Chinon

CENTRE Château de Chinon

Chinon (pop 8,700) is a town of winding streets and turreted houses and sits idly at the edge of the Vienne River. Although the town was a favourite of Henry II in the 12th century, it only became famous during the Hundred Years War, as the town castle was where Joan of Arc recognised a disguised Charles VII, who sought refuge here. As homage to its significant history, Chinon has preserved a medieval quarters in its heart, where the famous castle lies. Besides its history, Chinon is also renowned for its wine production, as the town is well-surrounded by vineyards that stretch along the riverbanks.

Layout
The main commercial section of town is around rue du Commerce close to the riverbanks, while the medieval quarters, (Ville Fort) are further uphill around rue Voltaire, particularly around the old market place (Grand Carroi). You can arrive at Chinon via SNCF trains or buses at the station near Ave Gambetta.


CHINON STREET MAP:   1. Tourist offfice  2. Train station (south-east of map limits)  3. rue du Commerce  4. rue Voltaire (Ville Fort area)  5. Grand Carroi  6. Château de Chinon  7. Musée d’Art et d’Histoire

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The old town of Chinon seems storybook-like as it is filled with cobbled streets, narrow alleys and an array of half-timbered houses. It is also well-sprinkled with many buildings that are named after their hometown boy, François Rabelais' a doctor/humanist and author of Gargantua and Pantagruel. The best buildings in town can be seen along rue Haute-St-Maurice and rue Voltaire which stretch for about 15 blocks. Chinon’s Musée d’Art et d’Histoire [44 Rue Haute Saint-Maurice, +33 247931812 ad/ch €3.50/2] is also located here in a medieval town house housing a collection of artefacts that date back to the Gallo-Roman period. The museum also comprises of the Etates Généraux (Halls of the States Generals) which pays homage to the important figures in Chinon’s or France’s history, including Joan of Arc, Charles VII and Rabelais.

A recommended activity in Chinon is wine tasting. Try to scour the area for a couple of caves (underground wine cellars) that can give you a taste of the region’s finest wines (most are open to public).

The large medieval structure that dominates the landscape of the old town, is the Château de Chinon [+33 247931345 ad/ch €7/4.50]- a large medieval castle that has been standing here since the 12th century, comprises of a daunting stretch of ramparts. Standing on a rocky outcrop, the site has been home to a castle since the 10th century, when Theobald the Trickster, Count of Blois set a tower here recognising the natural defences of the terrain. However, the foundations of the grand complex that you see today were installed by Henry II Plantagenet, during his reign. Since then the castle has seen many historic events such as the imprisonment and death of the Knights of Templar and Charles VII’s reception of Joan of Arc.

The chateau is really three separate structures, consisting of the eastern 11th century Fort St-Georges constructed under Henry II and which defends the east, Fort Coudray added in the 13th century under Philip II defending the west, and the 12-14th century Château du Milieu (Middle Chateau) between them and marked by the Tour de l'Horloge (clock tower), and which currently acts as the entrance to the chateau complex.  The sections are separated by moats which are now dry. Heavy restoration works have been being carried out in the area, spurred by the collapse of the Saumur ramparts. Try your best to get into the Tour d’Horloge that holds a Joan of Arc memorabilia collection, and Château de Milieu that holds a historical exhibition. The Great Hall, next to the Logis Royal is the spot where Joan famously recognized Charles VII in the crowd.  The surrounding ramparts are also a good place to stroll in as they offer rewarding views of the city below.

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CHÂTEAU de CHINON:   1. Fort Coudray  2. Logis Royal  3. Tour du Trésor (Treasury)  4. Tour des Chiens  5. Tour d’Horloge & entrance  6. Fort St-Georges