Take your time, enjoy a natural setting and discover a beautiful heritage: this is what the Eure-et-Loir promises you, a French department located at the gates of the Ile-de-France region and which allows Parisians to quickly get out of the frenzy of the capital to find luxury, calm and pleasure without spending hours in transportation!
In this article, I propose you to discover the Eure Valley, a territory which extends from Chartres to Dreux, where you will be able to visit places with fascinating stories…
The Eure Valley in short
- Who is it for? In the Eure-et-Loir, we take our time! It is no coincidence that the slogan of Eure-et-Loir Tourism is “Let it slow”. It’s a destination that’s suitable for all ages, and everyone can put together their own program to go at their own pace!
- When to go? To enjoy nature and beautiful gardens, it is best to avoid winter, especially since some monuments are closed during the off-peak period. However, the destination is perfectly suited to a getaway between April and October.
- How long to stay? At least two nights so that you don’t rush through the visits! And more if you like!
- How to get there? Chartres will be your entry point to Eure-et-Loir, especially if you come by train. It is very easy to reach the city from Paris (1 hour by train), Le Mans or even Brittany. On the spot, it is recommended to rent a car to be able to move easily from one place to another.
The itinerary I propose in this article can be done over 2 or 3 days. Arriving in Chartres and then discovering Maintenon and its beautiful castle; Dreux and its surprising Royal Domain and Anet with the castle of Diane de Poitiers.
Chartres, the must-see
The prefecture of the Eure-et-Loir is a must-see! It is a human-sized city where life is good. The cathedral is a marvel not to be missed, a real museum of sculpture with some 3 500 statues. You can also admire the 176 windows dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, made with the famous “blue of Chartres”.
Maintenon: the castle of the last wife of Louis XIV
The history of Maintenon begins in the 12th century with the presence of a first castle to defend the city and its surroundings. In the 16th century, Jean Cottereau, superintendent of finances, transforms it into a castle of pleasure. At his death, Maintenon is transmitted to his descendants until a certain Françoise d’Aubigné buys it in 1674 with the title of Marquise de Maintenon.
The incredible social ascension of Françoise d’Aubigné
Nothing predestined Françoise d’Aubigné to have such an incredible destiny! She was born in 1635 in the prisons of Niort where her father, a swindler and murderer, was incarcerated. When her father died, Françoise d’Aubigné found herself without money and forced to beg, she was saved by her aunt who sent her to a convent.
At the age of 16, she met the poet Paul Scarron, 25 years her senior. This man, already quite old and very handicapped, proposes to her to marry him; it is not a love marriage but this union allows the young Francoise to leave the convent. At the death of Paul Scarron, Françoise d’Aubigné meets Madame de Montespan who offers her the position of governess of the illegitimate children of the king.
Louis XIV has a lot of affection for his children and is admiring the love that Françoise d’Aubigné carries them. He would have said of her “As she knows how to love well, there would be pleasure in being loved by her”. The king fell in love with her and married her secretly in 1683. Françoise d’Aubigné will have succeeded in passing from the prison to the wife of the king!
It is thanks to a large sum of 250 000 pounds (the equivalent of 3 million francs today) offered by Louis XIV that Françoise d’Aubigné was able to buy the castle and become Madame de Maintenon. The castle will then be considerably embellished.
At her death, Madame de Maintenon bequeaths the castle to her niece as a dowry for her marriage with the family of Noailles. Maintenon will remain in this family until 1998. Today, it is the property of the Mansart Foundation (also owner of the castle of Bagatelle).
The visit of the castle allows to discover the sumptuous interior design.
The park, laid out according to a drawing by Le Nôtre, offers a very nice view on the ruins of the aqueduct, the only civil building built by Louis XIV, in order to supply the Versailles castle with water.
Place Aristide Briand, 28130 Maintenon
Rates: 8,5 € ; 4 € for 7-18 years old ; 4,5 € for 18-25 years old ; free for children under 7 years old
Park and gardens only: 3 €.
See opening days and times
Where to sleep in Maintenon ?
Just a 2-minute walk from the castle, the 4-star Castel Maintenon hotel is the ideal place to stay. With a gastronomic restaurant and a spa, it allows you to enjoy a relaxing moment.
1 rue de la Ferté
Dreux and the surprising necropolis of the Orleans family
The city of Dreux hides a surprising monument: the royal chapel which is the necropolis of the Orleans family. The last French king, Louis-Philippe, made it the dynastic necropolis.
Inside this superb church built in a neo-gothic style are about sixty tombs arranged around that of Louis-Philippe. Even today, the chapel continues to serve as a necropolis for the Orléans family.
2 square d’Aumale, 28100 Dreux
Prices : 9,20 € ; 7,5 € for students ; 5,20 € for 7-14 years old ; free for children under 7 years old
See opening days and times
Where to have lunch in Dreux?
In the city center, the Market Pub restaurant is a great place to enjoy home cooking in a warm atmosphere.
Anet : the castle of Diane de Poitiers
This castle was built in the 16th century by King Henry II for his favorite, Diane de Poitiers. It was a very prestigious castle which had, originally, a “U” shaped plan. Unfortunately, a large part of the estate was destroyed in the years following the Revolution, so only one wing remains today.
In 1860, the castle was bought by the deputy of the Seine Ferdinand Moreau and passed on in the family from generation to generation. It is thus a private castle which nevertheless opens its doors to the visit.
Opposite the wing still inhabited is an impressive chapel with a coffered ceiling whose motifs are reproduced on the floor.
If you look closely at the various sculptures in Anet, you will find many evocations of hunting. Diane de Poitiers was indeed often associated with the figure of Diane, the goddess of the hunt.
Outside the castle, a funerary chapel houses the tomb of Diane de Poitiers.
2 place du château, 28260 Anet
Every day, except Tuesday, from April to October and from 2 to 6 pm
In November, February and March, weekends from 2 to 5 pm
Rates: 10,5 € ; 6,5 € for children and school children
Don’t miss: the Renaissance Interpretation Center
In front of the castle of Anet, an interpretation center has recently opened its doors to provide keys to the history of the castle, the Renaissance and Diane de Poitiers. The interactive scenography is superbly realized and conceived to be appreciated by young and old alike. A must-see!
1 place du Château
Where to sleep in Anet ?
5 minutes walk from the castle, put your bags down at the guest house “L’atelier et après”. The rooms are spacious and very comfortable. Your host, Catherine, will cook you a very good dinner and a copious breakfast!
There is also a balneotherapy area where it is possible to book a massage session to totally relax you!
13 rue Philibert Delorme
This is the end of this travel guide, I hope it gave you the desire to discover the Eure-et-Loir! Stay tuned, I will soon take you to explore other places in this beautiful department.
Article realized in partnership with Eure-et-Loir Tourisme