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France - The Loire Valley in conjunction with the Tour de France

France - The Loire Valley in conjunction with the Tour de France

Old Feb 21st, 2013, 10:20 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2013
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France - The Loire Valley in conjunction with the Tour de France

My husband and I are planning our trip France for mid-July. Yes, we know it will be very crowded but we are also incorporating a couple of days in the Loire Valley because the Tour de France will be passing by Tours. Thursday, July 11th is when the cyclists will be passing by Tours and that's the main reason for our stop there. However, with us only being there for such a short time, I would like recommendations on the main chateaux to see and where we should stay in the central Loire. Wherever we stay, we would need to take a train to Tours first thing in the morning for Tour de France or stay there. As am reading my travel book, I'm having a hard time understanding how much time I should allow for each chateaux and what is the best way to get from one to the next. Thanks in advance for any of our suggestions!
MKubinski is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2013, 10:34 AM
Join Date: Apr 2010
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For your arrival day you could stay in Tours itself but make sure you're in the old downtown near Place Plumereau. Other popular places near Tours would be Chinon or Saumur. Further east of Tours popular bases are Amboise, Blois or Loches. These are places with lots of restaurants, stores, shopping and such but there are smaller towns to base in that have adequate services as well. I would book something soon as I imagine accommodation in that area is booking up for the days around the Tour.

The most popular châteaux are Chenonceau and Chambord and after them would be (in no order) Chaumont-sur-Loire, Cheverny, Blois, Villandry, Azay-le-Rideau and Amboise.

The best way to see the region is by rental car. Most people are happy with anywhere from 1-1/2 to 3 hours per château. Depends on your interest level.

Get a good map and orient yourself with the area so you can see where the sites are in relation to one another. I like the Michelin maps. You want the ones of the scale 1:200,000 (regional maps) or 1:150,000 (departmental maps, more detailed, cover slightly less area) for whatever regions you visit. A nice feature of the 1:150,000 maps is they show the starred attractions in the corresponding Michelin Green guidebooks. The Michelin maps have icons for all kinds of historically/touristically interesting things such as châteaux, ruins, churches, abbeys, scenic view points, caves, Roman sites, megaliths, designated scenic roads and many other things. Usually when I'm exploring various regions in France I just look at the map and I am able to plan interesting and scenic drives just reading the map. For instance, I usually look for a designated scenic road, which are highlighted in green, and I especially look for towns with the historic church and/or château icon. I also try to make sure the route goes through as many small villages as possible. Usually putting all these things together I find interesting and scenic drives without even knowing where I am going and with no assistance from a guide book. Often these places are never mentioned in guidebooks and remain completely unknown to many tourists.

You can buy the Michelin maps from their website and here is a link to the page that shows you the 1:200,000 scale maps of France:

And here is a link to the page that shows you the 1:150,000 scale maps of France:

You could also buy them here but then you can't do research beforehand. The maps can be bought in many places such as bookstores, news stands, magazine stores, larger supermarkets, department stores, hypermarkets and in the full service rest areas on the autoroutes, just to name a few.

You need good guidebooks for whatever region in France in which you will be traveling. I like The Michelin Green Guides. If you need restaurant info then get The Michelin Red Guides, which cover restaurants.

And speaking of Michelin, you can go to the website and get info on drive times and distances, toll and fuel costs and suggested routes (i.e. scenic routes). The drive times given do not consider stops (fuel, food, bathrooms) nor do they consider bad weather and bad traffic. I find the drive times very accurate when these factors are accounted for.

If you need tips on what to see and do in the Loire then here are some of the major tourist office websites for the Loire:

The tourist office websites will list all the accommodation in their respective towns and environs as well as the restaurants. You can also find out what to see and do in an area by looking at the tourist office websites.
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Old Feb 21st, 2013, 12:40 PM
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Old Feb 21st, 2013, 02:13 PM
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To tour the Loire you need to rent a car. Many of the chateaux are in the deep countryside and don't have train access. And bus access is often one a day for locals.

You also have the option of taking group tours in a van from Tours.

As to how long to spend at each chateau - that depends on the chateau and your interests - the architecture, the furnishings, the gardens, the whole setting/history. If you get a michelin green guide of the Loire from the library it will tell you what to see in each one and how long it will take.
nytraveler is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 11:41 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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You could stay in Onzain (across the river from Chaumont). I
have stayed twice at the Chateau des Tertres. The train goes from there to Tours.

Chateau to see in order of preference - Chenonceau, Azay-Le-Rideau, Chambord, Cheverny (be there when they feed the dogs), Chaumont, Blois. I have also seen Usse, Chinon, Amboise. They are all fine - just depends on your time and tolerance.
bigtyke is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 12:05 PM
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Wow... FMT has covered everything I was going to say, and then some!

If you'd like to read our trip report (note: it's old and probably out of date), you can find it here:

It includes photos.
mr_go is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 01:14 PM
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Oh, I don't think I covered everything. Just the basics. There's plenty of room to expand on and fill in with descriptive details, such as your report for example.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Old Feb 23rd, 2013, 06:02 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
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FMT----you definitely gave us food for thought. We've stayed in Amboise and on another trip in Chinon. We have always wanted to go back and see more. We've seen all the "biggies" so need some ideas for further exploration. With all the websites you've listed we may be able to choose another location. Thanks.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2013, 07:06 AM
Join Date: Apr 2010
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Happy to try to be helpful. Have you tried Loches yet? As far as exploring, look at your Michelin map and get lost on some of the designated scenic roads. There are some in the vicinity of Loches and Montrésor. South of Loches there are several near Le Grand Pressigny, which is a place I've wanted to visit.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2016, 09:40 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
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Thanks FMT I have just ordered my Michelin maps for Burgundy, Champagne and Loire Valley.
Ps. on going through some old paper work I came across our Loire Valley Carte Touristique map, from our previous trip. Invaluable...only wish I'd bought others home with me.
aussiedreamer is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2016, 08:42 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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We visited six chateaus last Fall - here are the details, with lots of pictures:
SemiMike is offline  
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