Even without its striking château, the quiet village of Azay-le-Rideau would bask in its serene setting, complete with an old mill by the bridge and curious, doll-like Carolingian statues embedded in the facade of the church of St Symphorien. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has become a magnet for tourists. On its little island in the Indre, the château  is one of the loveliest in the Loire: perfect turreted early Renaissance, pure in style right down to the blood-red paint of its window frames. Visiting the interior, furnished in mostly period style, doesn’t add much to the experience although the grand staircase is worth seeing, and it’s fun to look out through the mullioned windows across the moat and park and imagine yourself the seigneur. In summer, the château’s grounds are the setting for a restrained and rather lovely son et lumière.

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