When to Go to the Loire Valley

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When to Go to the Loire Valley

The best time to go to the Loire region, known as the "Garden of France," may be late spring, when the château gardens start to bloom, or in the fall when the restaurants are all serving the bounty of the local harvest and hunt. The area is greatly affected by its famous river: La Loire is the last great European river left undammed. It is at its best in May and June, when it still looks like a river but, come midsummer, the water level can drop and reveal unsightly sandbanks. The Loire Valley actually divides France in two, both geographically and climatically: north of the Loire, France has the moist, temperate climate of northern Europe; southward lies the drier climate of the Mediterranean, and it is striking how changeable the weather can be as you cross the Loire. Note that the valley can be especially hot and sultry in July and August, when the son-et-lumière shows take place and the tourist crowds arrive. During summer a few hotels and restaurants will be closed for the month of August, but the region's many castles and churches remain open, and refreshingly cool and welcoming inside. October is a good off-season option, when all is mist and mellow fruitfulness along the Loire and the mysterious pools of the Sologne, as the trees turn russet and gold. Fall is also the best time to sample regional specialties such as wild mushrooms and game. On Sunday, when most shops are closed, try to avoid the main cities—Orléans, Tours, Angers.

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