In the very heart of France lies a village that considers itself love’s hometown: Saint Valentin. Every February, the population of 285 welcomes 10,000 visitors for the Fête des Amoureux (festival of lovers). Held the weekend closest to St. Valentine’s Day and on the 14th itself, the celebration attracts visitors from all over the world who come to Saint Valentin to propose, renew their vows or celebrate their anniversaries.
Lovers spend the weekend strolling the streets of the tiny village, which are filled with music, dancing, art and flower displays, romantic gifts and souvenirs. Other lovers’ activities include the Saturday night dîner-spectacle (dinner and a show), followed by an evening of dancing into the wee hours. There is also a special Sunday Mass featuring the renowned boys’ choir of St. Sylvain.
Marriage ceremonies are held at the church of Saint Valentin and couples celebrating special anniversaries (25, 30, 40 years, etc.) can request to be included in a ceremony blessing their union. Singles make the pilgrimage to the altar of love as well, hoping to meet someone special during the festivities or to hang a heart-shaped wish on the wishing tree in the Jardin des Amoureux (garden of lovers). The Saint Valentin post office even offers a specially designed stamp and a postmark featuring two interlocking hearts, both of which are coveted by stamp collectors and said to be good luck on wedding invitations.
Don’t miss the chance to fall in love with the surrounding area. Saint Valentin is located in the southern tip of the Loire Valley, known as the “Garden of France” and is famous for its vineyards, castles, monuments and mouth-watering cuisine.
Eight villages in t
he Loire have been designated among the “100 Most Beautiful Villages in France.” 134 of the region’s 800 castles are open for touring, including the spectacular Château du Clos Lucé, where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final days. For those who prefer the outdoors, there are more than 200 parks perfect for picnicking, 30 golf courses, 115 m2 of lakes, 155 m2 of river (the Loire) and more than 75 water sports centers. Always wanted to bike through the wine country? The Loire boasts 186 miles of scenic bike trails, including “green paths” made of an environmentally friendly type of beige cement.
Where to Stay
La Cognette is a small but exquisite three-star hotel and gourmet restaurant just 7 miles outside the village of St. Valentin. Enjoy a gourmet five-course meal, breakfast in bed and weekend packages featuring a deluxe room and complimentary bottle of Champagne upon your arrival. Rates start at $140. Book at www.la-cognette.com or +33.02.54.03.59.59
· Fly Air France to Paris and take the train to Chateauroux via Tours.
· Fly British Airways to London. Discount airline Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) offers daily flights from London Stanstead airport to Tours (sometimes for as little as pennies, plus airport tax).
Amboise: Château du Clos Lucé, where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final days
Blois: The unofficial heart of the French Renaissance
Bourges: Legend says Caesar deemed it the most beautiful town in all of Gaul
Chartres: Medieval cooking at the Château de Châteaudun
Chaumont-sur-Loire: International Garden Festival (April-October)
Cher: 400 timber-framed houses from the Middle Ages, 100 Romanesque churches
Vendôme: Balzac’s childhood home
Find out more at: www.loirevalleytourism.com