The Château de Valençay isn't really in the Loire Valley. It's in the old French province called Le Berry, which is more or less centered on the city of Bourges, southeast of the Touraine. But Valençay's castle is built in the style of the Loire Valley châteaux, so it's often included in the great monuments of the region. And it's only about 25 km/15 miles southwest of Saint-Aignan.
Part of the existing château at Valençay was built during the Renaissance (mid-1500s) but the west wing was added a century later and again modified in the 1700s. Valençay played an important role in French history starting in about 1800, when Napoleon's powerful and ruthless foreign affairs minister, Talleyrand, acquired the property.
We spent Sunday afternoon at Valençay. The property includes both a formal French garden and a big field of wildflowers, as well as a vast park where farmyard animals are kept in fenced-off areas. You can view them up close and even pet the goats (the chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, and peacocks are a little more stand-offish. There's also a labyrinth for children to play in (picture to come).
The first thing we did when we got to the château was sit down on the steps with all the other visitors and watch a 30-minute historical sketch put on by actors in costume and wearing microphones so everybody could hear them well. The problem was, for us, that everything was of course in French and the American children who were with us (not to mention their parents, probably) found it all pretty boring, because they don't understand French. We should have skipped it.
Afterward, we enjoyed wandering through the château and seeing all the furnished rooms and the views from the windows, but we skipped the audio guides that are included in the price of admission (11 euros for adults, less for children) because we knew the children wanted to spend less time inside and more outside in the park. We got that part right. Inside, you can take pictures but without flash.
I'll publish some more pictures from Valençay over the course of the week. It's a good outing for adults or children, especially when the weather is fine.