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Trip Report 8 lovely days in the Loire Valley and Normandy

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One day in early May DS2 decided to take summer classes in London. Luckily we found ff tickets to Paris returning from London for the three of us. Trip to Loire Valley was on my DH’s list for some time (now he wants to return to the region to study French).

We planned entire trip from the beginning to the end in one short month. I panicked when I couldn’t find accommodations for the first 2 nights. I emailed close to 15 B&Bs going down the tripadvisor recommendations before someone I contacted recommended her friend at Château de Pintray.

Our accommodations (all were clean and had great water pressure in a shower):

2 nights near Amboise at Château de Pintray http://www.chateau-de-pintray.com
Two lovely yellow Labradors (mother and daughter) greeted us on arrival. Both are well behaved and obedient, pleasure to have around. There's a pool table in the large kitchen/dining room, TV and tea kettle in the living room. Anne (the hostess) had lots of books and information at the living room as well, almost too much to my taste as all the tables were completely covered with them and room did not look very inviting, but maybe it just me. The two large patio tables are set outside with a lovely view of the vineyard – much more enjoyable then the living room during summer month.
We had a laptop with us that with Anne’s permission we could connect to the internet cable in the dining room.
The breakfast table was nicely set, it can easily accommodate 10 people, and it was a great place to meet other guests. I think the breakfast selection at Château de Pintray was better than in other places we stayed on this trip. In addition to standard baguettes, croissants, butter, jams, juice, milk, coffee or tea it offered a selection of fruits, yogurts, and few different soft cheeses.
We stayed at the family suite on the first floor (Suite familiale au premier Etage) with a view on the vineyard and had two rooms that can accommodate 4, one room en-suite, and the other room with a shower and a toilet in the private hallway. We also had a small refrigerator, and bottles of drinking water were left for us in our room.
I loved the location in the countryside away from the noise and just short 5 min drive from Amboise.
Anne is an excellent hostess with pleasant smile and great English.

2 nights at Chinon Logis Saint Mexme www.logis-saint-mexme.fr
Logis Saint Mexme was our first choice and we were fortunate to book it for 2 nights (we hoped for 3 but they were fully booked for the last night). From the moment I contacted Héléne she provided helpful information, emailed me a document about nearby attractions, history and culinary. She sent us excellent driving direction that came very handy.
Our room was spacious and charming with very comfortable bed, small TV, tea/coffee station, and a small private bathroom looked cheerful and new. Our son had a separate room that was perfect for one; small refrigerator to be shared by all guests at the end of the hallway of the 1st floor. The wireless internet worked near windows and in the garden.
If I am not mistaken there is only one additional room available for guests at Logis Saint Mexme.
The sunny dining room had two round tables all set for breakfast. I loved the selection of different breads, pastries, and croissants Héléne had for us each morning, small bowl of fruits, plain yogurt, milk, tea, coffee, jams and butter, there was a separate cereal station with at least five different cereals in the corner.
French bulldog Edouard is still young and hopes you will drop something from the table, Héléne tries to keep him away from the guests but we enjoyed his youthful energy.
Héléne, the youngest hostess we ever stayed with, is helpful, friendly and professional.
Although there’s no private parking at this B&B, there’s always parking to be found on the street just outside the door.
This B&B was my personal favorite; I would highly recommend it.
We also like Chinon and surrounding towns as the place to stay for several months when we retire. The real estate listings we saw are relatively inexpensive.

2 nights 15 km/25 min north of Angers at Le Château de Montriou http://chateau-de-montriou.com/
The hosts, Madame Nicole de Loture and her husband Regis are welcoming and friendly.
Le Château de Montriou with historic 15th century Chapel belongs to the Regis family for generations. The owners have great pride in the château, as anyone would. On the night we arrived Madame de Loture showed us the older part of the château - grand family room with paintings, art and family portraits, fireplaces, the sitting/hunting room decorated with deer antlers and stuffed heads of wild animals, and the dining room with two fireplaces decorated with tapestry and china. We spent some time exploring the gardens, grounds and the historic Chapel. Some parts are lovely and some in great need of renovation. It takes a lot of energy and money to run and improve a place like this, and I wish the family could restore it to the former glory as it could be an amazing place to visit.
Our accommodations on the second floor of the château were two bedrooms (one double "la chambre aux abeilles" and one twin room "la chambre aux ornements), small well equipped kitchenette, bathroom and shower room. The spiral staircase was fairly steep, which could be challenging for older visitors, although Madame de Loture is in her 60th and she walks up and down that staircase several times a day.
The double room was very large with two windows facing different sides, fireplace; but the bed was quite small and a worn mattress. I hope they will replace it one day for the comfort of the guests. We loved the starched and ironed white sheets, which added some charm; however our son said they “felt like plastic”.
I did not find the hair dryer in the morning, I asked Madame de Loture, and she immediately delivered it to the room.
The breakfast at the dining room was a traditional French style - baguettes, croissants, butter, homemade jams (special Madame de Loture’s recipe), juice, coffee or tea.
They are currently renovating chambers on the first floor.
I loved peace and quiet of the surrounding area.

