DEPARTMENT OF LOIRET (45)

Population: 684,561, spread over 21 cantons and 325 communes.

Prefecture: Orléans

Sub-prefectures: Montargis, Pithiviers. 

Specialities: pithiviers (cake), Crottin de Chavignol, Brie de Meaux, Chécy, Olivet (cheeses), Orléans mustard and vinegar, Gien earthenware, wines (côteaux du giennois, orléans and orléans-cléry), andouille de Jargeau, cotignac of Orléans (cake), Pralines of Montargis.

Sport: Orléans Loiret basketball (ProB), US Orléans (football, National1), CJF Fleury LHoiret (handball, D1 women's), Handball club de Gien, US Sarran (handball). 

Events: Orléans Open (challenger tennis), Sabre World Cup (fencing), Olympic Land 2024. 

Festivals: Fêtes johanniques of Orléans (8 May), Saint-Georges Festival in Pithiviers (23 April), Fêtes de la Loire, Fête de la Saint-Fiacre, Archilab (architecture), Set électro (May), Festival Orléans (role-playing games). 

Tourist attractions: La Source floral park, Natural Science Museum and Fine Arts Museum (Orléans), Châteaux of La Ferté-Saint-Aubin, Sully-sur-Loire, Chamerolles, Gien, Domaine du Ciran, Joan of Arc house, circus museum at Dampierre-en-Burly.

Economy: almost 60 pc of businesses are located on the outskirts of Orléans, and 20 pc near Montargis. Three-quarters have fewer than 20 employees. The Loiret has three competitive clusters: Cosmetic Valley, dedicated to the cosmetics and perfume industries, the Electrical Energy Sciences and Systems cluster and Elastopôle (rubber and polymer industry). The department's largest company is John Deere, a manufacturer of agricultural equipment based in Ormes and Saran, with a workforce of 953.

Websites: www.loiret.fr, www.tourismeloiret.com

Km 6

ARDON (POP: 1,170)

This pretty Sologne commune, home to singer William Sheller since 2001, boasts a number of châteaux and manor houses, the most notable of which is the 17th-century Château de Boisgibault.  

Château de Boisgibault

Construction: 1680 to 1829.

History: in 1564, the manor house consisted of a central body flanked by two small towers. Boisgibault, which was quite modest at first, grew to almost 3,000 hectares in the 18th century, before reverting to its original state. Rebuilt in the mid-seventeenth century, it took on its current appearance. The estate reached its peak in the early 18th century thanks to Jacques Charpentier de Mondonville, a wealthy collector of taxes in Orléans. He was succeeded by his son Jacques Charpentier de Boisgibault (1721-1794), adviser to King Louis XV. The Charpentiers added the two wings and the farmyard outbuildings. They renovated the salons and fitted out the chapel. Boisgibault was bought by Marie Jean Maurice Goujon, Marquis de Gasville (1790-1865), in 1829. The receptions he held there were renowned throughout the country. The château now belongs to the De Mathan family.

Characteristics: this is a fine example of a Sologne residence built for hunting. Two outbuildings have been added to the original dwelling, flanked by two turrets topped with pepper roofs, adjoining the two pavilions.

Listed as: historical monument since 2001.

Km 11.8

JOUY-LE-POTIER (POP : 1,570)

Like many communes in the Sologne region, Jouy boasts a number of châteaux and manor houses, the most notable of which is Château du Lude.  

Château du Lude

Construction: 13th to 19th centuries.

Style: medieval, Renaissance, neo-classical.

History: with its facades, each in a different style, Château du Lude bears witness to the evolution of French architecture since the Middle Ages. It is one of the last great châteaux of the Loire to have been inhabited by one family for over 250 years. Its origins date back to the 10th century. The imposing towers, moats, vaulted underground passageways and masonry defensive spur remain from the Middle Ages. In 1457, the castle became the property of Jehan de Daillon, chamberlain to Louis XI. His descendants commissioned Italian artists to convert the fortress into a residence of pleasure during the Renaissance. The château was visited by Henri IV, Louis XIII and the Marquise of Sévigné, until the Daillon line died out in 1685. In 1751, the château was sold to Joseph Julien Duvelaer, a member of the Compagnie des Indes. During the reign of King Louis XVI, his daughter commissioned architect Vincent Barré to build the east wing, a pure example of 18th-century neo-classicism. Le Lude now belongs to their descendants, the de Nicolaÿ family.

