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Visiting Montsoreau (49)

Visiting Montsoreau (49)

We visit a beautiful riverside village with a classic Loire Valley chateau and monthly flea markets on the riverbanks.

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As it flows determinedly northwards through the département named after it, the Vienne river goes from strength to strength. It finally slips across into Maine-et-Loire just a few kilometres before uniting with the mighty Loire at Candes-Saint-Martin, one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France. Its near neighbour Montsoreau, just 1km downstream from the confluence, has also been awarded this prestigious accolade, not least since it boasts a mighty chateau, built to defend what was for centuries an important strategic location. 

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The name derives from ‘Monte Sorello’ and was once the stronghold of the Comte d’Anjou’s ally Guillaume de Montsoreau. Throughout the centuries the site has seen some action, and was placed under siege by Henri II Plantagenêt in 1152, although much of what is visible today dates from the 15th century. The man responsible for its largely Renaissance transformation was Jean II de Chambes, Councillor to Charles VII. While still looking fittingly stern and forbidding from the riverbanks, the chateau reveals a mellower, more sensitive side when seen from the upper village, where troglodytic dwellings and neatly tended gardens straggle endearingly up the hillside behind it. During the 19th century, long after its defensive role had passed, the chateau achieved celebrity status when it inspired Alexandre Dumas’ historical novel ‘La Dame de Monsoreau’, successor to the literary (and later film) classic ‘La Reine Margot’.

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Today, after painstaking renovations, the exterior is once again pristine, with a fine Renaissance escalier and bas-reliefs of heraldic arms. You can visit eighteen or so rooms, in which you’ll discover ‘Les Imaginaires de la Loire’, whose family-friendly animated displays celebrate the long tradition of navigation and trade on the Loire, the history of the chateau and its inspiration for the Dumas novel.

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Among Montsoreau’s many other attractions are Sunday markets, particularly the colourful monthly antique and flea markets. Held on the riverbanks, the setting alone is well worth a visit, and you never know what you might chance upon. Prices seem refreshingly reasonable, too, and when you’ve seen and done it all you can rest your legs, enjoy a cool drink at one of the nearby pavement café tables and watch the world go by, both on and off the river.

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Find out more

Château de Montsoreau

Open 1 May-30 Sep 10am-7pm daily.

Passage du Marquis de Geoffre, 49730 Montsoreau (14km upstream from Saumur); +33(0)2 41 67 12 60;
www.chateau-montsoreau.com 

Les Puces de Montsoreau

(2nd Sunday of every month).

The market is open from 9am-6pm. Quais de la Loire, 49730 Montsoreau; +33(0)2 41 51 70 15

Tourist Office

Maison du Parc, 15, avenue de la Loire, 49730 Montsoreau; +33(0)2 41 51 70 22; www.ville-montsoreau.fr 

© Living Magazine - all rights reserved. First published in June 2014.