Châteauroux and its many treasures
Châteauroux - the capital of the Indre département in the centre of France - lies in the marvellous tourism region of Berry-Val de Loire.
Nestling right in the heart of several areas of natural beauty such as the Brenne nature reserve, the Creuse Valley and Champagne berrichonne, Châteauroux is an ideal green tourism destination that also provides cultural, historic and other interests.
For culture vultures and history lovers, Châteauroux offers its famous museum housed in an aristocratic 18th century hôtel particulier and theCordeliers Convent with an impressive modern art collection.
For music lovers, Châteauroux organises Lisztomanias, its much-loved annual music festival every autumn.
If you want to put big city chaos behind you and find peace and tranquillity, Châteauroux can be the jumping-off point for your exploration of the Berry region.
To the west of Châteauroux lies the magnificent Brenne nature reserve - the Land of a Thousand Lakes - with its superb protected flora and fauna. South-east of Châteauroux is George Sand country - the Black Valley - where internationally renowned summer concerts of classical music are held during the Nohant Festival and the Chopin Festival. To the south of the town the Creuse Valley has lovely countryside and picturesque villages. Saint-Benoît-du-Sault and Gargilesse are among the 149 prettiest villages in France.
Levroux, a mediaeval town in Indre around twenty kilometres north of Châteauroux, is a small place with a rich and interesting history. The Museum of Leather and Parchment is worth a visit, as is the old Mégissiers district where artisans still work. Levroux itself is a very lively little town that still holds traditional festivals: the Easter pâté, goats chees and potato pancake fair on Easter Monday, the Florégiales fair in June and the Agriculture Fair on the first Saturday in September.
The Chateau of Bouges near Valençay recalls the Petit Trianon, Marie-Antoinette's Versailles hideaway, and is a perfect example of exquisite 18th century art. Visit its beautiful French gardens, park extending over 80-hectares and the original farmyard containing the stables, tack rooms and a museum of horse-drawn carriages.
Among the treasures of Berry are its many historic villages, romanesque churches, chateaus from every age and 'remarkable gardens', like the garden of the chateau of Bouges, all of which are worth a visit.
The Chateau of Valençay has a big 'Napoleon Maze' and mixes classicism with the renaissance to create a magical atmosphere you shouldn't miss.
Georges Sand once wrote that "this is one of the most beautiful places on earth and no king has a more beautiful park".
Always wanted to sleep in a fortified castle? The chateau of Bouesse just 22 kilometres south-west of Châteauroux is a fully restored mediaeval castle with a huge red tiled roof. Time travel back to the 13th century by spending the night in one of its rooms (all mod cons guaranteed).
The specialities of Berry: simple, robust cuisine
Entrees: citrouillat, a type of pumpkin tart, œufs en meurettes (eggs poached in wine), lumas - the local name for snails, potato pancakes and pâtéberrichon, which is traditionally served at Easter.
Main courses: coq en barbouille and viau au vin, both local specialities, or for a lighter dish try carp stuffed with meat or pikeperch cooked in wine. You'll soon understand how important the wines of Berry, from the six Centre Loire vineyards, are to local dishes.
Deserts tend to be based on garden fruits: apple, pear and cherry tarts, and gouéron which is a sort of apple crepe, or poirat (pear tart).
Or be wicked and crunch on Sablés de Nançay, Croquets de Chârost or Forestines de Bourges, the world's first filled sweet.
Go home with a bottle of the nut oil found everywhere in Berry or a bottle of one of the huge number of different flower and fruit syrups that make Monin an international institution.
From Châteauroux you can visit:
Beauval Zoo - France's top zoo with the largest variety of animals in France - almost 6000 animals including two giant pandas
Chateau of Chambord - the biggest and most prestigious of France's renaissance chateaus and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dive into the François I lifestyle
Chateau of Chenonceau - located in the Centre Val de Loire region and originally crown property before becoming a royal residence, the beauty of this chateau makes it the most visited in France after Versailles
Bourges Cathedral - one of France's most beautiful cathedrals and one of Berry's greatest monuments, this is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The top of the north tower gives an breath-taking view of the town.
The Sancerre-Reuilly vineyards - Reuilly, the wine of Berry, is one of the great family of Centre Loire wines and was certified AOC in 1937. Reuilly's speciality rosé (gris) wines are famous for their very pale pink colour and delicate white peach perfume and are guaranteed to make you a fan from your first sip.
Parc Naturel Régional de la Brenne - over 3 000 lakes make this one of the most important wetlands in continental France, recognised internationally for the riches of its flora and fauna. Over 150 bird species live in the park, including the whiskered tern, the black-necked grebe, the purple heron and the great egret. It also houses France's biggest population of European pond terrapin, the symbol of the park.
Futuroscope theme park - this is the second most visited theme park in France, offering around twenty multimedia attractions based on cinematography and audiovisual techniques and innovative robotics. More than 40 million visitors since it opened its doors in 1987.
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