Characteristics: a wealth and diversity of styles characterise the château, both on its walls and in its interior decoration, from the Renaissance gallery to the Louis XVI salons. The most remarkable feature is a studiolo or painting room, located in the former flats of the Duchess of Daillon and dating from the 16th century. The small room is decorated with murals and a ceiling of grotesques, attributed to painters of the Raphael school. It is a unique example of an Italian-style studiolo in a French château.

Listed as: historical monument since 2002.

Km 19.3

LIGNY-LE-RIBAULT (POP: 1,250)

The village is home to one of the few working brickworks in Sologne, the Bretèche tile factory. It still has an old, disused brick kiln dating back to 1890. The kiln and dryers, dating from the late 19th century, have been listed as historical monuments since 1999. Ligny, like its neighbours, is home to a number of châteaux and manor houses, including Château de Bon-Hôtel, a Renaissance-style hunting lodge built at the end of the 19th century. It has been a listed building since 1991.

DEPARTMENT OF LOIR-ET-CHER (41)

Population: 331,915, spread over 15 cantons and 267 communes.

Prefecture: Blois (Pop: 46,086).

Sub-prefectures: Vendôme, Romorantin-Lanthenay

Specialities: Tarte Tatin (Lamotte-Beuvron), PDO goat's cheese (Selles-sur-Cher), PDO wines (Touraine, Cheverny, Coteaux-du-Vendômois).

Sport: Marie-Amélie Le Fur (Paralympic champion, 8 medals including 2 gold), Romain Feillu (cycling).

Events: ADA Blois Basket ADA Blois Basket 41 (Pro A), Tour de Loir-et-Cher (cycling, April), Blois tennis Open, Game Fair, international hunting and nature show at the Federal Equestrian Park in Lamotte-Beuvron, Generali Open de France (horse riding).

Festivals: International Garden Festival (Chaumont-sur-Loire), Promenades Photographiques (Vendôme), Rendez-vous de l'Histoire (Blois, October), BD Boum (Blois, November), Jazzin' Cheverny, International Folk Festival(Montoire-sur-le-Loir), Rockomotives (Vendôme).

Attractions: Part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, Loir-et-Cher boasts four of the most famous châteaux in the Loire Valley: Blois, Chambord, Chaumont-sur-Loire and Cheverny. The Beauval ZooPark, ranked as one of the four most beautiful zoos in the world, is another of the department's jewels.

Economy: tourism (including top-of-the-range accommodation, 5 Michelin-starred chefs, etc.), agriculture, winegrowing, precision and high-tech mechanics, logistics transport platforms.

Website: https://www.my-loire-valley.com/visiter-loir-et-cher/

Km 26.7

VILLENY (POP: 490)

The village is known as "deer country", and deer can indeed be seen in the surrounding Sologne forest. The village is home to a House of Deer, which recounts tales and legends about the deer, its biology, its bark, the births and rearing of its young, the fall and regrowth of its antlers, the deformities that can appear on its antlers, its footprints and how to determine its age. It is also possible to observe it in the forest paths of the municipality, but to have the chance to see it you must remain discreet, favour the morning or evening hours and be lucky.

Km 37.2

NEUNG-SUR-BEUVRON (POP: 1,260)

Motte de Condras, a Gallo-Roman monumental complex built on an ancient oppidum, has been listed as a World Heritage site since 1979. The site, occupied from the 1st to the 4th century, includes an ancient theatre. Typically Solognese, the commune boasts a number of châteaux and manor houses, the most famous of which are Château de Villebourgeon, where L'École buissonnière was filmed, and Château de Villemorant, which belonged to the Central African emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa and is now home to the community of communes.  

Château de Villebourgeon

Construction: 17th century.

Style: Louis XIII

History: the site was occupied by monks as early as the 12th century and the original manor house dates from the 15th century. The current château was built by the Nicolas Gontault family. It passed to the Baguenault family in 1741. The Baguenault de Villebourgeon family sold it to Marquis de Lasteyrie in 1820, before it passed to Robert Constant Bouhier de L'Écluse, a French lawyer and politician, whose heir is the current owner.

