chenin Blanc. Two of the more noteworthy vintners of Chinon, and well worth a visit, are Bernard Baudry and Charles Jouguet. Wine tours are available through your hosts.