299km (186 miles) SW of Paris; 53km (33 miles) SE of Angers

Saumur lies in a region of vineyards, where the Loire separates to encircle an island. It makes one of the best bases for exploring the western Loire Valley. A small but thriving town, it doesn’t entirely live off its past: Saumur produces some 100,000 tons per year of the mushrooms the French adore. Balzac left us this advice: “Taste a mushroom and delight in the essential strangeness of the place.” The cool tunnels for the champignons also provide the ideal resting place for the region’s celebrated sparkling wines. Enjoy both of these local favorites at a neighborhood cafe.