Trivia: it was in this castle that Nicolas Vanier's film L'École buissonnière (Skip School), starring François Cluzet, was shot in 2016. A chapel was built for the film, which the owner has kept as a souvenir.

Km 48.9

MILLANÇAY (POP: 710)  

Château de Marcheval

Construction: 15th and 17th centuries.

Style: classic.

History: a castle was built at the end of the 15th century. It was flanked by four towers with a drawbridge. In 1678, the estate was bought by Louis Prondre de La Sibilière, grand bailiff of the French artillery, who had a château rebuilt "in the style of Versailles". During the Revolution, Marcheval was confiscated. Mario Rigaud bought it in 1955. He had the facades and roofs listed as Historical Monuments in 1976, followed by the southern part of the site in 1977.

Characteristics: this is a large building with seventeen white stone and pink brick crossbeams and two wings doubled by the outbuildings. The centre of the south facade forms a projection topped by a triangular pediment bearing the coat of arms of the Lord of Marcheval. It has a courtyard, a forecourt, a drawbridge and two turrets at the corners of the moats. The lower courtyard comprises three large buildings housing the coach house, bakery, laundry, stables and barns.

Trivia: renowned for its hunting, the Marcheval estate welcomed Marshal de Mac-Mahon on a visit in 1883. It is said that the cork from a bottle of champagne hit him in the nose on this occasion.

Listed as: historical monument since 1976 and 1977.

Km 56.4

ROMORANTIN-LANTHENAY (POP: 18,120)

Romorantin, the capital of Sologne, would have had a different destiny had Leonardo da Vinci, commissioned by Louise de Savoie in 1516 to turn the town into a modern Rome, or even a new capital for France, been able to see the idea through to the end. The death of the painter and inventor in 1519 put an end to this crazy project. Romorantin has remained a sub-prefecture of the Loiret region, for a long time the flagship of the cloth industry (Normant factory), then home to the Matra factory, which built the Renault Espace. However, the town has retained its industrial fabric, as well as a military airbase. Romorantin has preserved a fine Renaissance heritage from this rich past, with several houses linked to King Francis I, as well as an industrial heritage with the remains of the Normant factory and a museum dedicated to the Matra firm, which opened in 2000. The town has featured on the route of the Paris-Corrèze race (Baden Cooke won in 2002) and the Tour du Loir-et-Cher (André Greipel won in 2004) but has not seen the Tour de France since 1966! 

Hôtel Saint-Pol (Francis I House)

Construction: 16th century.

Style: Renaissance.

History: According to tradition, Francis I was hit on the head with a burning firebrand from one of the windows of this house on 6 January 1521.

Characteristics: early 16th-century house with a stone and brick street facade. The facings feature large lozenges formed by green glazed bricks that match the ordinary brick used for the infill. On the second floor, there is a projecting turret that must once have started on the ground floor and housed the staircase.

Listed as: historical monument since 1912.  

Town Hall

Construction: 19th century

Style: neo-classical, orientalist

History and characteristics: the history of the Normant family is intertwined with that of the Romorantin cloth industry. The factory closed in 1969. The water tower in the grounds of the former mansion bears witness to the bourgeoisie's continuing taste for chinoiserie around 1900. The study on the second floor is decorated with painted canvases and murals. Many of the details reveal the influence of writings on China and collections of ornaments published since the end of the 18th century. This garden factory is the most picturesque remaining in the landscaped garden surrounding the mansion built between 1875 and 1880 by Lionel Normant, the descendant of a family that grew rich in the cloth industry and became the town hall.

Listed as: historical monument since 1994. 

Km 75.6

MENNETOU-SUR-CHER (POP: 875)

Famous for its andouillette, celebrated each May with a fair, Mennetou is a pretty medieval village that has preserved a significant heritage from its past. Joan of Arc is said to have stayed here in 1429 on her way to join Charles VII in Chinon. The medieval enclosure was built in the early 13th century under the reign of Philip II and the lordship of Hervé II de Vierzon. The village still has three square entrance gates, three round defensive towers and fragments of the surrounding wall from this period. These fortifications are listed as Historical Monuments. The village's streets and lanes, with their evocative names (rue des Trois-Rois, d'Enfer et de Paradis, etc.), are lined with 15th and 16th century houses. The village still boasts a 13th-century Angevin Gothic tithe barn, as well as part of the Benedictine priory established in 1206.  

