Loire Valley in 4 days - what is doable?

Old May 15th, 2008, 12:34 PM
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Loire Valley in 4 days - what is doable?

Hi all, we will be in the Loire Valley in October for 4 nights. We arrive on October 16 and leave on October 20, so after spending the first day recovering from jetlag, we'll really have just 3 full days. We will be staying in Amboise for all nights at Le Manoir Les Minimes. I was thinking about these places:

Amboise
Tours
Chenonceaux
Chaumont
Blois
Cheverny
Chambord
Villandry

Is this too much for 3.5 days? Can we add more? If so, what is recommended. If it IS too much, what should we cut? We have guidebooks on the way but I'm antsy to start planning!

Thanks!
Anna





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Old May 15th, 2008, 12:41 PM
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It's doable - IF you don't intend to visit the inside of all the places.

We were there exactly 1 year ago in October 07.

We did:
Day 1 - Amboise only (we only had 1/2 a day)
Day 2 - Villandry, Fontevraud, Chinon
Day 3 - Chaumont (just the grounds), Chambord, Chenonceaux, Cheverny (just drive-by photo op)

So you can substitute in Tours/blois for my Day 2 instead of Fontevraud and Chinon. It will be rather rushed still.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 12:47 PM
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We are interested in the outside more than the inside, for sure. We're really into photography so we plan on taking a gazillion pictures of these places and the scenery.

Which have more interesting interiors? I'll have to look into Fontevraud and Chinon. I think I originally thought they were too far west compared to the rest of the places, but if they are more worthy of visiting, I'll have to make a decision!
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Old May 15th, 2008, 01:08 PM
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Yes, I'd say it's quite doable. You've chosen a nice location (and a great hotel) as your base and should be able to navigate from place to place quite easily. You've also chosen most of the best chateaux.

Even with jetlag, you should be able to see the grounds at Amboise on your first day, also the charming little town. No need for the interior IMO.


I agree that Fonteveraud and Chinon are further West than you probably will want or need to go. But since the big draw at Villandry is the gardens and since by October 16 about all that will be left of them will probably be some pumpkins, I'd skip that entirely also. Substitute instead Azay le Rideau and Langeis (both again with some interesting nearby towns as well as the chateaus). You could do both of them and the town of Tours on one day. That would still leave you 2 days, one of which you could use for Chambord, Cheverny and Blois and the other for Chenonceaux and Chaumont.

The interiors that are best to see IMO would be Cheverny and Chenonceaux, the former for the lovely furnishings and the latter for the lovely flowers which complement the more historic furnishings. Chambord is fairly bleak except for the staircase. If you must have staircase, do the interior of Blois instead. It has more well furnished rooms in general. Langeais also has a relatively interesting interior.

Actually this is highly doable and I'd say a rather nicely blocked itinerary. Try, if you can, to arrange your visit to Cheverny to come at 5 p.m. on a weekday when they feed the pack of hounds that are indigenous to that hunting chateau. It's a bit daunting but very interesting and can make for some highly interesting pictures. Enjoy.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 01:21 PM
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Just to give my input on Villandry. As I said earlier, I went during the same time last year, and we still enjoyed the gardens very much. I'm sure they're much nicer in the summer time, but there are more than a few pumpkins in October!

I'm just looking at my pics from last year. There are dahlias, roses, plus plenty other flowers which I cannot name. Apart from flowers, the gardens have lots of ornamental plants of various colors. Unless you're returning to the Loire again soon, I'd recommend not skipping Villandry.

Of course, if you're visiting on a rainy day, then I don't think Villandry will be much fun.

Lots of people rave about Fontevraud, so that's why we went. I have to say I was a bit disappointed. The main attraction is the Abbey, where the mausoleum of Eleanor of Aquitaine lies (and her husband and son). But for me, I'd rather spend the time visiting another chateau.

The Chinon chateau is mostly in ruins. We actually arrived late and the chateau had closed for the day. But the town is pretty, esp seen from across the river. We were there just before sunset and the golden color of the chateau and shimmering reflection from the river was a highlight of the trip. I think you'll like it since you are into photography.

It'll be kind of a shame to visit Chambord but not go inside. Yes, there's not much to see inside except the staircase, but the best part is climbing up to the roof to see close-ups of the chimneys and the view! You can skip the audioguide at chambord (extra $) as it's a bit dull and long.

