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Mar 28th, 2014, 07:36 AM
  #1
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Quick Question on First Time Visit to Loire Valley

Hi there!
Planning our first ever visit to Europe. Five nights in Paris followed by three or four nights in the Loire Valley. I have wanted to see the chateaux ever since I learned about them in high school French (a long time ago!).

We are renting self catering apartments (plan is first half France, second half Italy). I have a couple of choices in the Loire Valley picked out, but I'm agonizing over the decision. I originally chose Amboise as our base city, but my friend who's visited a few times says that may be too "citified" for us. We will have a car. Then I read about the village of Montresor. The idea is, we will explore during the days and then come home and create a meal on our little terrace. Perhaps we may wander back out for a nightcap or a meal one nights, so although we like our privacy, don't want to be totally isolated. We also plan on renting a couple of bikes to do some of the exploring...what are your thoughts?.

Here is our pick for Amboise:
http://www.vrbo.com/426924

And look what I found in Montresor:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/VacationR...ey_Centre.html

Thanks in advance!
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Mar 28th, 2014, 07:50 AM
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I wish I could help. I've stayed in hotels in Amboise and it has been called, by some, a "honky-tonk" town. But it is nicely located for seeing some of the chateaux such as Chenonceau and Chambord and it won't be very hard to get somewhere for food shopping, etc., or for evening recreation. Be aware it is not a huge place; I am not sure I would call it even a "small city."

However, you should probably go with your gut on this. Besides, you will have a car which gives max movement flexibility and so what if you have to drive somewhere in the evening?
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Mar 28th, 2014, 07:59 AM
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Amboise is a tiny town. It is citified compared to the hay fields Van Gogh painted.

And it's eponymous chateau is cool, especially if you exit via the carriageway.
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Mar 28th, 2014, 08:17 AM
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Amboise has become a tourist mecca and your friend is most likely referring to the many people who go there by bus, flood it with bodies in the summer months, and by evening it is much quieter.

Some years ago, I was talking with a friend of mine who lived not far from your proposed gîte, and I called Amboise a village. He took issue with the village description but he agreed on small town. Any location much smaller than Amboise will have few to no restaurants reachable on foot and definitely no cafés for nightcaps. I see nothing wrong with your Amboise choice but it is on a hill and will require a bit of hiking if you want to walk to the center of town. Otherwise it looks very comfortable.

One reviewer mentioned a lack of parking. It could be an issue during the day because of the huge number of tourists. Overnight parking should not be a problem.
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Mar 28th, 2014, 08:57 AM
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We love Montresor, the village is beautiful and the castle is interesting and gives a warm welcome to visitors (and their dogs if they bring them ). It's off the usual visitor's radar, although it is popular with Polish tourists due to the Polish connection.

However, the village is very quiet. I can remember only one cafe/restaurant, but it was charming with friendly staff. So if you like variety at your doorstop, you will be disappointed. Other than that, I think it's a lovely choice for someone who wants to sample low-key French village life in that part of the Loire Valley.

I am not a fan of Amboise.
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Mar 28th, 2014, 09:06 AM
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For my money, smaller is always better. I rarely stay in a city. I sometimes stay in a town. I usually stay in a village. To me the choice is obvious.
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Mar 28th, 2014, 09:07 AM
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We stayed in Amboise on our bike tour at
http://www.manoirlesminimes.com/ in the small tan cottage in front of the manor. Hotel services available ( breakfast) but with a more intimate setting( 2 room cottage)
We wanted to bike to :
http://www.chenonceau.com/
and http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction...ey_Centre.html , both of which were we thoroughly enjoyed. Once you have seen one or 2 chateau, the thrill may wear off. It did for us so great to have other options in your plans
With extra days and a car you could go farther each way.
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Mar 28th, 2014, 10:36 AM
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I have lived off an on for months at a time in the Loire and Montresor is one of my favorite off the radar towns - really neat place and well located for Chenonceaus, Chambord and many other neat places. Don't overlook the often overlooked Valencay chateaeu!
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Mar 28th, 2014, 06:22 PM
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You might want to look at www.grange-des-hirondelles.com. It's a lovely gite near Bournan. We've stayed there 3 times and will return again in May. Beautiful accommodations - a great kitchen (I love to cook) - friendly and helpful owners who live in their own house on the property.
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Mar 29th, 2014, 06:33 AM
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Thanks for all the thoughtful replies. Funny, but on counting I would say you all are just about evenly divided on the answer to my question. I think I shall choose Amboise, as we are still wanting to do a little something a couple of nights, and Dukey to answer your question, we don't want to drive after dark in a foreign country with a little wine under our belts. We have lots of experience with Caribbean islands (anyone needs any recs for self catering villas just ask!) and it's safer to explore during the day.

Snowgirls, thanks for the rec on Manoir Les Mimes, but it is too much above our budget, so think we'll stick with the uphill villa I referenced.

We shall definitely spend some time exploring Montresor of course.

Fun decisions, and thanks again!
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Mar 29th, 2014, 06:37 AM
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we don't want to drive after dark in a foreign country with a little wine under our belts>

you do not want to drive in today's France with any wine under your belt - roadside checks and zero tolerance for any blood alcohol nowadays - a law requiring cars to have their own breathalyzers was passed but rescinded - they are after ignoring the problem too long - taking drinking and driving seriously.