Ramparts

Construction: 12th and 13th centuries.

Style: medieval.  

History and characteristics: the enclosure was built during the reign of Philip II and under the seigniory of Hervé II de Vierzon. It was pierced by four square gates, one at each point of the compass. The north, south and east gates have been preserved. Five round towers are located on the curtain walls. The moat has been filled in. To the south, the Cher river formed a natural defence. The ramparts were probably partly dismantled after the wars of the League.

Listed as: historical monument since 1913.

Km 77.9

CHÂTRES-SUR-CHER (POP: 1,120)

This village on the banks of the Canal du Berry got into the blues spirit in 2017, creating a House of Blues where the big names in the genre perform, and a European Blues Museum dedicated to this form of music. The museum is sponsored by Bobby Rush, one of the great names in blues and winner of several Grammy Awards. Châtres-sur-Cher is also the birthplace of Roger Tallibert (1926-2019), architect of the Parc des Princes, the Stadium Nord in Villeneuve d'Ascq and the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. 

DEPARTMENT OF CHER (18)

Population: 300,174

Prefecture: Bourges

Sub-prefectures : Saint-Amand-Montrond

Surface area: 7,235 km2

Specialities: Easter pâté, potato pancakes, donkey's neck eggs, green lentils from Berry, Chavignol crottin, AOC wines from Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, Quincy, Reuilly, Châteaumeillant.

Sport: Tango Bourges basketball (women's league, 14 times French champions, 3 times Euroleague champions), Signature car racing team (2 wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 2016 world endurance champion)

Festivals: Printemps de Bourges (chanson), Festival de l'Air du Temps (Lignières), Franco-Scottish Festival (Aubigny-sur-Nère).

Sights: Saint-Etienne's Cathedral in Bourges, Jacques-Coeur Palace in Bourges, Noirlac Abbey, Château of the Stuarts in Aubigny-sur-Nère, Château de Maupas, Château des Senteurs in Blancafort, Gallo-Roman amphitheatre in Drevant, Pyramid barn in Vailly-sur-Sauldre, bastioned fortress in Montrond, Belfry or Clock Gate in Dun-sur-Auron, Nançay radio astronomy station.

Economy: industrial and military tradition (702 air base in Avord, MBDA -European missile manufacturing group-, Nexter -land armaments-), precision engineering, services, tourism, luxury goods, food industry (Monin syrups, Rians/Triballat dairy, Mercier chocolate factory).

Websiteswww.departement18.fr / www.berryprovince.com

Km 89.2

VIERZON (POP: 17,000)

In 2021, the Cher sub-prefecture hosted the start of a stage of the Tour de France bound for Le Creusot, where Matej Mohoric won solo. A former flagship of the textile, porcelain and agricultural machinery industries, Vierzon is also the home of Edouard Vaillant, a leading figure in the Paris Commune, and has been involved in all kinds of social struggles. Today, it is a bastion of digital technology thanks to Ledger, which has made Vierzon its main base. Although Vierzon has never hosted a Tour finish, it has hosted Paris-Nice three times, each time crowning prestigious winners: Eric Leman in 1972, Alejandro Valverde in 2012 and Dylan Groenewegen in 2018. In 2010, Taylor Phinney demonstrated his qualities as a rouleur by winning the prologue of the Tour de l'Avenir. Since 1949, the Paris-Chalette-Vierzon race has been held here every September, with riders of the calibre of Jaan Kirsipuu and Tony Gallopin among its winners. The hero of local cycling was Jean Graczyk, winner of five stages of the Tour in 1959 and 1960 and double winner of the points classification in 1958 and 1960. "Popoff" also won five stages in the Vuelta. Vierzon is also the home of a French cycling dynasty, the Meunier family. Georges Meunier, who died in 2015, was a great cyclocross rider who won two stages in the Tour de France in 1951 and 1953 and finished 9th overall in 1950. His two sons, Jean-Claude and Alain, took over from him and both won Paris-Vierzon before both of them died prematurely. Alain's son Nicolas, born 8 months after his father's death in the race, took up the torch by racing for Big Mat Auber during the 2002-2003 season, and was crowned French points race champion. Another Vierzon native, sprinter Marc Sarreau, wears the colours of Groupama-FDJ.  

