Loire by Train in March

Jan 14th, 2006, 05:43 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 6
Loire by Train in March

I will be in Paris the first week of March and as this is my third trip there, I wanted to make some day trips, including Loire Valley. Will the gardens of Villandry be worth seeing in early March or should I focus on other chateaux?

Since I am solo and don't want to rent a car, I may take the train to Tours and book an Acco-Dispo excursion. If I don't do that, I would like to take the train to Blois and Amboise. If I buy a roundtrip ticket to Amboise on the sncf website, would I be able to stop off in Blois for a few hours? Will they mail the ticket to my home in the States? Or should I just wait until I get to the train station to get the ticket? Do the trains seldom fill up in March?

Sorry for all the questions, but I am also considering day trips to Bourges, Rouen or Troyes and need to understand the process.

Thanks much!
Teale is offline  
Jan 14th, 2006, 07:05 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,127
SNCF will not mail your train tickets to the States. If you can't print them online (available for discounted, non-refundable, non-changeable tickets only), the easiest method is to mail them c/o your Paris hotel. Picking up the tickets is not so easy anymore as I understand the kiosks accept only European credit cards.

Can you stop off in Blois? I'm not sure about that one. I'm assuming that you can get tickets easily as March is still low season.

Have you thought of picking up the Acco Dispo tours from Amboise instead of Tours? They offer tours from either Tours or Amboise.

francophile03 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2006, 07:53 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 47,413
NO, they won't mail tickets to you in the USA. Just buy them at the station before your departure (do check the SNCF schedules online before leaving for France). I don't understand what francophile03 said about kiosks only accepting European credit cards - I'd disregard that. I buy tickets at the ticket windown in France ALL the time with an AMEX card - no problem. Mastercard and Visa also work with no problem. Just don't use the automated ticket machines - THOSE DO require a French credit card, I believe.

I wouldn't go to châteaux known for their gardens in March - the gardens won't be there.

You can't buy a ticket to X and "stop off" at Y on the French train system, so you'll have to plan your travel carefully.

Personally, I'd take a train to Amboise and rent a car for a couple of days to tour around and see the châteaux. It's very easy driving and a lot less hassle than taking public transportation.
StCirq is online now  
Jan 14th, 2006, 08:10 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,127
Sorry I got that info. wrong about picking up the tickets. Never did it myself but thought I read recently where it was a problem. But StCirq has clarified that the problem is with getting the tickets from the automated machines only.
francophile03 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2006, 09:42 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,358
On the last couple of trips I ordered my SNCF tickets by phone and they arrived [USA] a couple of weeks later.
RonZ is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 05:47 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 6
Thank you for your answers. I could not find a discounted train fare to Tours and it is quite expensive, so taking an Acco Dispo tour from Amboise is a good idea, francophile03.

StCirq, I have considered your suggestion of renting a car and staying overnight in Amboise, but I'm wary of driving and navigating on my own in unfamiliar territory, even though I know many of you on this site do this routinely. Your comments on Villandry confirms what I had suspected.

I may order my train tickets as RonZ suggests, at least for those day trips I am certain of. The regular fare (non-TGV) tickets are fully refundable, are they not?
Teale is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 06:05 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,460
Hi Teale,

On my first and only trip (so far) to France, I had a few more days to spend than my friends did. I wanted to see some chateaux in Loire.

I flew in to CDG, took a taxi to Gare Montparnasse, trained to Chartres. Stayed overnight, saw the cathedral, picked up my rental car and drove down to the Ambroise/Chenonceau area. I drove around all on my own for 3 days, visited Chambord, Chennonceau, Villandry, among others.

Got a little off track once in Tours, but basically had no problems. This was my first trip to France, I was solo, and I don't speak any French.

If I could do it, so can you. Get a car and stay over night in Ambroise. It's wonderful and I would stay there if I went again.

I took the TGV back to Paris and dropped my car at that station. It's not in Tours, but St. Paul du Corps (if I remember the name correctly).

Have fun!
Dayle is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 06:40 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 6
Hi Dayle,

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I certainly admire your sense of adventure!

I did not previously mention that I have already booked my hotel in Paris - the Hotel des Grandes Hommes - for my entire stay because I got a very good internet rate. However, I still think an overnight in Amboise is an experience I don't want to miss.

If I rent a car and stick to the chateaux in the smaller towns, hopefully I'll have less risk of getting lost!
Teale is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 08:42 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,127
Hi Teale, the regular fares are refundable, yes. And they do refund you immediately once you choose to do so.

I've thought about overnighting in Amboise too. But since I have limited time in Paris I'm not going to do it this time. A daytrip from Paris to Amboise would be sufficient for me to see the Chateau d'Amboise and the Clos Luce.

However, there are some very nice hotels in Amboise. If you do stay overnight see if you can get one that offers a view of the chateau from the room.

