A quick trip from Paris, the Loire Valley is regal France at its finest - its medieval chateaux providing a window into an era of royal opulence. One of the most splendid is the Chateau de Chenonceau - which actually straddles the River Cher not far from the city of Tours (accessible by TGV from the Montparnasse train station in Paris). Visitors can wander through the royal rooms- including the bedrooms of Diane de Poitiers (Henri II's mistress) and Catherine de Medici, who added to the Renaissance-style gardens when she took over ownership in 1559.
In the summer months, Chenonceau opens its royal grounds at night- a beautiful sight to behold. Stroll through the manicured gardens, lit up at night, while listening to music by Arcangelo Corelli. The castle is open at night for every weekend in June, and every evening from July 1 to August 31, from 9:30 to 11:30. The entry fee is five euros, and children under seven years of age are free. For more information, visit www.chenonceau.com