1 night Mercure Mont Saint Michel
Route Du Mont Saint Michel BP 8
Le Mont-Saint-Michel, Manche 50170
Standard Room with 3 single beds - Hot Deal on expedia.com.
Either entire hotel or our room was recently renovated or simply new. The bed was very comfortable; to my surprise all three beds felt larger then twin size. Nice tea/coffee station came handy in the morning as breakfast was not included; the room had a large comfortable bathroom with separate toilet and it was equipped with A/C.
The room was as good as some Marriott rooms (maybe reception area a bit different); if ever in Mont Saint Michel again we would be happy to stay here.
I liked accommodation outside Mont Saint Michel and it suited us perfectly.

1 night Honfleur Le Fond de La Cour www.lefonddelacour.com
Le Fond de La Cour was recommended by another B&B that was fully occupied.
We booked Chambre 3/ Stabe annexe which is a suite of 2 bedrooms - one with a double bed and one with a single bed, they share a bathroom. The rooms were very simply decorated. The windows didn’t have blinds, and the sun awoke us early in the morning. We mentioned this to Amanda over breakfast, and she said she was considering using heavier draperies.
The breakfast was served at the café across the street with apple juice, the jam I liked more than others before (and I tasted them all), baguette, croissants, butter, coffee or tea. DS was treated with Nutella and DH had an espresso.
This B&B didn’t have private parking either, and we had to look for a spot on surrounding streets with Amanda’s help.
Lovely, friendly and accommodating Scottish family runs this B&B and we felt right at home staying at Le Fond de La Cour.
It was favorite B&B for my DS (I don’t know if Amanda’s Scottish hospitality, Nutella for breakfast or large white family dog he played the ball with contributed to his choice).
I enjoyed the quiet setting of this B&B, the perfect distance from the center and would stay at Le Fond de La Cour next time we are at Honfleur. I took an early morning walk to the market and reviewed the prices at the local real estate agencies’ windows. OMG, 20 sq m apartment near the center costs more than a large house at Chinon area; even not centrally located apartments did not come cheap.

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    You were smart enough to know your window did not have blinds - we were awoken quite early our first morning in Honfleur due to bright sun streaming in the slanted windows. That evening we realized there were pull down shades.

    Thanks for your trip report!

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    Day 1 Arrival - Château de Chambord - Château de Cheverny
    After an uneventful flight we picked up our rental car from Avis and started our journey at 10 am (Avis with Costco codes happened to have better rate than discounted car rentals).
    There was some traffic driving around Paris from CDG but nothing too terrible and our ride took the same time as estimated by viamichelin.com. As soon as we exited the highway we stopped for lunch at the first restaurant we noticed and got lucky (Family’s Grill, 45 Baule 5872657). Our lunch was excellent with one small exception - DS ordered mussels and got 8 baked half-shells - tiny portion even for lunch and not exactly what he expected. Probably it was described on the menu but he didn’t fully understand the description. DH chose prefix with salmon - salmon cutlet with the salmon fillet around it that tasted heavenly. As it was a tiny place in a tiny town most patrons where locals and knew the owner.
    I should tell you now that I love castles, châteaus, palaces and historic houses; with near 1000 châteaus in the area my main goal was not to exhaust my family with too many visits.
    The first destination was Château de Chambord http://chambord.org
    From the moment we saw it, it looked magnificent. We paid for the parking and walked around taking many, many pictures and enjoying a nice sunny day. We didn’t go inside as I wanted to visit another château before reaching our B&B. I always wonder about what I missed, but it’s just impossible to see EVERYTHING. I must say it was worth paying for parking to admire the exterior of this beautiful château; I would love to pay small entrance fees or parking at other places to do the same.
    The next stop was Château de Cheverny http://www.chateau-cheverny.com/uk_accueil.php
    We reached it around 4 pm and had time to explore the lower level of this lovely château before the dog feeding at 5 pm and see second level, grounds and gardens after. Many visitors come to view the kennels and see this event. We all love dogs and especially the sporting group (we had an Irish setter for 12 years and adored him). I can honestly tell the dog feeding was not what I imagined, and left us all a bit distressed. I understand now that because these dogs are bread and raised to hunt they should be hungry for meat and have top animal instincts. Before the feeding they move the hounds to a separate area and got the food (a mix of dry food and some meat) ready. When the time came a small selected group of dogs was allowed to the feeding area and then the entire kennel joined. Food was disappearing very quickly; hopping to fill stomachs some dogs were jumping on the backs of the others, there were few left with serious scratches and bleeding after entire event was over; but at the very end dogs licked each other to get every single drop of food that ended up on their coats.
    Château de Cheverny was one of the three nicely furnished and decorated châteaus that we visited, along with Serrant and Chenonceau.
    It’s an hour drive from Cheverny to our first B&B Château de Pintray. Since we didn’t have desire or energy to go out for dinner and wished to get to bed early, we stopped for a quick food shopping at the first supermarket on the way and then at the bakery. We purchased a bottle of red from the B&B and had picnic dinner outside with a view of vineyard.

