Anjou

Getting to know Anjou (Maine-et-Loire)

 

Today, the Anjou region is known as Maine-et-Loire, with Angers as its administrative centre. Due to its position in the valley of the Loire and its coastal influences, it is never ‘too hot’ or ‘too cold’. It’s ‘just right’. The expression the ‘douceur angevine’ applies not only to the softness of the climate, but to the gentle landscapes and the quality of life. Known also as the ‘Garden of France’, its climate lends itself to agriculture and the area has become the leading horticultural region in France. This is a great plus for visitors. You get to taste all the best seasonal produce: apples, asparagus, mushrooms, blueberries, blackcurrants, cucumbers... and much more.

A temperate climate also means beautiful blooms, so the region is bursting with colour for much of the year. It is France’s top producer of potted plants, bedding plants, ornamental shrubs, hydrangeas and lilies of the valley.  Visitors benefit from an abundance of parks and gardens and France’s first plant-based theme park, ‘Terra Botanica’, where you can learn all there is to know about plants as you are entertained. 

Terra Botanica  © G.Arnaud

 

The climate is perfect for growing grapes, resulting in some of the most prestige appellations such as the AOC Savennières, Coteaux de l’Aubance and Anjou Village Brissac. Wine tasting opportunities galore! One of the most pleasant surprises is the sparkling wine production focused around the fairytale château town of Saumur. Houses like Bouvet-Ladubay, Ackerman and Gratien et Meyer produce some fabulous sparkling wines, white, rosé and even red, which are equal and even sometimes superior to champagnes. Luckily for you, they are often half the price!

The area is, of course, defined by the majestic Loire river which flows for 130 km through Anjou. There is so much leisure activity linked to the Loire that you could spend your whole holiday ‘messing about’ on the river: fishing, boating, kayaking, canoeing and swimming are just a few examples.

The Loire Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to many spectacular châteaux, manor houses, churches and abbeys which chart the history of France. A trip to the magnificent Abbey at Fontevraud shows how closely the histories of France and Britain are interwoven; the church houses the tombs of three English royals: Henri II, Richard the Lionheart and the famed Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Fontevraud Abbey © S.Bonniol-Visuelles

 

Angers is the capital of Anjou: this cosmopolitan city is buzzing with life and history. The imposing château and its 17 enormous towers look foreboding enough to ward off any attack, which is just as well as the priceless ‘Tapestry of the Apocalypse’ is hidden behind these walls. A truly awesome sight, it is over 103 metres of medieval tapestry which tells a great story. The city is very ‘green’ with no less than 40m2 of parkland per inhabitant.

Cholet shows another face of Anjou and pays homage to its textile heritage with ‘The Musée des Métiers de la Chaussure’ (shoemaking-trade museum), featuring more than 1,000 models of footwear. All shopaholics will want to visit Marques Avenue, a factory outlet with over 80 brands selling at discount prices.

Saumur, although smaller, has a fairytale castle and is home of the famous French cavalry the Cadre Noir who put on amazing displays throughout the year. Saumur is also famous for its troglodyte caves. Quarried out of the limestone cliffs, originally to provide the white stone for the world-famous châteaux and manor houses in the area, the caves are now used as dwellings, restaurants and even B&Bs!

Château of Saumur © D.Drouet

 

There is so much that the Anjou region has to offer no matter what your age or interests. Once you have visited, you’ll definitely want to keep coming back for more!

For more information: www.anjou-loire-valley.co.uk