On the road
Sub-prefectures: Chinon, Loches
Indre et Loire is more or less the old province of Touraine, rich of an heritage symbolised by the some 80 castles which made the region famous. In the Centre region, it has 610,000 inhabitants, half of them in the agglomeration of Tours, a town of 130,000. Services took over from industry and agriculture, even though the Loire vineyards are among the prestigious in France.
The Indre department takes advantage of its position in the very centre of France and managed to reconcile a preserved environment, a dynamic agriculture and an adaptable industry. A quarter of its 235,000 inhabitants live in the main town of Chateauroux.
Issoudun, with a population of 14,000, is the second biggest town in he department. With 17 pc of its territory covered by forest and a nature park in the Brenne, Indre retained the wild aspect which appealed so much to George Sand. Yet 60 pc of the population work in services while some 14,000 businesses have been attracted by the quality of life and cheap rents. Tourism is also growing fast.
Sub-prefectures: Vierzon, Saint-Amand-Montrond.
Cher, bearing the name of one of the rivers flowing though it, once formed with the Indre department the province of Berry. It is the reason why its inhabitants still call themselves Berrichons (Berry people). Close to the first foothills of Auvergne in the south, to the Loire in the east, the department opens to the Berry countryside to the west and the Sologne plains in the north-west.
Its 315,000 inhabitants work for almost a third in the industrial areas of Bourges and Vierzon but agriculture remains an active and even developing sector. The lovely city of Bourges is in itself a tourist attraction reinforced by the annual Printemps de Bourges, the largest festival dedicated to French chanson.
Km 8 : Esvres
Esvres is a modest winegrowing commune, with only one percent of its soil devoted to vines, but wine made its past reputation. In the 15th century, historians report the presence of Noble Joue, the wine produced in Esvres, at the table of King Louis XI. In the late 19th century, its was still one of the most celebrated vintages in Touraine, earning awards at the 1900 World Fair.
Phylloxera, urbanisation and wars ruined Noble Joue but in 1976, a bunch of winegrowers decided to restore the production and the challenge paid off as Esvres now has 41 ha of vines, including 35 in Noble Joue.
Noble Joué is a dark white wine produced from three "noble" grapes, Pinot gris, Pinot noir and Pinot meunier.
For the past decade, the producers developed another wine only made of Pinot gris, which is collected manually late in the season. The result, called Malvoisie, is a sweet aromatic wine close to what Noble Joue was in ancient times. Noble Joue has been an AOC since 2001.
Outside of the huge cornfields of Beauce, which make it the first cereal-growing region in France, the Centre Region is blessed with a great variety of landscapes and natural lands: forests, ponds, bogs along with the river Loire and its sandy banks lined with woods. The Orleans forest is the biggest in France while thousands of pools and ponds can be found in the Sologne and Brenne areas. This variety depends mostly on the Loire, which flows across the region westwards, and on its many tributaries. Apart from the corn industry the Centre region is renowned for chemistry and cosmetics. The Orleans-Chartres axis has been dubbed Cosmetic Valley because of the number of cosmetic firms based in the area. With its six departments and 18.000 towns, the Centre Region is the 13thmost populated in France with 2.5 million inhabitants. The Loire castles and the light and fruity wines of the Loire valley are also parts of the region's appeal.
Tour de France of the Monuments Nationaux
Tours: Cloister of la Psalette
An elegant Renaissance building.
The Cloister of La Psalette, which means choir cloister, was given this name as one of its rooms was used for practising religious chant in the Middle Ages. The architecture of the cloister which adjoins to the Cathedral of Tours is made up of three galleries built partly in the Flamboyant style and partly in the Renaissance style, of the scriptorium, the old bookshop and of the Renaissance staircase.
Château of Azay-le-Rideau
The refinement of an early Renaissance château reflected in water.
Standing on an island in the middle of the Indre River, the Château of Azay-le-Rideau was built during the reign of François I by a rich financier, Gilles Berthelot, who wanted his fabulous new home to combine the latest technical innovations from Italy and the art of French architecture. The Château is a jewel of the early Renaissance and in the evenings during July and August, its romantic gardens come alive as the setting of the special night tour: “The Magic Mirror”. New! The castle opens the doors to its roof. Come admire the exceptional 16th century roofwork.
Designated world heritage site by Unesco.
2013: partial closure of the monument.
Bourges Cathedral: Crypt and tower
An outstanding example of architecture and a magnificent collection of stained-glass windows.
The construction of the Cathedral of Bourges lasted from the 12th to 14th century. An outstanding example of architecture in terms of its dimensions, construction methods and beauty, the Cathedral also features a magnificent collection of stained-glass windows which date from the 12th to 14th century. The crypt contains the tomb of Duke Jean, a Renaissance burial place, and parts of the 13th century rood screen.
Cathedral designated world heritage site by Unesco.
Bourges: Palais Jacques Coeur
The city home of the famous 15th century financier.
The “Grant'Maison” of Jacques Coeur, financier to king Charles VII, was built in the mid-15th century and is one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic civic architecture in France. The relatively unadorned western facade, built on the Gallo-Roman town walls, contrasts starkly with the richly decorated eastern facade overlooking the street. The Palais Jacques Coeur is a fine example of the Flamboyant style of the late Middle Ages and its attention to the comfort of the inhabitants prefigures the great residences of the Renaissance.
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