There are so many places to visit and things to do in Central France and its surrounding regions,  that once you have sampled the experience you'll want to return time and time again, each time discovering something different that the area has to offer. This area is the French's best kept secret, and makes a wonderful place for a fun filled family holiday.

To the south west of the Centre-Val de Loire region and at the very heart of France, flourishes a verdant and bucolic destination: the Berry. Without natural boundaries, the departements created by Napoleon cut it in two. The departmental tourist authorities of the Cher and the Indre have decided to help discover the Berry in its integrity, with aim to develop tourism with a human face. The lakes and forests of the Brenne, the meandering valley of the Creuse, the arid hills which produce the wines of Sancerre, picturesque small towns, a unique history, artists, porcelain manufacturers, wine makers, writers such as George Sand and Alain-Fournier, Impressionists delighting in the quality of its light… all have together modelled the character of the Berry inhabitants, the heirs of this tradition of good living, still at the heart of their unspoilt natural haven


BERRY

REMARKABLE GARDENS



Range from the traditional French style of very formal bedding schemes surrounding chateaux to smaller more relaxed planty schemes, Berry Secret gardens are displaying natural beauty. From an artistic garden to medieval and romantic natural settings, Secret gardens offer panoramic views of a generous nature combined with the inspiration and imagination of the gardens’ owners. Berry Secret gardens are enjoying an excellent reputation, maintained by passionate gardeners. 7 gardens are considered “Remarkable” by the Ministry of Culture and Communication for their inventive and daring green settings. Nature lovers will enjoy unique places, alive with music and events all year round: horticultural and botanical events, plant markets, exhibitions, celebrations, classic and jazz concerts…

Gardens of the Château d’Ainay-le-Vieil

Floral Park of Apremont-sur-Allier

Gardens of Prieuré Notre-Dame d’Orsan

Gardens of Drulon

Gardens of the Château d’Azay-le-Ferron

The Garden of George Sand’s estate

Gardens of the Château de Bourges

Gardens of the Château d’Ainay-le-Vieil Following a tempest in 1984 part of the park surrounding the Château d'Ainay-le-Vieil was turned into a rose garden in the style of 17th century gardens. This rose garden now contains around 180 varieties and traces the steps leading to todays modern roses from the early work to produce new rose cultivars. Following this success the owners turned their attention to the four chartreuses (walled gardens) and each of these were planted with a different theme. There is a fruit garden, a herb garden, a garden devoted to meditation and a white garden. The garden opens on hudge lime trees, elegant cottages and the magical White Garden inspired by Sissinghurst, in England. A cascade of falls in series of joint lakes and pounds. In May, the air is fragrant with white and blue Wisteria japonica. By the riverside of Allier, overhung by the castle, the floral park, created nearly half a century ago by Gilles de Brissac, is an astonishing discovery.

Floral Park of Apremont-sur-Allier

Gardens of Prieuré Notre-Dame d’Orsan The Orsan priory was established in 1107 by Robert d’Arbrissel as an off-shoot of the Abbey of Fontevraud. The Orsan gardens are a true architectural gem inspired by medieval tapestries and illuminations. These twelve enclosed gardens combine landscape creation and organic crop production


The Vineyards of Centre Loire


On this ensemble of flavours play the harmonies of the vineyards of Centre-Loire: Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, Quincy, Reuilly, Châteaumeillant and somewhere on the way, the Valençay. Winemaking in Berry developed around the 12th century thanks to the number of priories which furthered the culture of the wine. Today, Sancerre, to name but one, is known throughout the world. These elegant wines draw their character from the flinty and chalky Berry soils. Their depth of personality is a result of restricting yields and careful selection of the grapes. The Sauvignon, a variety celebrated for its richness is the only grape used for the white wines of Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, Quincy and Reuilly, all of which are AOC classed areas. White wine represents about 85% of production. The region's second grape, though not indigenous, is the Pinot Noir used to produce reds and rosés in Sancerre, Menetou-Salon and Reuilly, although some of the delicate Pinot Gris is also grown in the latter. The Gamay is the starting point for the wines of Châteaumeillant, whilst Cabernet Pinot Noir is used for the winemaking of Valençay.


The Berry Sweetened Specialities


The Berry “savoir-faire” is also in hand-made sweetened specialities. Georges Forest, a talented confectioner from the Berry, invented the first filled sweet in the world in 1879. Crunchy and soft at the same time, he christened it the «forestine». At the heart of the old town of Bourges, La Maison des Forestines opened its doors in 1884. Another sweet delicacy of the Berry are the sablés de Nançay, little pure-butter shortbreads. Finally, the Croquets de Chârost, delicious almond biscuits, are typical of the Berry as are the famous massepains d'Issoudun, Balzac’s favourite dessert. All these specialities can be savoured with Monin range of liqueurs. After discovering transatlantic cocktails, Georges Monin developed a new style of spirit to be drunk on the rocks in the American fashion. Far from being traditional liqueurs, they are highly original and distinctive, distilled from lime zest and tropical plants - so original that they remain unique and unchanged. the Berry sweetened specialities Berry region is full of ancient traditions and particular customs. These can be enjoyed at the many local fairs and markets that go on, particularly in the summer.

