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Lavardin in the Loir-et-Cher department of France is definitely off-the-beaten-path. Situated in the Loir Valley, this valley, as opposed to its nearby neighbour the Loire Valley, is a very well-kept French secret.
Two Rivers: La Loire and Le Loir
Let’s get the two French rivers that are pronounced exactly the same way straight! La Loire and le Loir. Yup. Exactly the same. But not! La Loire is France’s longest river (1006 km/ 625 mi) whose valley is home to some of the most magnificent châteaux (castles) in France. Many people will recognize the town names such as Amboise, Tours, and Chinon.
Flowing very nearby is the smaller river Le Loir. The Loir River, which is 317 km or 197 mi long, is a tributary of the Sarthe River. The Valley of the Loir includes much less well-known towns such as La Flèche and La Lude. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of them. Most people haven’t, including French people!
La Vallée du Loir with its lush countryside, vineyards and sunflower fields also boasts many a châteaux. The Château du Lude is on my list for the next visit to the Loir Valley.
On this August afternoon scooting along on the back of a motorcycle, Lavardin is the destination. It is the only village in the department of Loir-et-Cher to hold the designation of one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France, the most beautiful villages of France.
And beautiful it is.
As you cross the bridge into the small town of Lavardin, the towering ruins of the castle will excite any adventurer’s spirit!
Lavardin with its ruined chateau, very small population of about 250 residents, and winding streets is quiet on this hot August day. Luckily there is one small restaurant, Le Fournil, open with several options to nibble on.
Here’s how to pass a few hours in Lavardin, Loir-et-Cher.
The Château de Lavardin, Loir-et-Cher
This rocky promontory has seen a number of châteaux over the centuries. Originally a fortress was built here in the 11th to 14th centuries and then rebuilt in the 15th century. In 1448, the Château de Lavardin, Loir-et-Cher had the grand privilege of receiving the French king, Charles VII and Agnés Sorel, the first officially recognized royal mistress.
The final straw for the castle was Henry IV. He ordered the castle to be demolished in the 16th century shortly after it had been taken over by members of the Catholic League in 1589.
Climb the hill from the small centre of Lavardin, cross the drawbridge and enter the ruins of the castle. It’s rather mystical pondering the humans and activity that this very site has seen since the 11th century. Explore the nooks and crannies of the castle vestiges and marvel at the sweeping views. This was the perfect location for a fortress to guard Lavardin and the surrounding land.
Standing amongst the ruins, I try to imagine life as it was. Soldiers keeping watch. Families before the fireplaces marked by their crest of three fleur de Lys. Dungeons. A crypt. More lookouts. Crumbling staircases. Magical. Historical.
Today, The Château de Lavardin, a classified historic monument, is home to flocks of pigeons who have roosted on its open ledges and hidden crevices.
May: weekends and holidays
June, July, August, and September: 10 am to noon and 2 pm to 6 pm, except Mondays
October: weekends only
The rest of the year by appointment only: 06•81•86•12•80
The Romanesque Church In Lavardin Loir-et-Cher
The Romanesque church of Saint-Genest is a treasure not to be missed. Although the main door is locked shut, a nudge to the smaller side entrance door is rewarded with access to the interior.
Ancient colourful frescoes (« fresques » in French) cover the church walls. Take in the magnificent Biblical scenes and peruse the pamphlet that explains the mural paintings. Look for the phoenix (a symbol of the resurrection), the pelican feeding her babies (symbol of Christ), and the Weighing of the Souls by Saint Michel. I’m always on the look out for angels and, of course, they are there.
Examine the paintings on the pillars depicting saints such as Saint Jacques, Saint Genest and Saint John the Baptist. Mary is also seen nursing.
These are astonishing works of art in Lavardin Loir-et-Cher. Covered up for years, these frescoes were painted between the 12th and 16th centuries. When medieval painting fell out of favour, they were covered over with plaster. Covered over for more than 300 years, the frescoes were uncovered in the 20th century.
The Gothic Bridge At Lavardin Loir-et-Cher
Cross the bridge into Lavardin Loir-et-Cher but don’t forget to go back and have a good look at it. The tranquil Loir River flows under this 16th-century Gothic bridge with its eight stone arches.
Stroll along the Path of the Poet that follows the Loir and is lined with weeping willows.
Bring a sketch pad, a writing tablet or a fishing rod, or simply your imagination.
Pro Travel Tip: The Path of the Poet refers to the famous French poet, Pierre de Ronsard, who was born nearby in La Possonière Manor, which is open for visiting. Do you know the beautiful roses that were named after Ronsard? Here’s my take on Pierre de Ronsard and his roses!
Hiking By Lavarin Loir-et-Cher
Hike up the trail “Roque aux Biques” which gives unobstructed views over Lavardin Loir-et-Cher while you pass in front of troglodytic caves.
Other Villages Near Lavardin, Loir-et-Cher
There’s no question that France has been around for a long time! Troo, 8 km/ 5miles from Lavarin Loir-et-Cher, is a troglodyte village meaning that cave dwellings have existed here since prehistoric times. Today lovely homes are built into the cliffs. Climb the stairs, visit the gallery and marvel at the views over the Loir valley. It reminds me of the village La Roque-Gageac, a beautiful village in the Dordogne Valley, that also hosted cave dwellers a long time ago!
I hope you enjoy exploring Lavardin, Loir-et-Cher as much as I did.
Until next time,
More Travel Info…
Resources For Other Regions of France:
Normandy is another beloved region of France for locals and visitors alike. Read 19 Wonderful Things To Do in Normandy France to help you plan your itinerary in this region.
Brittany France is on many people’s France Bucket List! Here are 13 Reasons to Fall in Love with Brittany France.
Provence is always a winner. Follow this 7-day itinerary for a great trip.
The Dordogne Valley is a little less-discovered and a fabulous region to plan a holiday.
And a trip to le Pays Basque is never a bad idea! Start here in Biarritz.
My Paris posts will help you get off the beaten path to discover hidden gems and corners in Paris that most tourists never see. Uncover Paris right here. Paris By Season: Spring in Paris – A most glorious time to visit Paris when the magnolias and cherry blossoms are blooming. Have you ever thought of visiting Paris in the fall?