Ok first off, Centre isn’t in the centre of France, it’s more like middle-and-up-a-bit-and-left-a-bit. Secondly, it’s probably the least poetic bit of administrative naming in the history of administrative naming. The locals aren’t too chuffed about this, especially since Centre contains the majestic Loire valley with the finest collection of renaissance châteaux etc etc. Recently they discovered that the bureaucrat responsible for the renaming of their region is a town planner called Norman. They were led to Norman by his earlier, unsuccessful suggestion that the Côte d’Azur be renamed The Seaside. (See our guide to Provence). I wouldn’t like to be in Norman’s shoes.
Orléans is the capital of Centre and gets its name from the Roman Emperor Aurelian (214-275.) Aurelian rose to power through his military exploits, and his imperial motto was “Harmony between Soldiers.” He was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard.
Orléans was overrun in 408 by Vandals and Alans. Them again. The Alans’ legacy lives on in place-names like Allaines and Allainville. See our guide to Rhône-Alpes for more tales of the Alans’ escapades in fifth-century France.
‘Maid of Orléans’ was of course the nickname bestowed on Joan of Arc when she lifted the siege there in 1429 and defeated the “feelthy Eenglish.” Poor Joan was condemned to death in 1448 – in an ecclesiastical trial which even contemporary commentators described as “well dodgy.” Twenty-four years later, the Vatican overruled the original court judgement and declared her innocent. A bit bloody late. Four hundred years later, in 1868, a Paris pharmacist found an old jar of charred bones labelled “Joan of Arc’s bones, honest.” “Joan’s bones” were venerated for a century before carbon-dating revealed that they actually belonged to a sixth-century BC Egyptian mummy.
Just down the Loire at Blois there’s a château. Can’t miss it. Huge place. Be sure to visit the “Chamber of Secrets”, a panelled room full of hidden cupboards, where, it is said, Catherine de Medici kept her poison (Norman contests this, and says it’s far more likely she kept her moisturiser and rollers in there, but then he would. I’m going with the poisons theory). Why would she want poisons? Well, she’d fixed it for her daughter to marry Henry of Navarre, and invited Henry’s mum to stay at Blois before the wedding. Within days of her arrival, Henry’s mum died suddenly in mysterious circumstances. Catherine’s enemies accused her of murdering Henry’s mum with A PAIR OF POISONED GLOVES. As a murder weapon, this seems about as likely as a pair of semi-automatic trousers, but there you go.
Catherine’s marriage had not been a happy one. On her wedding night, her father-in-law stayed in the marital bedroom to make sure they consummated the marriage. Thanks Dad. The next morning, when the newlyweds were rather hoping for a lie-in, the Pope popped in to wish them all the best. Her husband soon took a mistress, and was frequently seen leading council meetings lying in his mistress’ lap, playing the guitar and fondling her breasts. How very different from our own Prime Minister’s Question Time.
© 2008 richardheacock @ mac.com
Centre is located in northern part of central France and is famous for its chateaux in the Loire Valley. It is circled by Normandy and Ile-de-France to the North. Flanked to the west by Western Loire and Poitou-Charente. On the south it is bordered by Limousin and Auvergne, and Burgundy to the East. The departments are: Cher, Eure-et-Loir, Indre, Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher and Loiret
The Centre région is dominated by the Loire Valley. Cenntre includes the rich, fertile valleys of the Loire River and its tributaries: Cher, Indre, Eure, etc. It is also famous for the grand châteaux of the Loire Valley which attract many tourists to the area. In general the landscape is flat with gently rolling hills to the south.
There are so many chateaux to visit – where do you start? We suggest you take in the following:
- Château de Chambord
- Château de Cheverny
- Château de Chenonceau
- Château Royal de Blois
- Château d’Amboise
- Château de Fougères-sur-Bière
- Château de Beauregard
Of the major towns in the region: Orleans, Chatres, Blois, Tours, and Chinon are well worth visiting. Try cycling alongside the Loire Valley and enjoy many village stops en route. There many wines to sample on the way so be careful!
Centre is also home to two of France’s great cathedrals, at Bourges and Chartres.
There is an old saying that once you get to the south of the Loire, the weather improves. Certainly there are long lazy sunny Summers with blue skies without the temperatures getting excessively hot. It is green so it does rain but only short sharp showers in the Summer. Winters can be cold but still with plenty of sunshine.
It is almost equidistant from all the major sea ports along the channel coast and there is a good network of autoroutes into the region. Perhaps Roscoff port is the furthest away!
Good train services from Paris.
You can fly into either of the two Paris air-ports (Orly / Charles de Gaulle) or use a budget airline to Tours. Limoges airport is only a short drive away if you want to access the south of the Centre region.
Blois – The famous Château de Blois, a Renaissance château once occupied by King Louis XII, is located in the centre of the city, and an 18th century stone bridge spans the Loire. As Blois is centered on a pair of steep hills, winding and steep pathways run through the city, culminating in long staircases at various points. To the west of town, the Forêt de Russy is a reminder of the heavy woods that once covered the area.
Chartres– The town is best known for the Cathedral of Chartres; widely considered to be the finest gothic cathedral in France.
Orleans – a splendid town with an attractive old centre sitting on the Loire. You can admire the renaissance architecture and visit the Cathedrale Sainte-Croix, Joan of Arc Maison, and the Museum of Fine Arts.
Tours – famous for its old part of the city called Le Vieux Tours with medieval style houses in half-timbering and Place Plumereau, a square with pubs and restaurants full of people who dine and drink outside at tables filling the center of the square. Boulevard Beranger crosses Rue Nationale at Place Jean-Jaures, and is the location of weekly markets and fairs.
Property prices along the Loire Valley can be expensive but as you travel away from the Loire prices begin to drop. The south of region is relatively cheap.
Apartments: 120,000 + euros
Farmhouses: 80,000 euros (needs renovation)
Townhouses: 130,000 euros
Villas: 250,000 euros
Land: from 15 euros per sq. m
Centre Property SelectionListed below are the departments in the region of Centre; the number of properties in each department are denoted in brackets - click on a department to see the properties available.
All the properties in Centre by department.
(Number in brackets = number of properties)
Cher Property (13)
Eure et Loir Property (12)
Indre Property (146)
Indre et Loire Property (18)
Loir et Cher Property (4)
Loiret Property (2)