A French Way Of Life


The land and gastronomy are at the heart of this region and its traditions. Due to the large amount of products available, dishes in the Berry are prepared with appeal and generosity including a wealth of specialities. As a starter the potato galette, the Pâté de Pâques and the citrouillat - puff pastry filled with pumpkin, are very traditional. Then, after a first class river fish cooked in Reuilly, one can try the Berry's typical dish, the "poulet en barbouille", Berry black chicken roasted in red wine with pearl onions and lardons. The Berry green lentil is a genuine local product. Its specific chustnest-like flavour was recognised in 1996 by a “Red Label” classification. For dessert, one might choose between the Cher black cherry custard, an apple gougère from the Brenne or the divine poirat, made with local pears.

A Taste For Goat's Cheese


The highlight of the Berry gastronomic tradition can be found in the breadth of flavours of goat’s cheeses from Valençay, Chavignol and Pouligny-Saint-Pierre. The A.O.C. of Chavignol produces a very celebrated goats' cheese crottin. Pouligny-Saint-Pierre and Valençay also form part of the culinary heritage and their cheeses owe their unique flavours to the local breed of red goats, the richness of the pastures and the skills of the cheese-makers. According to local legend, Valençay goats' cheese was traditionally shaped in the form of a pointed pyramid, like its cousin from Pouligny-Saint-Pierre still is today. Monsieur de Talleyrand, who attached great importance to the quality of his table and personally supervised the dishes served, was expecting a visit from Napoleon returning from his disastrous campaign in Egypt. Upon making a final inspection of the larder, the Prince noticed the cheese board. At the sight of these pretty ash-coated pyramids, his diplomatic heart skipped a beat. So as not to darken the mood of the emperor he drew out his sabre and chopped off their tops – forever.


The Living Heritage Of The Berry


George Sand’s House Aurore Dupin, better known by the name of George Sand, inherited the Château de Nohant in 1821, after the death of her grandmother. In 1822 she married Baron Casimir Dudevant and had two children, Maurice and Solange. She started work as a journalist with the Figaro in Paris in 1831, after separating from her husband. Aurore Dupin became George Sand in 1832, a pseudonym she owed to one of her lovers, Jules Sandeau. Her first novel “Indiana” was greeted with success and started her literary career, opening the way to the great literary circles and salons. In her novels, she expressed the enduring love she felt for the lower Berry with its dark valleys and violet woodlands. George Sand was an original personality, audacious, a woman of letters, of politics, generous, feminist, ecologist, independent and rebellious to the end. In the Château de Nohant, a delightful country residence, little has changed since the time when George Sand entertained Chopin, Balzac, Delacroix, Flaubert and Liszt. All together show the Berry at its most romantic. Her study, her boudoir and her bedroom all celebrate her memory, as do the grounds where she was lain to rest in the small family cemetery. The George Sand’s estate is open to visitors all year round. A tea room await visitors for a lunchbreak.


Epineuil-le-Fleuriel, the schoolhouse of the Grand Meaulnes


Jacques Tati and Sainte-Sévère, a truly long-term friendly story


The celebrated film “Jour de Fête” by Jacques Tati was shot at Sainte Sévère, a pretty village in the Berry region. As a refugee, Tati settled nearby on a farm during the World War II. He promised the inhabitants to return and shoot his first feature, launching Tati's international reputation. The house of “Jour de Fête” takes the visitor back in 1947 to the village of Sainte-Sévère, transformed at the time by the arrival of a film crew for the shooting of “Jour de Fête”. Visitors will go over the event through the look of a child who retained the shooting memories by filming them with a coffee mill. To be seen with family, 3D projections, film set, sounds, special effects offer 70 minutes of laughter and thrills. English versions of audioguides take visitors through the town and different filming locations.


