1. Spend a night among the trees in a beautiful wooden cabin. Ecolodges de Loire in Gennes-Val-de-Loire has 4 top knotch wooden cabins perched on stilts in the forest that offer the best of both worlds. Enjoy breakfast delivered to your door in the morning as you wake up to birdsong in the woods.
2. Go out on the river Loire in an old sand dredging boat in the beautiful riverside village of Le Thoureil. If the wind’s in the right direction the sail comes down and you sail the boat as it would have in centuries gone by.
3. Hire a bike and cycle through the lovely vineyards of Saumur Champigny. Stop by and take a look at the walled vineyard of Antoine Cristal, now a historic monument it has vines growing through a series of walls to maximise sun exposure for the grapes. 700km of mapped cycle paths await you.
4. Pack up a picnic and put your walking boots on. The Loire has miles of grassy tracks and forests that take you off the beaten path. Discover the ancient washing places ‘lavoirs’ as you potter from village to village.
5. Spend a day in the lovely city of Angers. Its boutiques, restaurants and the majestic Chateau d’Angers with its medieval tapestry are a delight.
6. Head for Saumur and the National Riding School where if you’re lucky you might have the chance to see the masters of the Cadre Noir at work training their beautiful horses.
7. Visit one of the troglodyte villages. The Tuffeau limestone was quarried for building centuries ago and whole communities lived in the limestone caves. Rochmenier is one such village and gives a fascinating look at how people lived.
8. Discover the amazing sweet wines of the Loire. The best Chenin Blanc sweet wines are unbelievably delicious. Trust me, if you have never tasted a great sweet wine you will be delightfully surprised.
9. Try the local Fouées. Small pieces of dough that were thrown into the fire to test the temperature of the bread oven became one of the Loire’s best known delicacies. Like a puffed up pitta bread, split them and stuff them with goat’s cheese and honey or the delicious pork rillettes that melts into the steaming hot bread. Delicious!
10. Slow down. Don’t try to fit too much in. Stay in a apartment and live like a local. Shop at the markets, grab a coffee at the tabac and watch the world go by. The Loire valley is famous for its gentle pace of life. Both Saumur and Angers have fabulous markets on a Saturday.