Ancienne Société Française B3 museum

Built at the end of the 19th century, the industrial buildings of the former Société Française ceased all activity in December 1995. Built using "Eiffel" techniques, the site has been listed as a historical monument. It is currently being restored, and already houses a bowling alley and the Vierzon Museum. It has a rich collection of porcelain, glass, stoneware, clothing and agricultural machinery. It also has a large collection relating to the history of the railways in France and in Vierzon. Vierzon's heritage is on display in an exhibition area of over 600m², with regularly changing themes.

Canal de Berry

Canal de Berry, opened to navigation between 1829 and 1841, stretches over 320 km. It is the narrowest and one of the longest canals in France. It had its heyday at the very end of the 19th century, when traffic reached more than 1.6 million tonnes of goods each year, but the decision to build a small-gauge canal soon limited its ambitions. The canal's history is worth visiting for the beauty of the landscapes it crosses, the complexity of the engineering structures built and the hopes it still inspires today. In its new version, the brand new Berry Cycle Canal is a greenway that will soon link Tours to Montluçon.

DEPARTMENT OF INDRE (36)

Population: 220,595, spread over 13 cantons and 241 communes.

Prefecture: Châteauroux (Pop: 43,400).

Sub-prefectures: Le Blanc, La Châtre, Issoudun.

Surface area: 6791 m²

Specialities include Berry pâté, potato galette, œufs à la couille d'âne (eggs poached in red wine), poirat (pears and pepper cooked in a pie), tarte aux barriaux (a Berry speciality with black plums), Berry green lentil cream with truffles, carp chips (speciality with carp from the Brenne), black hen of Berry, Reuilly wines, Valençay wines, cheeses (pyramid of Valençay, pyramid of Pouligny-Saint-Pierre)

Sports: La Berrichonne (Football, Basketball); National 1 and National 3 teams at Le Poinçonnet, CNTS Shooting Club, Departmental house of sports. Ligny and Eguzon leisure centres, lake Bellebouche and lake Belle-Isle offer water sports and leisure activities.

Festivals: DARC (Dance, Art, Rhythm, Culture) International Stage-Festival, Le Son Continu Festival. Gargilesse Harp Festival. Pentecost in Berry Festival at La Grange aux Pianos, Chassignolles, La Prée Festival at Ségry.

Tourist sites: Maison Jour de fête-Jacques Tati, Argentomagus Museum, Saint-Roch Museum, Haute Touche Reserve, Brenne Nature Park, Nohant - George Sand's House, Valençay Castle, Lower-Berry Train in Ecueillé, Poulaines Gardens, Bouges Castle, Notre-Dame de Déols Abbey, Brenne Nature Park, Brenne Nature Reserve of Haute Touche, Saint-Valentin (the lovers' village), Saint-Roch hospice museum in Issoudun.

Economy: Development of niche SMEs: Vigean oil mills, Noiseraie Production, PDO cheeses / PDO wines / Label Rouge for the Berry Green Lentil. Home and building equipment: Balsan, France Parquet Production Innovation (FPPI), AMCC, Beirens... Logistics and transport, national platforms including the Vivarte group. Establishment or maintenance of major companies: Louis Vuitton (leather goods and luggage), Bodin Joyeux and Maroquinerie Rioland (top-of-the-range leather goods), etc.

