As various corners of Europe begin to cautiously open up, a note from a colleague in Switzerland who was ambling through virtually empty museums there, reminds us that this is all going to be a very slow, cautious process. Americans, especially, will not be jetting to The Continent in any great numbers in the coming months.
So we thought it a good time point out the virtual touring opportunities for one of our favorite European summer destinations, France’s glorious Loire Valley. Just about a hour southwest of Paris by TGV, it is a land of time-transporting châteaux, lavish cathedrals, ethereal landscapes, and vineyards as far as the eye can see—those which grow the grapes for the Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc wines that fulfill so many of our most Francophilic epicurean desires.
As one might expect, digitally moving through those opulent châteaux alone would make for a long afternoon or evening of riveting escapism. First up is the Château de Chambord, with its striking mix of Renaissance and French medieval architecture (love those turrets), and 426 rooms full of 16th Century aristocratic living; it is surely the most spectacular hunting lodge ever built. To possibly tap into a bit of genius inspiration, the Château du Clos Lucé was where Leonardo Da Vinci lived out his last days, in service to King Francis I.
With its sculpture-filled gardens, Château du Rivau is for cultured sorts, especially considering its provocative mix of classical and contemporary art pieces. But surely the most breathtaking of them all is the Château de Chenonceau, with its magnificent collection of 16th and 17th Century tapestries, and its stunning position above the River Cher.
For those whose cultural purview is more focused on the last fifty years or so, it’s very much worth taking a digital roam through The Contemporary Art Center (CCCOD) in the city of Tours—where the holdings include works by the likes of Daniel Buren, Alain Bublex and Per Barclay.
Of course, the Loire is ultimately about le cuisine et vin. So we strenuously recommend popping the corks on a couple of those aforementioned wines, and whipping up a spread of tarte flambée, confit de canard, and poached eggs au Chinon—so that your virtual touring comes with a savory side of the actual.
For more information on the Loire Valley, visit the France Tourism site.