Located in the Indre-et-Loire department in the Centre region, Chinon is a charming medieval town of 8,170 inhabitants called the Chinonais. It is also one of the two sous-préfectures of the department, the other one being Loches. Chinon is at 47km south west from Tours. It is also called the “flower of France garden” (the garden being the Touraine area).
Chinon has been built on the Vienne River hillside. The town is very vast as its area reaches 39.02 sq km. The old quarter is composed of sloping narrow streets, while the Hucherolles, the residential quarter, is on a plateau. The town is located at the heart of the regional natural park of Loire-Anjou-Touraine, on the edge of a vast forest that used to go until the castle.
Chinon Castle is the main part of the town. It is from the south bank of the Vienne River where you have the best view over this medieval castle. The medieval stronghold is amazing as much for its size (500m long and 100m wide) as for its former fortifications. As every medieval castle, the building is surrounding with a moat, and you enter into the castle through a stone drawbridge, which used to be in wood.
Chinon has managed to preserve its medieval past through the main historical quarters. The Ville-Fort, down the castle, is the former urban dwellings with timber frame or stone houses; the former canon’s quarter to the east of the town is composed of old canon’s houses which come with gardens; Saint-Etienne quarter is in between the two first, it used to be the working class area, mainly inhabited by retailers and artisans. Urban housing is particularly marked by the 15th century architecture and testifies the time when King Charles VII and its court used to live in the area during the 100 years war.
Chinon is an attractive town, as much for its medieval charm, as for its house prices. While house prices national average is around €3,197 /sq m, in Chinon you can find a very nice house or apartment for no more than €1,655 /sq m. Actually, it is interesting and surprising to see how prices are low in the entire Indre-et-Loire department, when you know that is a very touristic destination and is close to Paris. Hence, it can be an excellent investment for a buy-to-let as 49% of residents are tenants; however it is also an excellent location to spend holidays in family or with friends.
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Chinon’s castle: Chinon used to have influence during Middle Ages, as the entire Centre region in fact. Vestiges of this period can be seen mainly through the castle, but also through museums and monuments of the town. The main museum is the Jeanne-d’Arc one and it is located in the entrance tower of the castle. As expected, you will find works of art and objects relative to the French heroine and its journey in Touraine. In the castle itself there are many towers and rooms that ought to be visited. The Argenton tower was built during the 15th century and was used as a jail. You might have heard about the famous Louis XI’s cages... they were in this tower! Between others, you will find the Dogs tower, the Echauguette tower, the Coudray fort, etc.
Tourism: apart from the medieval castle and the city in itself, some museums and interesting places around Chinon are worth visiting. The Saint-Radegonde Chapel was a 6th century hermitage transformed into a troglodytic chapel. It might have been a pre-Christian place of worship. There are also three different tunnels, which nowadays house art and popular tradition exhibitions. If you are keen on wine, do not miss the animated museum of Wine and Cooperage. It gathers 14 automatons working in a traditional way with all the old work tools. The Art and popular traditions museum is also located in a troglodytic caves. You will see how people during Middle Ages used to live, with their tools, and you will see a typical troglodytic house with the same furniture as before.
Wine: Chinon is also renowned for its AOC wine called Vin de Chinon. The brand covers some 2,300 hectares and the wine is produced by no less than 200 winemakers. Due to the big area, the land is different from a place to another and there are mainly 2 different soils: rough terrace that give a young wine which can be drunk early in the year and clay-chalky soil perfect to produce a high quality guard wine. The Cabernet Franc is the main grape variety and gives this unique taste of berries and violet. As far as red wines are concerned, some of them are matured in a oak cask, which give them their tannic taste. Rosé wines, as usually are fruity and are perfect wines for summer time. As regards white ones, they are made of Chenin variety type, also called Pineau de Loire.
Troglodytic houses: originally, caves were dug into rocks in order to extract the freestone and to built houses or castles in the region. However, as holes were dug, farmers started to live into caves. This kind of house dug into the rock is called troglodytic house. Over the years, additions have been built outside the rock; however the main part of the house was still inside the cave. They are usually small houses, about 5 to 7 metres wide and one storey high. They all have a fireplace, as it was compulsory to avoid humidity during winter. You will be likely to find this kind of house; however, the half-troglodytic house might be more common. The latter is bigger than the first one as it has a part of the house outside the rock.
Half-timbered houses: as already mentioned, the old medieval quarter and many old dwellings have been preserved in Chinon. As expected, this kind of half-timbered house are very expensive, however you might be lucky to find a traditional house with all the former characteristics, but maybe not all the history. As many half-timbered houses, the down part of the house is in stone and the upper part boasts a beautiful colombage where timber frame and bricks are mixed into beautiful geometrical shapes. These houses are usually quite big, are two-storey high. Some of them might come with an interior courtyard; they have a traditional big kitchen, many bedrooms, 1 or 2 bathrooms, independent toilet. The inside is beautifully decorated with timber and freestone.
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