The central area of France is perhaps one of the country's most hidden gems. Though largely an agricultural region, this area is also home to a fabulous wine region, with scores of beautiful vineyards, as well as some undiscovered yet fabulous cities, with the Loire Valley boasting some of the most stunning castles from the Renaissance period.
This region is perfect for the active amongst you, with great spots for both water sports (on the Atlantic Coast) and hiking, in the Auvergne region, famous for its extinct volcanos. The Loire Valley is home to some of the most beautiful, and indeed unique, chateaux in Europe, such as the 12th century Château d'Azay-le-Rideau. Additionally, since the turn of the millennium, the area along the Loire river has been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. There is also a new contemporary art movement springing up in this area, heavily influenced by the Renaissance, and there are a number of brilliant art museums dedicated to this.
The region is also home to two exceptional amusement parks: the phenomenal Futuroscope park in Poitiers, dedicated to the interactive exploration of new technology, and the historical theme park Puy du Fou in Vendee, France's second most popular after Disneyland, which makes it a great destination for families.
Food and Dining
The Loire Valley is known as the Garden of France, due to the vast variety of foodstuffs it produces, with vineyards (producing Loire wines, with their fresh, crisp, fruity flavors), cherry orchards and fields of artichokes and asparagus, the produce of which can be seen prominently in the cuisine of the region. The city of Dijon, to the east of the region, is home to the eponymous mustard, used to give a rich, spicy French flavor to all manner of dishes.
You can access this region easily via a number of airports. Clermont-Ferrand and Auvergne share an airport, which brings passengers from across Europe including, in season, the UK, the Netherlands and Portugal. Limoges and Poitiers also have international airports with routes to the UK. If you're getting into Paris, there are plenty of trains available to take you between the capital and most major cities in the region, with tickets starting from just 10 euros.
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