• Loire chateaux – arrive early and beat the crowds

If you want to really enjoy the big chateaux of the Loire then it’s well worth making the effort to get there early in the morning.  My advice would be to do just one chateau a day – that way you can arrive in good time, relax and enjoy your visit in the knowledge you are not going to be herded around like cattle, go and find a nice spot for lunch, take your time over a delicious meal and then potter during the afternoon away from the crush.  These photos were taken at Villandry last Saturday.  We arrived at 09h30 and it was a pure delight to wander around the semi-deserted gardens.  Just for one moment I could transport myself back in time and imagine what it must have been like to enjoy them as in days gone by.

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The chateau itself is not the main attraction but worth it for the wonderful views over the gardens.

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Vines everywhere.

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The garden of ‘love’!

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Immaculately trimmed box hedging.

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Acres of perfectly mown grass.

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The lime trees around Villandry take 4 full time gardeners 3 months to prune each year.

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Regal creatures – don’t get too close they can be aggressive.

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Perfect spot for a little quiet reflection.

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Lovely free planting in the sun garden.

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Oranges and yellows in the hot garden.

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Not another soul apart from us!

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Looking over the herb garden.

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Oh no – someone else – that’s spoiling my shot!

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Elegant, beautiful and since 2009, organic.

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There is a 3 year rotation on planting to avoid exhausting the soil.

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Lettuces and pansies.

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View from above – lovely and uncluttered with people.

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A closer look at the garden of love.

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A perfect pavilion tucked away in a quiet corner.

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This rather regal dog is keeping an eye on things.

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Half of the plants at Villandry are grown in their own greenhouses.