I have always advised Amboise being the perfect base in many ways for most travelers who have never been to the Loire before.
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Mar 29th, 2014, 07:04 AM
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PalenQ´s point about drinking and driving should be stressed. The blood alcohol level threshold is .05% which is quite low. The police can set up road blocks and administer breathalyser tests anywhere at anytime, day or night. I have been stopped many times and am alway surprised at some of the remote locations these checkpoints are found.

When traveling I make every effort to stay within walking distance of any restaurant I might want to try. Wine tasting is best done with a guide and driver.
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Mar 29th, 2014, 07:16 AM
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Thanks very much for the added info. We will heed your advice.
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Mar 29th, 2014, 07:51 AM
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I totally understood the votes against Amboise, but even before you made your decision, Joan, I was going to recommend Amboise for your needs.

We had experienced the town on a cycle trip (guided), so we got to know both the nearby sites and surrounding bike trails rather well.

First, if you want to cycle, there are many trails that leave straight from Amboise in different directions.
http://www.bikemap.net/en/regional/F...ise/#gsc.tab=0

plus there are at least three bike rental shops:
http://www.yelp.com/search?cflt=bike...Indre-et-Loire

Ironically, the one nice thing about having a car is that you can check all of these out to find a GOOD bike.

Second, it is certainly easy to become "chateau-ed out", and it's good to have a place with alternative activities, services, and restaurants within walking distance.

There's a sound and light show at the Château d'Amboise, which is unfortunately only in French (or perhaps that has changed). However, the show ends in fireworks--and if you situate yourself at a bar ACROSS the river, you can get the benefit of the display.

I know one of the bars over there is Le Shaker
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...ey_Centre.html
but I am unsure if that is where we sat. I do recall that our bar had some amazing list of cocktails. Le Shaker does, so maybe it was the same one.

The views of the Château d'Amboise from across the river, even without fireworks, are wonderful, especially at sunset.

Leonardo's house, Clos Lucé, was certainly worth the stop when combined with the Leonardo de Vinci Museum. We had toured Florence a year or two before, so we felt obligated to pay homage at this gravesite at the St. Hubert's Chapel within the Château d'Amboise grounds. And there's a great view there!

Of course, if you ask my kids, who were 9 and 13 at the time, what their best memory in Amboise was, they'd say it was meeting an American couple who never toured ANYTHING. They just "hung" around town--sitting in cafes, sitting in bars, always meeting the locals.

They spoke "0" French. The husband had learned to say, "Je parle français come une vache espagnole" (I speak French like a Spanish cow), and all was forgiven. The kids made a point of catching up with them daily on what their "activities" had been, and often, they would have been invited by some local to his/her house for lunch, dinner or drinks.

I did get a bit worried when my youngest said, "I want to be like them when I grow up."

Enjoy your planning,
AZ
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Mar 29th, 2014, 08:00 AM
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AlessandraZoe I laughed and appreciate your response.

At home in Florida, we have a tandem that we use almost daily, and so our secret wish is to rent a tandem bike. Having a car and three shops to choose from will help that dream come true possibly. Thanks so much for the links.

Now I have another problem: getting from the Loire Valley to Italy. We plan on spending the next week split between the Italian countryside and Venice. How to connect? I will start another thread for that I think...
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Mar 29th, 2014, 08:42 AM
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. How to connect? I will start another thread for that I think...>

you could go to Paris and take the overnight train to Venice - www.thello.com is the official site with discounted fares. For lots of info on night trains in general and this one in particular check these IME superb informational sites - www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com.

Night trains are not for everyone - light sleepers won't get much sleep but I've taken zillions of overnight trains in Europe and sleeping has never been a problem for me - depends on the persons. You also save the cost of a night in a hotel.
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Mar 29th, 2014, 09:27 AM
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Thanks PalenQ, I will check out those sites. My husband can sleep anywhere, I am the opposite, but it may be worth in terms of cost and time.
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Mar 29th, 2014, 09:35 AM
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http://translate.google.com/translat...%26es_sm%3D122

Just outside of Amboise is the very unusual Pagoda de Chanteloup, the only remains of a once vast chateau that was demolished not long after being built in the 1700s for back taxes - selling off the stones, etc.

All that remains of the chateau are some foundations but there is also the remaining Chanteloup Pagoda - reflecting that era's infatuation with all things Chinese - "Chinoiserie" I think is the French term

et voila the pagoda - you can climb it - it is in a bucolic rural setting - something different - check it out!
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Mar 29th, 2014, 01:11 PM
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I prefer Blois.
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Mar 29th, 2014, 03:06 PM
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The Thello trains have had some truly horrendous reviews; I don't know how reliable some of the more extreme ones are. Go to Tripadvisor and do a search on "Thello" to see some samples. I once went round trip from my home to Paris on the Artesia overnight train, which was the Thello predecessor. I was satisfied by the experience, but my expectations were low. I suggest that you bring your own food and beverages along. Thello was supposed to have spiffed up the Artesia trains, but judging by reviews, there's been no improvement.
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