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    Day 2 Amboise - Château Royal d'Amboise - Blois

    After a nice breakfast we visited the Château Royal d'Amboise http://www.chateau-amboise.com/, but first drove to see it from across the Loire. We found a nice spot to view the chateau and the bridge next to a small park where you can safely leave the car for a few minutes.

    We all enjoyed the Château d'Amboise, its grounds, Chapel of Saint-Hubert (the final resting place of Leonardo Da Vinci), and the nice views of Amboise from the chateau and its property.

    The streets near chateau looked lively and cheerful. We strolled to see the Château du Clos Luce http://www.vinci-closluce.com (this is the chateau where Leonardo Da Vinci spent the last years of his life) but did not go inside.
    Lunch at boulangerie Au Rendez-Vous des Mignardises (18, Rue Nationale) half way between the Tourist Information Office and the Château Royal d'Amboise. We got two sandwiches to share, three crêpes, espresso and berry desert from the display that looked too good to miss.

    It would be a good time to take a nap, but we decided to drive to Blois. Parked our car across the Pont J Gabriel bridge. As we walked to the north bank the reflection of the sky and Cathedrale St-Louis in the waters of Loire River were breathtaking. We wondered around Blois for several hours, stopping at the Cathedrale St-Louis, Hotel de Ville, lovely Jardins de I’Eveche, Château, and Maison de la Magie (House of Magic). The Château and Maison de la Magie were already closed for the day, but we saw their six-headed dragon show, which could be fun for kids. I would like to visit Blois again and will consider it as a base.

    We found a restaurant in a small square that had something for everyone in our family. DS wanted pizza, DH had something that slips my mind at the moment and Leffe, and I had a wonderful salad with grilled goat cheese and dessert. Le Studio (7, Rue du Poids du Roi, 41000 Blois 02 54 46 05 29). The food was very good.

    On the way back to our logging we drove on the north bank of the Loire, made quick stop at the RV parking across the river from the Chaumont-sur-Loire to take a few pictures just as two air balloons were flying past the Château; then another stop at the same place we started the day to take more pictures of the Château Royal d'Amboise - it looked remarkable before the sunset.

    We ended day as the one before with a glass of wine and the view of the vineyard at our B&B.

    Day 3 Château de Chenonceau – Loches - Chinon

    We started the day a bit later then I hoped and by the time we reached the Château de Chenonceau parking lot there were many tour buses. We decided to take the boat tour first. Just 2 km from Chenonceau (Chisseaux if I am not mistaken) a boat takes you on a 45 min excursion, passing under château's gallery. It’s a pleasant and relaxing way to see the château and picturesque banks of the river Cher - not a must but a nice way to admire château’s exterior. Just as an FYI - a part of château Chenonceau exterior was under construction in late June 2011.

    Château de Chenonceau www.chenonceau.com is one of my favorites – perfect setting, intriguing history, nicely decorated interior, grand fireplaces, interesting kitchen, pleasant formal and vegetables gardens, small non-working farm, donkeys, and maze. It’s one of most visited châteaux in the area. It can also be reached by train from Tour. To enjoy it fully try to arrive early to beat the crowds.
    Lunch: the Chenonceau restaurant was fully booked, and we picked up sandwiches to go from the kiosk near the château entrance.

    We headed to Loches, just 30 min drive from the Chenonceau. Loches is one of the best preserved examples of the medieval city in the area with Royal Gate, château, dungeon, and interesting Church of St-Ours dated from 10-12th centuries. Maybe under other circumstances we would’ve enjoyed it better, but it was an unusually hot Sunday afternoon (38C/100.4 F), and with only a few brave tourists the old medieval center felt completely abandoned.

    Exhausted from the heat, we stopped at the corner café just opposite the Tourist Office for ice cream, yummy cassis sorbet, and ice-cold sangria. Before leaving Loches we stopped at Jardin Public - a beautiful garden with a nice view of the castle and Église St-Ours.

    To escape the heat we took the quickest route to Chinon, stopping only at a supermarket to pick up some water and cold drinks. A/C in a car didn’t work well.

    Great meal at Le Cafe des Arts (4 rue Jean Jacques Rousseau) in a square at the center of Chinon. The place was packed. We got two different orders of mussels (both were excellent), salad, wine, and desserts. I was surprised to find just now that tripadvisor’s ratings for this restaurant are very average.

    After our dinner we took a public elevator to the château and strolled the streets of quiet Chinon. We found a few bushes with unusual flowers that attracted many insects.

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    Thanks for the tip about the boat trip near Chenonceau. another little bit to put in my Loire folder. Your trip sounds great--except for the heat. 100 degrees would completely do me in!

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    Thanks for the tip about the boat trip near Chenonceau. another little bit to put in my Loire folder. Your trip sounds great--except for the heat. 100 degrees would completely do me in!

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