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Notable Regions of France
France has within its 'Hexagon' an amazing range
of unspoilt landscapes, charming towns and cities, and all
the cultures and cuisines that has made it
the world's most popular destination to travel to,
and for many, to live in.
It has it all, really, in terms of landscapes:
diverse coastal regions, mountainous areas, forests, flat or undulating countrysides; and across those varied lands: 40 000 châteaux (!), with
architectural styles varying greatly from province to province.
40 000 châteaux equates, on average, to one per commune. Although, some communes are devoid of any châteaux, and others can home up to seven!
Many buyers would prefer a château close to Paris, in the Ile-de-France or Normandie regions; or further South, in Provence or Côte d'Azur, famed worldwide by the likes of Peter Mayle or Brigitte Bardot.
However, there are so many more interesting and beautiful regions in France, that it would be a shame not to venture further afield in pursuit of :
one's very own “Vie de Château!”
That is made all the more possible, by the existing travel and communications across the country, which are marked by an excellent rail network, with frequent high speed trains, and an efficient motorway system, backed up by
well-maintained secondary roads, often virtually empty. Not to mention the developing fibre optic network, ideal for a bit of country air 'télétravail' (working from home).
Below is a selection of what we think are some of the more appealing areas, to assist you in your search of your unique corner of France:
Ile de France (Paris Region) :
Departments: Yvelines, Val d'Oise, Essone, Seine et Marne, Hauts de Seine, Val de Marne, Seine- Saint Denis, Paris
Towns: Paris - Versailles - Fontainebleau - Senlis
The Ile de France includes Paris and Versailles and its surrounding areas, as well as the suburbs - those to the West being the most attractive, and therefore most valuable. Here you will find apartments in the cities, of course, but also town houses in built-up areas, and elegant country houses in the countryside in between. Properties have the benefit of being in close proximity to the capital and its international airports, but often have less space and command higher prices. Architecturally, all styles are present, albeit often of a higher level of sophistication.
Departments: Manche, Calvados, Orne, Eure, Seine Maritime
Towns: Deauville - Lisieux - Caen - Bayeux - Alençon
Normandy is a coastal region that sits alongside the English Channel. It displays peaceful, undulated landscape, quite unspoilt once one has left the Ile-de-France (Paris region). It comprises the Pays de Caux, and the Vexin Normand north of the Seine river. Other beacons include the fashionable Deauville area and the Cotentin Peninsula beyond. Normandy has a greater selection of smaller Manor Houses, many of 'colombage' (half-timbered) or beautiful red brick construction.
The Loire Valley :
Departments: Loir et Cher, Indre et Loire, Cher, Eure et Loire, Loiret, Indre
Towns: Tours - Orléans - Chinon
The Loire Valley is reputed for its historic chateaux and towns, such as Orléans, Blois, Tours and Angers; it also includes the Sologne, a forest area celebrated for its shooting estates, and the Beauce, a rich agricultural plain, not to omit the vineyards of Sancerre, Pouilly-sur-Loire, Touraine and Anjou. The weather is often more clement, "South of the Loire''. The Loire Valley's majestic, royal châteaux in white stone are world-renowned, but other there is a vast selection of smaller château and manor houses, mainly also built in stone, with slate roofs.
Departments: Ille-et-Vilaine, Finistere, Morbihan, Cotes d'Armor
Towns: Quinper - Morlaix - Brest - Rennes - Saint Brieuc - Sain Malo
Famous for its fiercely independent spirit, Brittany starts with the Mont Saint Michel, and ends at Saint Nazaire and Nantes. Popular for its wild ocean, rocky and picturesque coastlines, and of course, its delicious fresh seafood. Breton châteaux are principally built in the region's dark grey granite, indestructable to the sea air.
Bordeaux and the Aquitaine :
Departments: Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, Dordogne, Gironde, Pyrenees-Atlantiques
Towns: Bordeaux - Saint Emilion - Périgeux - Bergerac - Agen - Biarritz
Covering most of South-West France, the Aquitaine region includes beautiful countryside inland from Bordeaux, along the Dordogne and the Garonne rivers and their tributaries. Bordeaux, on the Gironde Estuary, is the heart of the western seaboard. The town itself is largely 18th Century, and unquestionably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, largely thanks to its location at the centre of some of the most famous vineyards in the world. The Périgord has beautiful vibrant towns and villages, and hundreds of fascinating châteaux built in an attractive golden stone, frequently dating back to the middle ages. It is rightly celebrated for its cuisine and has long been a popular destination for foreigners, though still principally inhabited by its traditional French families. To the South are the Quercy (Lot, Lot & Garonne, and the Tarn & Garonne) and the Gers (West of Toulouse and South of Agen), surrounded by the Armagnac vineyards, but more often by agricultural farms and more open countryside.