I'm sure you will have a wonderful visit as you've got some amazing sightseeing plans. Hope to read about it when you return.
francophile03 is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 09:11 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,358
Getting around Tours can really be confusing, but assuming one has a decent map, the Loire Valley is really easy to navigate.
RonZ is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 09:16 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 10,605
"... Picking up the tickets is not so easy anymore.."

There is always the option to pop into a neighborhood SNCF "boutique" also (like a travel agency, but for the trains) or just go to one of the 'gares'.

It's "St Pierre-des-Corps" for the TGV, one stop before Tours.
Travelnut is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 10:58 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 66
I used Acco-Dispo a couple of years ago to tour a small section of the Loire. We took the TGV to Tours early in the morning, met the van across from the train station, and spent the day with Acco-Dispo. It was a full day -- we got back to
Paris in the evening, around 7:30 or so, if I remember correctly. It was a good way for us to take a quick day trip from Paris and get a taste of the chateau region without having to deal with renting a car. Oh, and I booked the ticket from the US on the SNCF website, then picked up the tickets in Paris at one of their "boutiques." Very easy.
Cherie is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 12:54 PM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 6
Well, I'm not having any luck finding a hotel in Amboise that would be available, so I'm still open to the train and tour option.

Is there a location map of the SNCF "boutiques" so that I could find one close to my hotel? Are they easy to spot?

Thanks to everyone for all the great suggestions. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed because the Loire Valley has so much to offer that I find myself wanting to see more than I know I'll have time for. Guess I'll just have to plan on going back again!
Teale is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 01:28 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 66
The boutique I went to was near Fauchon (Place de la Madeleine?). Check the list at this site for all the addresses in Paris:
http://www.voyages-sncf.com/info_res...r/Adresses.htm
Cherie is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 01:47 PM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 6
I see there is one next to the Luxembourg RER station that would be convenient. Thanks so much!
Teale is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 03:49 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 10,605
We stayed at Manoir les Minimes in Amboise..did you look them up?
Travelnut is offline  
Jan 15th, 2006, 04:53 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,766
A few years ago I took a daytrip to the Loire Valley from Paris, with a company that I found on a brochure at my hotel, I think it was called "Paris Bus Tours".
They limit the group to 6 (but there were only 4 in my group) and put you on the TGV to Tours,(St.Pierre des Corps) then a minivan picks you up. We saw 3 chateaux, had lunch and a winetasting, got back to Paris around 7:00. It was a very enjoyable day, but could be done cheaper on your own, just picking up the minivan tour in Amboise or Tours.

Another time, I took an Acco-Dispo tour when I was in Tours. It was Ok, but I felt a little rushed and I didn't enjoy as much as the other minivan company.

Of course, the best is to rent a car and see the chateaux on your own! I finally did that and stayed in the Loire for 10 days (solo, and I had never before driven in Europe) - and had a wonderful time. I spent some time in Amboise, Tours, Chinon, and Saumur.
Loved them all, especially Amboise and Chinon. Driving was easy in the Loire, although I got lost around Tours (but people are SO nice in France, and quite helpful). Anyway, if you just take your daytrip, it will probably whet your appetite for more of the Loire, like it did for me!
Sue4 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2006, 06:31 AM
  #18  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 6
Well, I was mistaken about there being no hotels available in Amboise. Either I used the wrong search engines or didn't make the right selections.

At any rate, I have made a reservation for one night at Hotel le Blason in Amboise. It gets very good reviews on TripAdvisor and is within my budget, considering I am already paying for the hotel in Paris for that night.

Because of the reduced opening hours at this time of year, I'm not convinced that renting a car is worth the considerable expense.

So my current plan is to take the train to Blois then Amboise, check into the hotel then take the full day Acco-Dispo tour the following day before returning to Paris. The tour includes Chenonceau, Chambord and Cheverny and I can easily see Amboise and Blois on my own.

I know this trip will be rushed, but at least it will give me a taste of the Loire and I can always return and enjoy it at a more leisurely pace on a later trip.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to post an answer. You've been extremely helpful.
Teale is offline  
Jan 16th, 2006, 03:57 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,766
Teale, I think your plan sounds perfect.
You will enjoy spending the night in Amboise, and the full day minivan tour will be alot easier than renting the car and trying to find your way around in such a short time. If you want a good dinner in Amboise, try L'Epicerie -it was great. It's right on the main street leading to the chateau entrance.
By the way, I think alot of people skip the Chateau d'Amboise when visiting the Loire - but it was one of my favorites.
Enjoy your trip!
Sue4 is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
prmbrown
Europe
11
Apr 13th, 2015 07:52 PM
rjderama
Europe
33
Mar 20th, 2006 08:24 AM
Bisco
Europe
5
Jan 15th, 2006 10:50 AM
boxtobe
Europe
20
Jan 12th, 2006 12:40 PM
strass
Europe
10
Aug 31st, 2004 01:05 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:51 AM.