Websites: www.indre.frwww.berryprovince.comwww.indreberry.frhttps://www.facebook.com/IndreenBerry/ / Twitter @Indre36https://www.instagram.com/indre36/

Km 110.4

REUILLY (POP: 2,000)

The town is famous for its wine and for the Reuilly appellation. It was awarded the appellation d'origine contrôlée for white wines (made from Sauvignon Blanc) in 1937 and for red and rosé wines (made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris) in 1961. Annual production is around 8,000 hectolitres. It was in Reuilly that airman Yves du Manoir died on 2 January 1928 at the controls of his Caudron 59, aged 23. The former rugby international gave his name to many stadiums, including the one in Colombes, outside Paris. Reuilly cemetery is also the final resting place of anarchist Marius Jacob (1879-1954), whose colourful life inspired Maurice Leblanc to create the character of Arsene Lupin.    

Yves du Manoir

Yves du Manoir (1904-1928) was a French rugby player and member of the Racing Club de France. Particularly brilliant at fly-half, he was quickly selected for the French team in 1925. Fans agreed that he was the best French player. After graduating from the École Polytechnique, he entered the École de l'Air in Bourges. On 2 January 1928, while taking his final test for his pilot's licence, his plane crashed near Reuilly, killing him. His name was given to the Yves-Du-Manoir Olympic rugby stadium in Colombes, just outside Paris. This stadium hosts his former club's home matches. It was here that the Five Nations Championship was played until the 1970s. Other stadiums, such as that of Montpellier rugby club, bear his name. A French rugby union competition, the Yves du Manoir Challenge, was named after him between 1932 and 1996. It was the rugby union equivalent of the French Cup.

Km 125.4

ISSOUDUN (POP: 11,000)

Popularised by Balzac, who used it as the setting for his novel La Rabouilleuse, Issoudun's history is marked by its military past. A stronghold since Roman times, Issoudun and its keep, Tour Blanche (White Tower), were the focus of a bitter struggle between Richard the Lionheart and Philip-Augustus, who took it in turns to strengthen the fortress. Issoudun finally came under French control in 1200. The town subsequently prospered thanks to agriculture and leather goods. But in 1790, the Revolution chose to make Châteauroux the prefecture of the Indre department. From then on, Issoudun became a peaceful garrison town. With a front-row seat during the Second World War, Issoudun was one of the few towns to receive the war medal for its acts of resistance. In 2009, a stage of the Tour de France ended in Issoudun with Mark Cavendish winning the sprint. Issoudun was also home to one of France's finest track and field riders of the 2010s, Kevin Sireau, Olympic team sprint silver medallist in Beijing and London. Another native of Issoudun, Morgan Lamoisson, a professional from 2013 to 2015, raced a lot on the track with Bryan Coquard. 

White Tower

Construction: 12th century.

Style: medieval.

History: this is the former main tower of the castle, once crowned with hoardings, built at the end of the 12th century by Richard the Lionheart, Duke of Aquitaine and King of England, on an artificial mound in Issoudun town centre. Recently restored, the tower is the setting for a wonderful night-time show dedicated to chivalry, "Les Légendaires d'Issoudun".

Features: 28 metres high, the tower is made up of 4-metre thick walls.

Listed as a historic monument in 1840.

Km 136.7

SÉGRY (POP: 520)  

La Prée Abbey

Foundation: 12th century.

History: La Prée Abbey has lived through three eras: religious, bourgeois and humanitarian. Founded in 1128, it is the oldest Cistercian abbey in Berry. Sold as national property during the French Revolution, it remained in private ownership until the mid-twentieth century. In 1954, it was donated to the les Petits frères des Pauvres charity. Since 1991, it has also been home to an artistic residence set up by the Pour Que l'Esprit Vive association. Musical events have also been held at the abbey in May for the past thirty years.

Listed as: historical monument since 1966.

DEPARTMENT OF CHER (18)

Population: 300,174

Prefecture: Bourges

Sub-prefectures : Saint-Amand-Montrond

Surface area: 7,235 km2

Specialities: Easter pâté, potato pancakes, donkey's neck eggs, green lentils from Berry, Chavignol crottin, AOC wines from Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, Quincy, Reuilly, Châteaumeillant.

Sport: Tango Bourges basketball (women's league, 14 times French champions, 3 times Euroleague champions), Signature car racing team (2 wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 2016 world endurance champion)

Festivals: Printemps de Bourges (chanson), Festival de l'Air du Temps (Lignières), Franco-Scottish Festival (Aubigny-sur-Nère).

