The Loire Valley, about an hour south of Paris, is known for its wines – mostly a softer, lighter rosé or white but also some vibrant reds – as well as for its castles. You could spend weeks visiting all the wineries and castles – or longer. But be sure to stop in to see the Villandry castle gardens. Villandry (www.chateauvillandry.fr/en/) was built during the Renaissance (mid-1500s) and is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles or so) west of Tours. You can of course drive, but the real beauty is how the entire valley of castles and the river is connected with a well maintained and incredibly well-signed and paved path called “The Loire on Bike” (La Loire à Vélo). A superbly detailed website (www.cycling-loire.com) gives you all kinds of maps and information and the ride along the river and through the countryside is spectacular.

HITT Tip: Enjoy the castle from the outside as you walk through the scientifically designed Renaissance gardens, but forget paying to go inside. The castle folks recommend an hour for visiting the Villandry castle gardens. If you have any kind of interest in gardens, flowers, garden design, or history, or want to spend some time just sitting and mediating a bit to the “douce musique” (gentle music) of the water and fountains, give yourself a solid two hours. The watering system was amazingly advanced with underground systems to eliminate waste and evaporation. The huge vegetable and herb gardens are astounding as is the forest, the “children’s room” and other sections. It was one big “wow.”

Villandry Castle Gardens, Loire Valley, France.

Villandry Castle Gardens, Loire Valley, France.

Heads up! This information on the Villandry Castle Gardens was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.