The Pyrenees :
Departments: Ariège, Aveyron, Haute-Garonne, Gers, Lot, Hautes-Pyrénées, TarnTarn-et-Garonne
Towns: Foix - Perpignan - Andorra
The Pyrenees are breathtakingly beautiful, and there are of course some château in this region, but the area is fundamentally a chain of mountains between France and Spain, with more popular skiing resorts than historic properties.
The Mediterranean Coastline and Corsica :
Departments: Var, Alpes Maritimes, Bouches du Rhone, Gard
Towns: Beziers - Marseille - Nice - Cannes - Menton - Lyon
The Mediterranean hinterland is somewhat flat between Beziers and Marseilles, but there are concentrations of historic houses around Montpellier, Uzes, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, and the Cevennes to the North are a delightfully wild part of Southern France with properties dotted about. All this region has been civilised since Roman times, with aqueducts, fountains in town squares, amphitheatres and classical architecture, which add character to the old towns and country houses.
Beyond Marseilles and the spectacular ‘Calanques’ coastline, the Var and the Alpes-Maritimes are traditional holiday regions; but the Rivera wasn’t ‘discovered’ until the 19th century and it was, before then, a very poor region, in spite of its abundance of water. In the 17th & 18th centuries there were few impressive châteaux built near the coast, when Paris and Versailles were at their zenith. These still remain few and far between, the region comprising mainly of 19th and 20th century holiday villas, with, here and there, charming old farmhouses, known as Mas.
This is even more true of Corsica, “L’Ile de Beauté”, mountainous and underdeveloped – in spite of being the birthplace of Napoléon !
Departments: Loire, Ain, Rhone, Ardeche, Haute-Savoie, Savoie, Isere, Drome
Towns: Lyon - Annecy - Grenoble -
Reverting to inland France, in the vast area between Provence and Paris there is the Côte du Rhône, Savoie, the Drôme, the Ardêche, and the region around Lyon where Châteaux of all types, ages, grandeur and architecture are to be found.
Departments: Yonne, Cote d'Or, Nievre, Saone et Loire
Towns: Dijon - Beaune - Avallon - Chaumont - Chalon
In the East of France, it is only in Burgundy that the grand Country Houses followed in the footsteps of those in the Ile de France, where the grand families living partly in Paris or Versailles built their beautiful Châteaux, in the style of the King’s residences. After all, Dijon was the capital of the powerful Ducs de Bourgogne. Dijon is where the Vineyards of the Côte d’Or start, stretching South via Nuits Saint George and Beaune, both fascinating and cosmopolitan old towns, to Chalon; thereafter, follow the Maconnais and the Beaujolais. The historical and continued prosperity of this region explains why there are so many Châteaux from different periods: from the middle ages, through the Renaissance, 18th Century, up until now.
Champagne-Ardenne and the North East :
Departments: Aube, Haute Marne, Marne, Ardenne
Towns: Reims - Epernay - Strasbourg - Nancy - Metz - Lille
Although Champagne is famed worldwide for its eponymous bubbles, and this region and those to the North East of France would once have had many beautiful and architecturally interesting properties, too many of them were destroyed or disfigured during the long succession of wars during the 19th and early 20th centuries, leaving the area strangely void of imposing châteaux.
The Auvergne :
Departments: Allier, Cantal, Haute-Loire, Puy-de-Dôme
Towns: Clermont-Ferrand - Saint Flour - Auriac
To the west of Burgundy is 'La France Profonde'…. The area of volcanic mountains, hidden valleys and streams, rugged uncharted territory. Here and in the Massif Central, another mountainous region, many historic strongholds have evolved over the centuries, to become cherished family homes. Relatively inaccessible, the landscape is wild, underpopulated and unspoilt - the perfect place to look if your idea of heaven is life without a neighbour in sight!
There is so much more to say, and we can advise you further according to your criteria. One thing is for sure : wherever you buy, you will not regret your decision to acquire a beautiful and historic Château.
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