The Loire Valley (French: Vallée de la Loire) is known as the Garden of France and the Cradle of the French Language. It is also noteworthy for the quality of its architectural heritage, in its historic towns such as Amboise, Angers, Blois, Chinon, Nantes, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours, but in particular for its castles, such as the Châteaux d'Amboise, Château de Chambord, château d'Ussé, Château de Villandry and Chenonceau and more particularly its many cultural monuments. This illustrates to an exceptional degree the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of the Enlightenment on western European thought and design.
On December 2, 2000, UNESCO added the central part of the Loire valley, between Maine and Sully-sur-Loire, to its list of World Heritage Sites. In choosing this area that includes the French départements of Loiret, Loir-et-Cher, Indre-et-Loire, and Maine-et-Loire, the committee said that the Loire Valley is:"an exceptional cultural landscape, of great beauty, comprised of historic cities and villages, great architectural monuments - the Châteaux - and lands that have been cultivated and shaped by centuries of interaction between local populations and their physical environment, in particular the Loire itself."
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