Dozens of châteaux dot this verdant river valley southwest of Paris, a region that UNESCO designated a World Heritage site for its cultural monuments that “illustrate to an exceptional degree the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of the Enlightenment on western European thought and design.” The most famous of its castles is perhaps the Château de Chambord, constructed in the 16th century as a “hunting lodge” for King François I. Other Loire towns such as Amboise, Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur and Tours possess châteaux of equal splendor. The region is also celebrated for its superb white wines, with appellations such as Sancerre, Saumur and Touraine among the best known. The most notable red is the Cabernet Franc-based Chinon.

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