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Kelsey Burr Jun 10th, 1998 07:49 AM

Normandy/Loir Valley by car
I'm planning a trip by car through Normandy and the Loir Valley. I'd like any advice on what to add or subtract from this itinerary: Giverney, Rouen, (one day/one night); Bayeux, Normandy Beaches, (one day/one night); Mont-Saint-Michel (one day/one night); the Loire valley (three days/three nights) (including a one-day bike trip). Please let me know any specific sights or activities in these regions. Thanks!

Mike Jun 10th, 1998 08:55 AM

Let me start off...In the Loire, I visited and enjoyed Blois, Uzze, Chinon, Chenonceau, and Azay le Rideau. Didn't particularly like Chambord. Recommend Sons et Lumieres, which are light/song pageants held at night. Most of the above have them, and Le Lude has one that feaures horseback riders....more to come...

Monica Jun 10th, 1998 02:55 PM

Mike: just curious why you didn't like Chambord. It was such a spectacular sight to me, though it was a cloudy and rainy day. I loved the double staircase. Would love your thoughts on other places in this area as I am planning a trip to France next year. Thanks!

Rich Jun 10th, 1998 03:56 PM

Lived in Normandy for a time (Cherbourg) and loved it. Your planned stops sound great; reasonable distances and great sites. Don't forget the war museum in Caen. It is worth seeing before or after you visit the American Memorial at the beach. One cannot help but be moved by the memorial and the peaceful surroundings. If you have time, and a good map of the area around Caen and the beaches, do not take the highway from Caen to the Memorial. Drive due North from Caen to the port and take the seaside route. The scenery is beautiful. <BR> <BR>P.S. Don't forget to have a famous camembert omelette at the Mont St. Michel.

Mike Jun 11th, 1998 03:43 AM

Monica...I spent about 2 weeks touring the Loire in a rented car, using Michelin as my guide. I found Chambord nice to look at(all those chimneys..), but found the inside somewhat empty and lifeless, all gray stone and not a lot of furnishings...Plus, of all the chateaus I visited, I found this one to be the busiest in terms of number of people. Rather than not recommend it, perhaps I should say "visit early in the day". One thing I appreciated about my tour of the Loire valley was the fact that the crowds were usually small. In some cases, tours of the castles were myself and 1 or 2 other persons! Perhaps my view of Chambord is tainted by this! I did also go to the Sound/Light show at the castle, and it was not bad. I will check my travel notes and put on some info.....What did you see/like in your trip?

Monica Jun 11th, 1998 04:10 AM

Hi Mike, I actually agree with your comments about the inside of Chambord, but was amazed at the structure. We were there in October and it wasn't too croweded, though 1-2 people would have been much better. Lucky you. We saw Chambord on a Day Trip from Tours and saw 5-6 Chateaux, including the ones in Ambois, Blois, Cheverny. The old town area of Tours was very interesting. Loved Paris and all the sights to see. We also visited Claude Monets home/gardens and Chartres (beautiful church!). Will look forward to reading your notes.

Kelsey Jun 11th, 1998 05:26 AM

Thanks for the replies! One follow-up: What's the right number of chateaux to see in a day? I've heard two to three recommended, but Monica said she saw 5-6. Any thoughts? Also, did you visit any vineyards there and how was that? Thanks.

Monica Jun 11th, 1998 05:37 AM

Let me clarify: we stopped at 2 chateaux for about 2 hours each and the other places we just stopped for a few minutes for a lecture on them and photo ops.

Richard Jun 11th, 1998 05:42 AM

West of Rouen, and on your way to Caen and le Mont-St Michel taje a short side trip to Honfleur, a pretty little harbor town. <BR>

Rich Jun 11th, 1998 05:53 AM

Richard is right, Honfleur is a good idea. You might also want to consider a stop in Cabour on the coast Northeast of Caen.

