No holiday in Europe is complete without a visit to France. This country is a favourite for travellers around the world as no matter how many times you go, there's always some new region to explore and treasure to unearth.
The Loire Valley, in the centre of the country, is one such region that should be included on any European adventure. The area is famous for its enduring castles, such as the magnificent Chateau de Chambord, but there are a number of hidden gems dotted around the region no itinerary should be without.
Consider Chinon, the historian's dream and photographer's heaven. The town itself is spread out underneath the looming remains of Chateau de Chinon on the hill. Its centre is lined with medieval streets that will transport you into another time as you stroll from one timber house to another. Stop in a cafe for lunch, or picnic on the banks of the River Vivienne for a small-town French experience that will make it near impossible to leave.
It would hardly be a trip to France without experiencing some of the best wines in the country, which you can do on a tour with Le Tasting Room in Angers. A visit here will see you picked up from the train station, brought to the renovated and charming farmhouse between Angers and Saumur, served a delicious home-cooked meal matched with a few hand-picked local wines, all before a tour of the local wineries and vineyards.
For a spot of history in your French itinerary, don't miss out on the Clos Luce, a museum in a Renaissance manor in Amboise. The curators claim this is where "the 20th century was born", largely due to the fact that Leonardo da Vinci spent the last few years of his life here, tinkering away with inventions and mechanisms that were well before his time and now commonplace in modern technology. Many of these have been created with the help of IBM engineers, such as a clockwork car and three-speed gearboxes.
To book in a visit to any of these hidden gems, simply speak to your knowledgeable travel agent - or even ask them for a recommendation of their own.