> Virtual Poster Museum - Loire Valley Railway Tour


Nowadays, the best way to see the castle-rich Loire Valley of France is by bicycle. The relatively flat terrain makes it easy and enjoyable to pedal through the region, with a stunning medieval or renaissance castle sure to pop up around just about every curve.

I was lucky enough to do just that a few years ago, taking in a half dozen of the most prominent chateaux in a too-brief two-day trip to the region, getting a properly paced open-air look at the countryside while rolling along lightly traveled back roads.

A century ago (give or take a couple of decades), rail travel was the way to go. Trains from the Gare d'Orleans took travelers from Paris to the region and throughout the region. Cars and autocars (large bus-like automobiles) gave them access to castles located outside the major cities of the area.

Posters lured tourists from Paris to the Loire Valley and elsewhere, the poster-mad French elevating advertising to an art form by romanticizing and stylizing every possible product, including travel destinations (today's photo-posters pale by comparison). Some of the top artists of the day chose this medium with which to express themselves.

Here is a tour of many of the famous and beautiful castles, palaces, and chateaux of the Loire via the great posters of the first half of the 20th Century and the post-war period.