Sights: Saint-Etienne's Cathedral in Bourges, Jacques-Coeur Palace in Bourges, Noirlac Abbey, Château of the Stuarts in Aubigny-sur-Nère, Château de Maupas, Château des Senteurs in Blancafort, Gallo-Roman amphitheatre in Drevant, Pyramid barn in Vailly-sur-Sauldre, bastioned fortress in Montrond, Belfry or Clock Gate in Dun-sur-Auron, Nançay radio astronomy station.

Economy: industrial and military tradition (702 air base in Avord, MBDA -European missile manufacturing group-, Nexter -land armaments-), precision engineering, services, tourism, luxury goods, food industry (Monin syrups, Rians/Triballat dairy, Mercier chocolate factory).

Websiteswww.departement18.fr / www.berryprovince.com

Km 153.5

VENESMES (POP: 900)

In the Middle Ages, Venesmes had a collegiate church, razed to the ground by the English in 1267. A pretty little fortress, Château d'Aiguemorte, probably built in its current form during the Hundred Years' War. It must have been part of the Châteauneuf-sur-Cher castle. An association, Renaissance d'Aiguemorte, is working to renovate the castle and create an ecological medieval area.  

Château d'Aiguemorte

Construction: 15th and 16th centuries.

History: the castle was built in the early 13th century for Lord Rolinus de Aquis, a Bourges bourgeois. It is located near the hamlet of Aiguemorte.

Characteristics: the northern and eastern sections of the triangular enclosure have been preserved. A circular turret flanks the south-east corner. Access to the first floor of this tower is via the south curtain wall. The turret is pierced by narrow loopholes. The entrance was through a semi-circular door that opened behind a drawbridge over the moat. This gateway was defended by a brattice, of which only three corbels remain. The western curtain wall has been destroyed. The north curtain wall has been replaced by residential buildings.

Listed as: historical monument since 1926.

Km 156.6

CHÂTEAUNEUF-SUR-CHER (1 400 HAB.)

Châteauneuf est divisé dès le XIIIe siècle en deux villes. Celle du promontoire rocheux, ou ville haute, est protégée par l’enceinte de murs et de fossés du château. La ville basse est installée au point de passage à gué sur les îles formées par les méandres du Cher. La fondation du chapitre de chanoines en 1267 est favorisée par la destruction de la collégiale de Venesmes par les Anglais. Au XVIe siècle, Châteauneuf est une ville où prospèrent les marchands de draps et de laines. À partir de la fin du XVIIIe siècle, la production de la ville est presque exclusivement tournée vers le tissage de la laine. De moins de mille habitants pendant la Révolution, la population triple en 1861. Dans la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle, une tuilerie-briqueterie est installée à Vilatte. Jusque dans les années 1950, Châteauneuf est au centre d'un commerce local important, avec notamment la filière du bois, le négoce et la distillation des vins des vallées du Cher et de l'Arnon, ainsi que les chaux de Corquoy. Depuis 2008, Châteauneuf dispose d’un important complexe dédié aux sports d’eaux vives.

Basilique Notre-Dame des Enfants

Construction : 1869 à 1886.

Style : néo-gothique.

Histoire : la basilique de Châteauneuf-sur-Cher est le seul édifice religieux en France à être dédié aux enfants. En 1861, l’abbé Ducros découvre une église en ruine et lance une souscription auprès des enfants de France. Les dons affluent ainsi que de nombreuses lettres. Dans l’une d’elles, une petite fille de dix ans évoque pour la première fois "notre Dame des Enfants". L'idée est adoptée et est créée en 1866 la confrérie Notre Dame des Enfants. En 1869, la première pierre est posée et en 1879, la basilique est ouverte au culte. En 1886, l’édifice est achevé et dix ans plus tard, le pape Léon XIII l’érige en basilique.

Caractéristiques : longue de quatre-vingts mètres, elle est haute de vingt et un mètres sous les clés de voûte ; sa grande nef est bordée de deux rangées de colonnes élancées et comporte onze travées. La basilique est prolongée par la chapelle Notre-Dame des Enfants.

Signe particulier : le portail est orné de vingt-et-une statues de saints liés à l’enfance.

Classement : Monument historique depuis 1983.  

