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233km (145 miles) SW of Paris; 56km (35 miles) S of Blois

Château de Valençay (tel. 02-54-00-10-66; www.chateau-valencay.com) is one of the Loire's most handsome Renaissance châteaux. Talleyrand acquired it in 1803 on the orders of Napoleon, who wanted his minister of foreign affairs to receive dignitaries in style. The d'Estampes family built Valençay in 1550. The dungeon and west tower are of this period, as is the main body of the building, but other wings were added in the 17th and 18th centuries. The effect is grandiose, with domes and turrets.

The private apartments are open to the public; they're sumptuously furnished, mostly in the Empire style but with Louis XV and Louis XVI trappings as well. A star-footed table in the main drawing room is said to have been the one on which the final agreement of the Congress of Vienna was signed in June 1815 (Talleyrand represented France).

Visits to Valençay are more detailed (and last about 45 min. longer) than those to other châteaux in the valley. The Musée de Talleyrand that used to stand here is closed, but some of the collection is displayed in the new rooms of the castle. After your visit to the château, you can walk through the garden and deer park.

Within 183m (600 ft.) of the château, the Musée de l'Automobile, route du Blois, 12 av. de la Résistance (tel. 02-54-00-07-74), features a collection of more than 60 antique automobiles. Of special interest is a Bédélia (ca. 1914). The tandem-style automobile (the driver rode behind the passenger) with a pulley-operated two-speed gearshift is the rarest in the collection. The Bédélia, like 80% of the cars in the collection, was made in France.

2 rue de Blois. [tel] 02-54-00-10-66. www.château-valencay.fr. The Automobile Museum is located at 12 av. de la Résistance ([tel] 02-54-00-07-74; www.musee-auto-valencay.fr). Admission for castle, automobile museum, and park 12€ adults, 8.50€ students, 3€ children 4–6, and free ages 5 and under. Open daily mid-March to April 10:30am–6pm; May 10am–6pm; June 9:30am–6:30pm; July–Aug 9:30am–7pm; Sept 10am–6pm; Oct–Nov 9 10:30am–5:30pm.