Maine et Loire (Regional Attractions)

Département 49, Maine-et-Loire is also known by its traditional name Anjou. It is named after the Loire (the longest river in France, and the Maine, paradoxically a very short river and a tributary of the Loire. The Maine is, however, despite its short length, a broad river formed by the confluence of three other significant rivers, the Sarthe, the Mayenne and the Loir. The Maine is the river which passes through the departmental capital, Angers, and joins the Loire at Bouchemaine, about 9 kilometres to the west.

Angers is a fine city, particularly strong in the Arts. The Musée des Beaux Arts is always worth a visit, house in a beautifully restored historic building. Also unmissable is the Musée Jean Lurçat housing the remarkable tapestry work 'Le Chant du Monde' and other works of modern tapestry. The Musée David d'Angers has an excellent collection of sculpture. The Château, on the banks of the Maine, is an extremely impressive defensive castle, which houses an important tapestry called 'The Apocalypse', a medieval work which inspired Lurçat to working with tapestry.

The Cathedral also provides a magnificent architectural and spiritual venue.

 

As one might expect, France's longest river, the Loire, provides a dominant centrepiece for the department. The proliferation of Châteaux along its banks and those of its tributaries is a wonder, attractin visitors from all over the world. Some of these châteaux are in Maine et Loire and many others in the neighbouring departments. Famous names like Chenonceaux, Chambord, Amboise, Blois, Azay-le-Rideau and Ussé are all within easy visiting range, and in Maine et Loire itself more than a dozen visitable châteaux, including France's, tallest the Château of Brissac-Quincé, just 2 kilometres from our house. 

 

Another attraction featured in the area is the proliferation of Troglodytic dwellings. Even some of the châteaux have rooms carved out of the rock that forms the hills and river banks of Anjou and the Saumurois. You can find many interesting things in local caves: mushroom museum, towns and châteaux of the Loire carved in miniature, troglodytic homes and farms, and, of course, restaurants, serving traditional fouaces (or fouées), akind of bread similar to pitta, filled with rillettes and other local produce.

 

France's second most popular attraction (after the Eiffel Tower) is the Puy du Fou. This is situated in neighbouring Vendée, only 40 minutes from our house on the motorway. It is a historical theme park with dramatic productions performed by hundreds of actors in fantastic settings: a Viking raid, a Roman amphitheatre, a medieval castle... the list goes on.

 

Angers has a unique theme park called Terra Botanica, and a little further away (about 2 hours on the road) is Futuroscope, near Poitiers. The cities of Le Mans, Tours and Nantes are also easily reached, as are the beaches of the Vendée and South Brittany.