The exterior of Chaumont and view from it is very pretty.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 01:24 PM
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add some Vouvray wine tastings in Vouvray's several prestigious wine houses - wine that is the Loire's most vaunted, along with Sancerre i believe

this small village is very close to Amboise and Tours.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 01:28 PM
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yk, glad to hear that the gardens of Villandry could be nice that time of year. They are one of the loveliest sights of the Loire and I'd hate for anyone to miss them if they are worthy of visiting at the time. If that's the case, I'd surely keep them in the line up and, if time is short--which it really might not be--sacrifice Langeais for that day.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 01:30 PM
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It's probably good enough to visit just the gardens only at Villandry. The interior is nothing to write home about. You can get separate tickets for Gardens only.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 01:40 PM
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I enjoyed the Chateau d'Angers and also the area around the chateau. Here are some of my pictures if you are interested. http://travel.webshots.com/album/97574274rPCmjg

Angers is only about an 1 1/2 hour TGV ride from Paris, the train station is in the center of the city and much is within walking distance. You might consider to rent you car in Angers, if driving is your plan, and then tour the other chateaus. If you were renting a car in Paris it would save you the headache of the Paris traffic. Then take the return TGV to Paris.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 01:55 PM
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FWIW, we're going back to the Loire Valley this year. Last year, we decided Angers is too far out West, but we'll go there this time. The Chateau Angers is most famous for its tapestries, and I'm very excited to go see them!
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Old May 15th, 2008, 03:11 PM
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Wow, lots of great responses, thanks! I added the sights mentioned to my handy Google map for future reference. We will check them out later and pare down from there, because I think now we have too much for just 3.5 days!
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Old May 16th, 2008, 03:38 AM
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Bookmarking.
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Old May 16th, 2008, 05:03 AM
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Personally, I can't imagine going to Amboise and not going inside. I mean, the main historical attraction of the place, aside from it being where King Charles hit his head on the lintel and died 5 days later, is the banquet hall where Catherine de Medici invited the Huguenots to dinner and then defenestrated them. It's a much more compelling image from the inside than from out.

And there's the Clos Lucé, also in Amboise, which I would not miss, particularly the lower level where you can see Leonardo's models for helicopters and such.

Chambord, on the other hand, has hardly anything inside it - for me, all the attraction is the outside, all those turrets and towers.

And I completely agree that Angers is well worth the drive. Not only the château and ITS tapestries, but the Musée Jean Lurçat, where you can see his modern take on them. Plus, it's just a great little city. I'd throw in Saumur, too. Chinon takes about a half-hour at most. It's in ruins, and once you've had the WOW moment standing where Jeanne d'Arc met the Dauphin, well, there's not much more to see.
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Old May 16th, 2008, 05:49 AM
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We visited the Loire this past April for 7 nights, staying in the tiny village of Monteaux (next to Onzain).

We visited Amboise, Chenonceau, Blois, Cheverny (be sure to catch the 5 pm feeding of the dogs), Chambord, Villandry, Azay le Rideau, Musee Maurice Defrense, and Angers.

Angers was about a 2-hour-plus drive for us each way. Quite a trek, but so worth it! To me, it's one of the definite must-sees of the Loire.

We spent most of a day at Chenonceau. As a photographer, you will love the setting, gardens, and the surrounding forests. Take a long walk thru the wandering paths or along the terrace by the river. There are beautiful wildflowers and moss-covered trees, as well as great shots of the chateau from farther back along the river.

There are some beautiful photo ops across the river from Amboise. Park your car near the camping area, and walk back towards the bridge. Really beautiful.

For your 3.5 days, you should be able to see quite a bit. As others have mentioned, some places you can go thru fairly quickly. It all depends on how distracted you get taking photos! When we were there, the wisteria were in full bloom, so we dallied quite a bit!

Happy travels!

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Old May 16th, 2008, 06:38 AM
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Thanks! I am making dilligent notes on my map and will most likely come back to help narrow everything down. I think what we will do is prioritize each place and then just work our way down the list as we go along, since otherwise I'm afraid we will possibly underestimate how long things will take. Then at the end of the trip we may be left with high-priority sights left unseen!
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Old May 16th, 2008, 07:01 AM
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When we were there last October, what struck me was that the whole valley was shrouded by rather heavy mist/fog every morning. Sometimes the fog lifts by 11am, sometimes not until 2-3pm. But when the fog finally dissipated, we got great blue sky w/o a wisp of cloud.

Just FYI since you're interested in photography.
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Old May 16th, 2008, 09:17 AM
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thank you for sharing info. Bkmk
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Old May 16th, 2008, 11:00 AM
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da Vinci's gravesite is in the chapel at the Chateau d'Amboise. Also the large tower(s) enclose a ramp that allowed horses and carriages to reach the chateau terrace level from street 40 meters below.

We spent 2 nights in Amboise and 2 nights in Chinon. We did an exploration of the town of Amboise, including the chateau and Clos de Luce. We drove to Chambord and Cheverney and had inside visits. We made a stop in 'beau village' of Montresor. From Chinon, we explored the town and the chateau ruins, and drove to Fontevraud l'Abbaye and Azay le Rideau, and also saw the Donjon and church at Loches.
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Old May 16th, 2008, 11:21 AM
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Keep it coming everyone! This thread had been tremendously helpful for me!
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Old May 16th, 2008, 04:51 PM
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We spend 6 days in the Loire - an found that 2 chateaus in a day is the max you have the time, energy or brainpower to absorb. One night we did a son et lumiere - so that was the third - but the next day we were burned out.

You need to realize that although they seem close together most are situated in very small, out of the way towns that it can take a while to get to.

I would pick your top 6 - based on interests - (for instance, Villandry has great gardens) and spend a little time relaxing in cafes along the way
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