The Loire: the story behind a great river

Posted by Jocelyne on 07/03/2016

CroisiEurope has pioneered cruising on the Loire. The river was for a long time considered too shallow for ships to sail its waters. Let’s discover the story behind a great river and a great invention!

The Loire: the last wild river in Europe

The Loire is unique: it is the only river in Western Europe to never have undergone any transformation. It is thus called the last wild river in Europe.

From Gerbier-de-Jonc in Ardèche all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, the Loire River is 1,006 km long. Up to the 18th Century, ships sailed 700 km of the river, but nowadays it is only sailed from the mouth of the river in Saint Nazaire up to Bouchemaine, near Angers.

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The river has shaped the landscape of the Val de Loire region, which was also called France’s back garden by 15th and 16th century aristocrats. The region has many gardens, orchards, and vineyards producing the most famous reputable wines such as Sancerre, Touraine, Aujou and Saumur. They are consumed with dishes of the finest culinary quality, with fresh fish, local meat and lovely cheeses.

The MS Loire Princesse: a naval history gem

The cradle of river cruising, the Loire is also part of naval history, as is its Port of Saint Nazaire, one of the major naval constructions sites in Europe. Up until the 19th Century, thousands of ships used to transport passengers and goods. The arrival of the railways led to the death of trade on the Loire. Steam ships were seen until the beginning of the 20th Century.

A hundred years later, in 2015, a new ship was launched on the one of the most difficult rivers to sail: the MS Loire Princesse. This new generation paddle wheel ship is unique in the world and is a treasure of naval technology.

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The MS Loire Princesse is a two-deck ship with 48 cabins. Its paddle wheel was built with new and unique technology, and its design is also unique: the interior is original in style and layout, combining a relaxing, contemporary look and feel. The lounge bar on the upper deck opens onto a terrace at the back of the ship. All the common areas are surrounded by windows letting in lots of light. The cabins on the upper deck are fitted with 1.20 m wide terraces with outdoor tables and chairs, and a luxury bathroom. Last but not least, the paddle wheels on the side of the ship offer a unique display. The reception area has been designed so that it offers a view of the paddle wheel system, combining an old propelling system with modern technology.

A unique excursion programme

Angers

A town packed with art and history, the capital of the Anjou region is characterized by a rich heritage with a modern twist. Home to the Plantagenet dynasty, whose territory that flourished in the Renaissance era, Angers is the home of the huge medieval fortress of King René and the extraordinary tapestry of the Apocalypse, measuring 100 meters long by 4.5 meters high.

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The Châteaux de la Loire

Built on an island in the middle of the Indre region, the Château of Azay le Rideau is the most symmetrical in the Val de Loire. It beautifully combines Italian innovations and French construction styles. Villandry is the last in a series of great castles in the Renaissance style erected on the banks of the Loire. Its beautiful gardens are easy to fall in love with. The Château d’Ussé, with its original fortified towers, is reminiscent of a fairytale castle. It is said to have inspired Charles Perrault to write Sleeping Beauty.

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Find out more about CroisiEurope Loire River Cruises.