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Chinon France Loire Valley Chinon

Chinon France

When you approach the town by car, the Chateau de Chinon looks pretty impressive. It consists of 400m of ramparts and towers on top of a hill above the River Vienne, which from down below inspire feelings of awe. Everything within the ramparts, however, is in ruins and the medieval town below rather touristy, which can leave you with a sense of feeling cheated. However, Chinon has redeeming features, notably a good reputation for wine and easy access to other local chateaux, that make it a worthwhile place to spend some time.


Chinon

The chateau has three parts to it: the Fort St Georges on the east side, Chateau du Milieu in the middle, as the name suggests, and the Chateau du Coudray on the west. In the Tour de l'Horloge above the entrance are several rooms given up to the memory of Jeanne d'Arc, who came here in 1429 to persuade Charles VII to fight the English monarch Henry V who had laid claim to Paris and the French throne. Jeanne recognised Charles amongst the courtiers and, much to their surprise, he agreed to her leading his army up north. The room where this took place is the Salle du Throne or Grande Salle. The Coudray tower has graffiti carved by 13th century prisoners on the walls. The entrance fee is €4.60 and you get a superb view from the ramparts, but don't feel you need to actually go into the castle as it is much more majestic from below, or during the evening when it is lit up.

In the medieval town of Chinon there are two decent museums, the local history Musée des Amis du Vieux Chinon (€2.60) at 44 rue Haute St Maurice, and the Maison de la Rivière (€4) at 12 quai Pasteur, which charts the fortunes of the shipping industry. If you can't wait until dinner you can always try the local Chinon wine in the Caves Peictes, on an impasse near rue Voltaire, which has tastings for €3, but don't confuse this with the kitsch Musée Animé du Vin at 12 rue Voltaire unless you are very short of inspiration.

For hotels Chinon is dearer than other places in the Loire, but the Agnès Sorel at 4 quai Pasteur (02 47 93 04 37) has rooms with beams and some with private river view terraces for €40 80, and also does bike hire. The rue Voltaire is home to some good restaurants serving local dishes, such as La Maison Rouge at number 38 (02 47 98 43 65) with its assiettes Rabelaisiennes, named after the writer Rabelais who was born locally. Alternatively, the place Général de Gaulle has a café atmosphere in the summer with lots of choice.