The Loire Valley (French: Vallée de la Loire, pronounced: [va.le də la lwaːʁ]), spanning 280 kilometers (170 mi), is located in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France. Its area comprises about 800 square kilometers (310 sq mi). It is referred to as the Cradle of the French Language, and the Garden of France due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards (such as cherries), and artichoke and asparagus fields, which line the banks of the river. Notable for its historic towns, architecture and wines, the valley has been inhabited since the Middle Paleolithic period. In 2000, UNESCO added the central part of the Loire River valley to its list of World Heritage Sites.