L'effet Chinon - that's what the local tourist office has dubbed the upsurge of interest in this most historic of sites. The chateau at Chinon reopened this year after the biggest heritage conservation project in France was completed. Visitor numbers were up by 30% and during the summer the site welcomed an average of 1300 people per day. This is testiment to the great success of the restoration and improved interpretation facilities at this magnificent royal stronghold.
Apart from stabilising and repairing the evocative but crumbling chateau walls looming over the town and river, the project has introduced videos and sound tracks to help visitors enter the world of rivalry and intrigue at the courts of Richard the Lionheart and Phillipe-Auguste. Remember all those scenes of a bickering royal family at Christmas time in The Lion in Winter? Well, this is where they really took place. It's one of the places where Joan of Arc came to plead with Charles VII to take up the crown and defend France too.
We took self-professed 'history nut' Bill, from Atlanta, Georgia, there in October and he loved it. He said he was sorry we couldn't spend more time there, as it was the most interesting place he had visited. Sadly, he had to catch his train back to Paris, but we managed to prise him away in time to drop him off at Chinon Station and he was back at his apartment in Paris in under 2 hours.