Saturday, 3 August 2013

Pedal Back in Time: Museums and Art Galleries in the Loire Valley

On a cycling holiday in France, it is always fascinating to discover something about the history of the area that you are going to, perhaps by visiting a museum or art gallery. Fortunately, on a Cycle Breaks tour there is plenty of opportunity to travel at your own speed and take in the attractions which appeal to you.

Cycle Breaks aim to ensure that families and groups of friends enjoy memorable holidays. Tours can be as energetic or as gentle as you want them to be, as our trips are all graded to suit different abilities. We organise your accommodation, bikes, maps and routes and you don’t have to worry about transporting your luggage as this is all taken care of for you.

One of the areas where Cycle Breaks organises self-guided tours is the historic and beautiful Loire Valley. This region has a wide range of fascinating museums which you may want to take time to visit during your cycling holiday in France.

Cycling Holidays Loire Valley France  – Click here to find out more.

Here is our guide to museums and art galleries that are worth exploring on your visit to the Loire Valley.

Tapestry Museum – Angers, the historic capital of Anjou, showcases the famous Tapestry of the Apocalypse at Angers Castle – a 100 metre 14th century tapestry created in Paris, which takes its inspiration from the Book of Revelation, showing the end of the world. The city also now has a more modern tapestry among its attractions, housed at the Jean Lurçat Contemporary Tapestry Museum, in the former Hâpital St. Jean. Lurçat took the medieval tapestry as the inspiration for his series of ten Song of the World tapestries, created in 1957, which show the joys and sorrows of life.

The Portrait Gallery – The Château de Beauregard is one of the Loire Valley's many celebrated châteaux and a popular place to visit while cycling through France. Beauregard houses the famous Gallery of Portraits, dating back to the first half of the 17th century, which contains an amazing array of 327 portraits including European kings and queens, clerics, diplomats, politicians and other famous people who lived between the 14th and 17th centuries. Among the people included in the collection are Cardinal Richelieu, Christopher Columbus, British monarchs Henry VII, Mary and Elizabeth I, and 15 French kings.

Hunting Museum – A museum dedicated to the history of hunting with dogs is at the Château de Montpoupon, to the east of Tours. This displays mementoes of the Montpoupon hunt over the ages, including uniforms and saddles, and gives an insight into French rural life in past centuries.

Musée des Beaux-Arts – Located in Orléans, this is one of the oldest museums in France and has one of the country's greatest collections of art treasures. It regularly stages special exhibitions, while its permanent collection includes 2,000 paintings, ranging from Correggio and Guido Reni to Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso, as well as a wealth of sculptures, drawings, prints and pastels.

Tank Museum – One of the world's largest tank museums is based at Saumur, at the Musée des Blindés. The museum traces the story of the tank from the First World War onwards, and its collection contains nearly 900 tanks and armoured vehicles, including more than 200 which have been restored to full working order.

Horse and Art Museums – Saumur also has links with horses going back through the ages, as it is now the home of the French National Horse Riding School and was formerly the base of the French Cavalry Academy. The town's equestrian heritage is celebrated in the horse museum at the Château de Saumur, which has a fine display of saddlery through the ages. The château is also home to a museum of decorative arts.

Fine Arts Museum – The former bishop's palace in Tours is home to a varied art collection, with more than 12,000 works altogether, including French, Italian, Dutch and Flemish masterpieces, although only a small proportion of these can be on show at any one time. At the front of the museum is a stuffed elephant, which was killed after escaping and running amok during a parade by the Barnum and Bailey circus in Tours in 1902.

Museum of Magic – Blois was the home of famous magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, who inspired legendary illusionist Erik Weisz to change his own name to Harry Houdini. In tribute to Robert-Houdin, a museum of magic has been set up opposite the Château Royal de Blois, featuring fascinating exhibitions about magic and magicians, with exhibits including a six-headed dragon, and a theatre where you can see conjurors on stage.

Cycling Holidays in the Loire Valley  – Click here to find out more.

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