The Loir Valley covers an area of 1,400 square metres situated between Le Mans, Tours, Laval and Angers. The little Loir, a cousin of the larger Loire, into which the river flows, means ‘dormouse’. This conjures a very apt description of the area – sleepy, rolling French countryside, with charming villages and enchanting towns that seem to belong to a past era when life was less busy and complicated. Throughout history been lauded for its gentle style of living. The river was always the lifeline bringing building materials to construct some of the luxuriant chateaux such as Chateau du Lude, grand enough to rival those of the Loire further south. The old paper mills and tanneries along the river bank tell of the old industries that brought prosperity to the area. There are some gorgeous gardens such as the very unusual Vauboin Priory Gardens, otherwise explore nature through the magnificent Forest of Bercy where outdoor activities abound. Food and drink are of prime importance. This is the most northerly outpost of Loire AOC wines which can be enjoyed in the restaurants scattered throughout the region such as Le Moulin de Quatre Saisons in La Flèche, or O in Baugé. Fascinating places to visit include the amazing zoo at La Flèche (you can even stay overnight here in with the animals!), the beautiful painted chapels such as Poncé-sur-Loir and the Apothecary in Baugé which dates back to the seventeenth century. There are some unusual places to stay such as the Hotel Mabille Duchene, a chambre d’hôte owned by antique dealers and where breakfast is served in the stables, or the Chateau d’Hodebert which is classified as an historic monument and set in extensive grounds.