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The Loire Valley, which once housed France’s kings and nobility, attracts thousands of tourists a year. But, for many, a trip to France to see the fairytale former royal residences has long been an inaccessible dream.
The castles that can now be viewed almost brick by brick with the new ‘Google Street View’ virtual tours include Sully-sur-Loire, Chambord and Cité Royale de Loches. Those who run these historic landmarks hope that the project will boost tourism to the charming and scenic “Valley of the Kings”.
Jean d’Haussonville, the director of the famed Chambord castle, said that viewing the chateau virtually would likely give people a lasting impression. “The Chambord is a very impressive sight, it’s iconic, and one which I hope will make them want to come and visit in person.”
You can also fly over seven of the magnificent castles, making it better to visit virtually than in reality.
Bringing Loire to the world
Google’s Paris-based Cultural Institute this week announced that it had signed a virtual visit deal with 18 of the valley’s chateaux and four if its gardens, which includes some spaces not even open to the general public.
“Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to travel to the Loire Valley to see these wonders with their own eyes,” Google said in a statement explaining the project.
The 360-degree visits have been made possible thanks to Google’s Street View cameras, with which the chateaux have been photographed in detail. An Art Camera, a robotic device so powerful it can capture even the tiniest elements, has also been used to document an array of artworks, including the Oriental ceiling of the Château de Villandry, the Apocalypse Tapestry at the Château d’Angers and the frescoes of Fontevraud Abbey.
Despite last year’s terrorist attacks in the French capital, France remains the world’s leading tourist destination, breaking its record in 2015 with a total of 84.5 million visitors according to the foreign ministry. And the Loire, which is also dotted with vineyards, is a large part of that success.
The 300-kilometre-long valley stretches between Orléans and Angers, lining France’s longest river, La Loire. During the French Renaissance, in the 15th century, it became a magnet for the country’s rulers who set up residences there, of which more than 100 are today open to the public. The central part of the valley was added to UNESCOS’s World Heritage Sites in 2000.
Unfortunately, the virtual tour does not come with a glass of the region’s famous wine.