Chateaux


Dramatically overhanging its pretty town on the banks of the Nahon, the Château of Valençay guards the secret memories of its illustrious former occupant: Monsieur de Talleyrand. Its architecture elegantly blends all styles from the Renaissance to the 19th century. In any of the hundred rooms of the château– all furnished in a remarkable fashion from the Regency period, Louis XVI and Empire Style, one can imagine the splendour of the great receptions held “au château” by this intellectual eminence conceiving the Europe of Nations. Charles Talleyrand, diplomat and visionary, Minister and Emperor Napoléon’s councillor, welcomed all the political greats, foreign diplomats and influential women from court in this wonderful setting. The château, one of the largest in France, would appear from its Renaissance style and magnificence, to have been inspired by that at Chambord, its royal neighbour. Its regal dimensions did not alter the finesse of its detail. Nowadays the huge, English-style gardens play host to many animations and attractions : «La Forêt des Princes» is a one-way circuit of 4 km all around the park. Using electric cars the visitor can discover unusual and delightful places around the historic castle. «Le Jardin d’Antonin» is a 600 m2 gardens with more than 300 species of culinary herbs, the visitor has fun trying to guess all the scents. Twice a year, Valençay greets the visitor with its 3 000 candlelights as night falls. Throughout summer, pageants are a wonderful way to discover the castle in its most beautiful settings.


La Route Jacques Coeur,bringing chateaux to Life


Dramatically overhanging its pretty town on the banks of the Nahon, the Château of Valençay guards the secret memories

 of its illustrious former occupant: Monsieur de Talleyrand. Its architecture elegantly blends all styles from the Renaissance to the 19th century. In any of the hundred rooms of the château– all furnished in a remarkable fashion from the Regency period, Louis XVI and Empire Style, one can imagine the splendour of the great receptions held “au château” by this intellectual eminence conceiving the Europe of Nations. Charles Talleyrand, diplomat and visionary, Minister and Emperor Napoléon’s councillor, welcomed all the political greats, foreign diplomats and influential women from court in this wonderful setting. The château, one of the largest in France, would appear from its Renaissance style and magnificence, to have been inspired by that at Chambord, its royal neighbour. Its regal dimensions did not alter the finesse of its detail. Nowadays the huge, English-style gardens play host to many animations and attractions : «La Forêt des Princes» is a one-way circuit of 4 km all around the park. Using electric cars the visitor can discover unusual and delightful places around the historic castle. «Le Jardin d’Antonin» is a 600 m2 gardens with more than 300 species of culinary herbs, the visitor has fun trying to guess all the scents. Twice a year, Valençay greets the visitor with its 3 000 candlelights as night falls. Throughout summer, pageants are a wonderful way to discover the castle in its most beautiful settings


HISTORIC TOWNS AND MOST BEAUTIFUL VILLAGES

The Indre and Berry are both dotted with interesting and lively market towns and picturesque villages, with ancient Romanesque architecture in their churches, abbeys and bridges



Bourges, a wealth of history in the capital of the Berry Dominating the town and its marshlands, the majestic Saint Etienne Cathedral has been on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since December 1992 for its unique architecture. Capital of France during the time of Charles VII, Bourges became a busy commercial center in the 15th century and was graced with the elegant Palace of Jacques Cœur, one of the most beautiful privately-owned French stately homes of the 15th century. Five free-entry museums, the Hôtel Lallement, the Museum of the Best Artisans of France, the Estève Museum, the Berry Museum, and the Schoolhouse Museum, provide ample opportunities for discovering the rich history of the province. A city of light and music, Bourges puts on three grand annual pageants : le Printemps de Bourges, the «Summer in Bourges», and the «Illuminated Nights», a magnificent sound and light circuit that combines culture, tourism, and heritage

Gargilesse-Dampierre, George Sand’s “little Switzerland”

This Berry village - that George Sand was so fond of has played host to many painters all of whom were charmed by the romantic sight of its steeply-roofed houses, clustered harmoniously around the Romanesque church and the castle. The Villa Algira is the tiny house that George Sand used as a place of rest and inspiration. Rated amongst the hundred most beautiful villages in France, Gargilesse still enjoys a wealth of cultural events today that take place in a welcoming, easygoing atmosphere.


Saint-Benoît-du-Sault, a charming medieval city

The little medieval city is perched on a rocky outcrop. It owes its name to the Benedictine priory that was founded here in the 10th century. A tangle of narrow, sometimes sloping alleys tempt the visitor to explore this village that seems as if it has strayed from the Middle Ages. Solid ramparts encircle this old town and its half-timbered houses. Enter a fortified door near the bell-tower to see the church, apse and nave dating back to the 11th century. 15th and 16th century houses with sculpted doors and windows show the city’s prosperity.


Apremont-sur-Allier, a picturesque village surrounded by flowers

Situated on the west bank of the river Allier, Apremont-sur-Allier is considered one of the most beautiful villages of France. The castle became a fortress in the Middle Ages to defend a strategic position on the Allier river and to get a fare from travellers who crossed. Eugène Schneider, the successful entrepreneur renovated his wife’s native village in the medieval local style in the 19th century.The old fortress still maintains five of its 12 or 14 original towers, as well as walls. The castle is surrounded by a flower park in the English style. The garden is notorious for its Chinese bridge and its Turkish pavilion. In the village the Boatmen’s House is located at the place of the old harbour where quarry stones were shipped for the Loire chateaux.


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