The Loire Valley is full of magnificent towns, and hundreds of vineyards strung along the sides of its rivers, the Loire, Cher and Vienne. We asked the folks who promote wine travel here to tell us what they thought was the most beautiful town to represent the region in the ‘Small Towns, Big Wines’ campaign and they answered, “Chinon.” I couldn’t wait to get to see their selected town and when I got there, I quickly saw why it was chosen.
It starts with a castle–a fortress, really, and this one in Chinon goes back to the Middle Ages. Many of the castles here are not as old, but the well-preserved Fortress that sits atop a high bluff is King Arthur era all the way. It’s perched up high, and down below, the blue Vienne river runs along the town. Inside the Chateau de Chinon there are videos that play the story of what happened here throughout the many rooms you see in the visit. Chinon has caught the world’s eye, in 2000, it was annointed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
On a brilliant sunny morning, we walked through the castle and onto the green lawns that surround the big fortress, looking out to the vast expanse of green vineyards, the lush river valley, and just below the cliff, the preserved ancient village, where the rooftops all still look like the Middle ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. No telephone wires, no ugly billboards, just the monochrome of how things used to look before modern day.
We took a lift down 75 feet from the castle to the village and strolled until we got to the town square. People were happily sitting at the cafes, sipping coffees and taking in the sun. Today about 8000 people are lucky enough to call Chinon home. There is a lovely bridge across the Vienne with graceful arches that reminded me of Chenonceau.
I’m not sure what it is exactly but Chinon is simply one of most perfect towns in France and there is no doubt the folks who chose it got it right!