Marcia Growdon Jun 11th, 1998 10:33 AM

Re: Loire - let me emphasize Amboise - it's wonderful, and if memory serves me right, has associations with Leonardo de Vinci I think. No one has mentioned the town of Tours, itself. While heavily destroyed in WWII bombardments south of the river, with relatively ugly 1950's replacements, it is still a spectacular setting with long walks along the river which quickly take you into older areas. The church of St. Julien escaped total destruction, although it is so close to the bridge the mind boggles at how it escaped. It is a wonderful medieval church, with a bit of its original glass. So don't hesitate to stop in Tours and stretch your legs and explore. Historically it is a very important early medieval center. And the local wine - Vouvray, a Loire speciality - is good. In the 1960's they told us to enjoy it in Tours because it doesn't travel well; they were right. It always tastes better in Tours! <BR> <BR>Normandy: don't forget the wonderful Bayeux tapestry in the church at Bayeux. It is a unique object in medieval art and history, chronicling the triumph of William the Conqueror over King Hal. And if you are into medieval architecture, check out the very early pre / or proto-gothic (depends on your point of view) church of St. Etienne in Caen. Austere and beautiful. <BR> <BR>And to the earlier writer - thanks for the tip on the scenic coastal drive. I remember wandering that coast as a college student on All Saints Day in 1965. It was grey, foggy, drizzling and forbidding and all too easy to picture the D-Day assaults. The odd thing is that I had a sense of the history then - but had no sense of how SOON after WWII it really was! Time changes the perspective! <BR> <BR>

Mike Jun 11th, 1998 12:19 PM

Marcia...if memory serves me correctly, you are very right about Amboise. Very nice old town,with a castle , and an area of houses built into sides of cliffs. I also visited the house that Di Vinci worked/died in...interesting house and displays of some of his works (models, documents....) I also would like to bring up the chateau of Chenonceau...I rate it as one of the most beautiful. I spent a night in the village of Chenonceaux at the "Au Bon Laboureur"..this was probably the nicest place I stayed at in the Loire....nice old village inn,comfortable rooms, swimming pool across street, and a top notch restaurant...noticed some pictures of famous people on the walls....but was not priced out of bit expensive....more to come....

Mike Jul 7th, 1998 09:20 AM

Hi, To help planning, this was my itinerary when I went. I used the Micheline Green guide. Day1: Paris, Fontainbleau, Orleans, (Hotel Orleans, 3*, ok, clean)...Day2: Orleans, Clery St Andre, Meung sur Loire, Beugency, Chambord, Blois, (Novotel Blois, good restaurant)...Day3: Blois....Day 4: CHaumont Sur loire, Amboise, Chenonceau, (Hotel du Bon Laboureur, excellent hotel/inn and restaurant, pool)....Day 5: Chanteloup, Tours, Caves de Sallonieres, Villandry, Azay le Rideau, (Hotel Val de Loire in Azay, under repair, must eat meal at specific restaurant)....Day 6: Azay, Usse, Chinon, Le Lude, (Loir Hotel, Best Western-Saumur, very nice hotel and restaurant, restaurant overlooks castle and river)...Day 7: Fontevraud Abbey, Cunault, Saumur, Angers, (Hotel France, France Acceuil, near train station, grand and plush)...Day 8: Angers, Savonieres, Behehard, Angevin Corniche, Haie Longue, Ingrandes, CHamptoceaux, Ancenis, (Voyageur Hotel -Ancenis, Logis de France, good restaurant, "relaxed" service)....Day 9: Conde, Le Lion D'Angers, La Fleche, Cheere, Villedieu, Troo, Vendome, (Hotel Vendome, Acceuil de france, very nice restaurant)....Day 10: Vendome, Chateaudun, Chartes, (Hotel Normandie-Vernon, Best Western, 3*, nice restaurant). <BR> <BR>As a ruke of thumb, I tried to found 3* hotels. Also, mostly ate at the hotels, which worked out quite well. Since restaurants open somewhat late (7:30-8:00),and service is rarely rushed, most evenings did not have a lot of time to explore. Made of point to go to all possible "Sons et Lumieres" shows: usually held at Chateaux, at sundown, pageants/sound and light shows. Saw these at Chambord, Blois, Chenonceau, Azay, Le Lude. Depending on season, can have dinner and make the show...I went in August.. <BR>Hope this helps

Kelsey Aug 1st, 1998 06:40 AM

Thanks for all the advice. Did anyone bike the area (casually)? I'm thinking of doing that for a couple of days and would appreciate any thoughts.

Byrd Aug 1st, 1998 09:22 AM

Kelsey-I'm so glad you posted this question. We are also planning a trip to France(group of eight in October) and will spend three days in the Loire Valley. Mike, your suggestions are sound very helpful.

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