Le château 

Construction : XIe et XVIe siècles.

Style : Renaissance.

Histoire : dans les années 1037 et 1038, le château, nouvellement construit sur un promontoire rocheux et escarpé de la rive droite du Cher, est l’enjeu d’un conflit qui oppose Eude de Déol à Geoffroy, vicomte de Bourges. Jusqu’au début du XIIIe siècle, le château reste acquis aux Déol puis passe à la famille des Culan. Les corps des bâtiments actuels sont l’œuvre des L’Aubépine vers 1580. Le château devient par la suite la résidence du marquis de L’Hôpital, ambassadeur du roi en Russie. En 2001, le château est vendu à un promoteur immobilier qui dévaste l’intérieur avant de faire faillite. Il est restauré depuis 2015 par ses nouveaux propriétaires, bien décidés à lui rendre son aspect d’origine.

Classement : Monument historique depuis 1926.

Km 177.2

BRUÈRE-ALLICHAMPS (POP: 570)

Bruère-Allichamps is one of seven communes claiming the title of centre of France.  

Noirlac Abbey

Foundation: 12th century.

History: founded in 1136, thanks to a donation from Ebbe VI de Charenton, by a small group of monks from the abbey of Clairvaux (Burgundy), it was then called Maison-Dieu and only took the name of Noirlac (because of the pond that bordered it) in 1290. It is an emblematic monastery of the Cistercian order. A symbol of the ideals propagated by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century in over 700 Cistercian abbeys in Europe, it is one of the best-preserved monastic complexes in France, thanks to the restoration work undertaken by the Cher Department Council.

Characteristics: the buildings are arranged around the four-gallery cloister, reserved for the monks, which gives access to all the buildings intended for them. Beyond the buildings grouped around the cloister are the outbuildings (which today house the ticket office), the cemetery (which has disappeared), the gardens to the east, and the old entrance, incorporated into the small village. The current cloister dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. The church was built according to the needs of the Cistercian liturgy. The choir is shallow, with a single altar, a flat chevet and two side chapels opening onto the transept. The nave was used for the monks, the infirm, the sick and the convers; the aisles were reserved for guests and servants.

Special features: modern stained-glass windows by French artist Jean-Pierre Raynaud.

Listed as: historical monument since 1862.

Orléans

Orléans liegt an der Loire und ist eine Stadt, in der Geschichte und Moderne aufeinandertreffen. Bei einem Spaziergang durch das Stadtzentrum treffen Sie auf zahlreiche historische Wahrzeichen, darunter die bekannte Statue der Johanna von Orléans – ein Symbol für den Widerstand und den Mut von Orléans. Die Brücken der Stadt, die die Loire überqueren, bieten perfekte Aussichtspunkte, um das Panorama der Stadt zu bewundern.

Die königliche Kathedrale von Orléans gehört zu den Sehenswürdigkeiten der Altstadt, während der belebte Place du Martroi mit seinen gut besuchten Cafés und Geschäften die Bühne ist, auf der sich die lebendige Energie der Stadt entlädt.

Wenn es Abend wird, erfüllt die aktive Kulturszene die Straßen im Schein der Straßenlaternen mit Leben, während man in den Bistros die gastronomischen Köstlichkeiten der Region probieren kann. Besuchen Sie Orléans und erleben Sie eine Stadt, die stolz auf ihre Rolle in der französischen Geschichte ist, aber nicht in der Vergangenheit verhaftet bleibt.

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Saint-Armand-Montrond

Saint-Armand-Montrond liegt mitten im Loire-Tal am Zusammenfluss von Cher und Marmonde. Der Ort ist seit prähistorischen Zeiten besiedelt. Heute ist die landwirtschaftliche Produktion das Aushängeschild der kleinen Hauptstadt der Region Boischaut. Saint-Armand-Montrond bietet eine Reihe historischer Sehenswürdigkeiten, wie eine Kirche aus dem 11. Jahrhundert und das Chateau de Montrond aus dem 13. Jahrhundert.

In ganz Saint-Armand-Montrond, das heute vor allem für seine Juweliere und Goldschmiede bekannt ist, findet man Häuser aus dem 15. Jahrhundert.

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