Northern France’s beautiful UNESCO-listed valley, home to heart-stoppingly beautiful historic chateaux, authentic village life, world-class wines and fascinating troglodytes.
Travel bucket list idea:
Maulevrier Oriental Park
Maulevrier, Pays de la Loire, France|www.parc-oriental.com
This 29-hectare, Edo-inspired Japanese garden was first created in the early 1900s by the noted Parisian architect and fervent Orientalist Alexandre Marcel, and is an unlikely, but welcome surprise in the Loire Valley.
The largest Japanese garden in Europe, with over 300 species, it’s beautifully laid out with rolling lawns, a large lake, sculpted trees, picturesque red bridges, pagoda and shinto shrines, with numerous plants symbolising the different ages of man. There’s also a compelling permanent exhibition showcasing the ancient Japanese art of bonsai.
On Saturdays and some Wednesdays in summer, visitors, armed with Chinese lanterns, can participate in a captivating 1.5-hour guided night walk of the garden.
The park was originally created for the owner of the grandiose Château Colbert next door – now a hotel and a stylish spot for lunch or dinner.
Getting there & doing it
The park is at the western end of the Loire Valley, about an hour’s drive south from Angers, and 2 hours’ drive from Tours.
Tickets are available from the website anytime, but you need to book at least 2 weeks ahead for the ‘Garden by Night’ walk. Unfortunately there are guided tours only in French at the present time.
After a wander, stop for refreshments at the lovely Japanese tearoom onsite.
When to do it
The gardens are open from March to November, and daily from May to September. Closed December to February.
The ‘Garden by Night’ walk takes place every Saturday evening from May to September, and every Wednesday in July and August.
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