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Thoughts on possible Loire Valley itinerary

Thoughts on possible Loire Valley itinerary

Feb 18th, 2007, 06:11 AM
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Thoughts on possible Loire Valley itinerary

I've been going back on forth between a number of destinations for an April weekend trip, and my new thought is to visit Loire Valley.

I would arrive at Tours airport 1:20 pm on a Thursday, and depart again at 1:45 pm on Sunday.

Thursday - get to Tours around 2 to 2:30. Train to nearby chateaux?

Friday - full day tour with SAINT ELOI EXCURSIONS.

9:30 - 12:30 = Azay le Rideau and Villandry
1:45 - 6:45 = Cheonceau, Amboise, Clos Luce, and cellar with wine tasting

Saturday - morning visit to another chateaux?

1:45 - 6:45 tour of Chambord and Cheverny with Saint Eloi

Sunday - explore Tours (fine arts museum, cathedral, town centre walk) before flight.

My questions:

1) As a single person, could I just latch on to one of those tours (the 8 person minivans sponsored by the Tours tourism office)? Has anyone taken a tour with this company? What was it like? Did you have enough time to actually see the places?

2) Other places I'm considering exploring include:


Is it possible to fit one each in around Thursday afternoon or Saturday morning? If so, which ones should I visit?

Thanks for your help.

JoeTro is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 07:05 AM
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Hi Joe,

It's been quite a few years since I visited the Loire Valley and chateaux (1997), but I rented a car and drove around solo for 4 days.

I stayed at Chateau di Chissay, very near Chennonceau and, during the time I had, visited all the places you are going on your tours.

I do think you can easily visit another on Saturday morning. The one I tried to visit and just missed (lunchtime closing) was Langeais if I remember correctly.

I kind of seems that your tour is not giving you enough time to wander the amazing gardens of Villandry, but maybe the time at Azay le Rideau will be short. Unless something major has changed, the interior is empty and it's the outside with the reflecting moat that's best to see!

Can't say about a mini van tour, but I returned my rental car at St. Paul du Corps, just outside of Tours where the TGV station is.

Have fun!
Dayle is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 07:21 AM
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Hi Joe,
It sounds like you haven't signed up for the tour yet. Do you really want to do that? I spent four days renting a car and driving myself around with no problems. You will need to get a car to see any of the chateaux on your own any way. And even from the airport, unless that's changed since I was there in 2002.

It's a cute little airport. You can watch them bring the bags around in the cart and put them on the conveyor belt which is really just an oval that goes outside (hope its not raining when you get there) then loops back inside.

Three hours to get to Azay le Rideau and then Villandry doesn't sound like a lot of time for looking around. I spent maybe 1.5 hours at Villandry and would have spent more time walking in the wonderful gardens if it hadn't been raining. I did spend 10 minutes on the roof getting great pics of the gardens. If you have any interest in gardening, you will want more time at Villandry than the tour will give you.

Langeais is the one chateau that I regret missing. It had just closed when I got to it after a day visiting Villandry (Azay le Rideau had closed for lunch) Sache, medieval part of the town of Chinon, and L'Abbaye Fontevraud.

Angers is quite a distance away and would take up most of a day to get to, see, and return to Tours.

Have fun. I hope to get back to the Loire Valley some day and see what I missed.
GBbabe is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 07:52 AM
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Thanks for the tips. I realize that renting a car really would be best, but I'd very much prefer not to. So these tours seemed like a good idea. I've not signed up for them yet ... in fact I'm still not sure that I will go to Tours, just wondering about what a possible itinerary would look like.

The gardens at Villandry really do seem nice, and I wondered how much time we'd have. I wonder if the full day tour doesn't go back to Tours, this maybe allowing us more time?
JoeTro is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 08:11 AM
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Getting from Tours to Angers does NOT take up most of the day unless you want it to...the train ride between Tours and Angers is only 1 hour. There is a 7:30 (ish) train that would get you there around 8:30 am, you could sightsee for a few hours, then hop on a one hour train back. The chateau is definitely worth seeing and is an easy walk from the train station. Right next to the chateau is a Maison du Vin, where you can taste (for free) a variety of local wines, buying any that you particularly enjoy. Now if you decide to stay longer, you certainly can...Angers is full of excellent, inexpensive places for lunch, has a picturesque medieval quarter and some very attractive parks. You may decide, after your big chateau day on Friday that you're "chateau'd out" and Angers has plenty to see and enjoy even without doing the chateau. As it's right in town, you could walk around the outside and then opt to explore inside or just poke around town depending on what you fee like.
BTilke is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 11:28 AM
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I can;t believe that Sant Eloi excursions. There's no way you could possibly see anything of all those places in one day. Some of them must be either drive-bys - or a 10 minute stop for a photo op.

We spent 6 days in the Loire and it;s really difficult to see more than 2 chateaux per day and really appreciate anything. (And there were only 2 of us with a car - not a group to be herded about, waited for and rushed back to the bus.
nytraveler is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 11:41 AM
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I agree with nytraveler about the Saint-Eloi Excursions and the two châteaux per day limit (and frankly, I wouldn't want to try for more,especially on consecutive days). Unless you're never going to eat lunch or stop for a cup of coffee, it's just not reasonable to see more than two per day.
StCirq is online now  
Feb 18th, 2007, 12:02 PM
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They all say that they are "visits" and not "views", which would be shorter. I've e-mailed the Tours tourist office to ask just how long we get at each place.

These are mini-buses, so only 8 people max. I typically don't require many breaks, and there is time for a lunch break.
JoeTro is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 05:13 PM
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JoeTro is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 06:04 PM
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I don;t think you have any idea how big these chateaux are - how many rooms there are to view and how large the grounds and gardens can be.

They may park the van, walk you in and show you 3/4 rooms - but how do you see dozens - if not hundreds of rooms in an hour or so.

As one example - the Chateau de Vilandry web site says it takes 2.5 hours to see the house and gardens. How do you do that, drive to Azay le Rideau (20 minutes) and then spend a minimum of an hour at Azay le Rideau (almost 4 hours - between 9:30 to 12:30)?

Then you have 1:15 to have lunch and drive to Chenonceau. (Are they giving you a sandwich on the bus? In the smaller towns of France it's very difficult to have any sort of lunch - even in a casuale cafe - in under an hour. In a restaurant it will take 2.)

Believe me - you are being rushed throuhg small parts of these sites - not being given time to explore them at your own pace - stopping to examine what interests you. (I checked with the beau to make sure my memory was correct and we saw one group being marched through Azay le Rideau - and a couple of older folks were having trouble walking fast enough to keep up - never mind examining anything interesting.)
nytraveler is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 06:26 PM
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I was going to do essentially what nytraveler did for you - break one of those mornings or afternoons down into what are actually the realities of timing, but since he/she did it, I'll just say I agree wholeheartedly.

And I was a tour guide in the Loire Valley in another life many years ago (back when there was even less of those properties to be visited)
StCirq is online now  
Feb 19th, 2007, 02:17 AM
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Thanks so much. It seems like the tours would really be too fast, and I'm the kind of person who likes to visit every room, every painting in an art gallery, etc. So I should give these a miss.

I just found out that I have an extra week to travel than I thought I did ... so now these plans are out the window and I have more time to play with!

Thanks for all the tips. I'd love to do the Loire Valley at some point, just not with these tours.
JoeTro is offline  
Feb 19th, 2007, 02:31 AM
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JoeTro, I was about to weigh in to back the suggestions of others that these tours are simply too rushed to be worthwhile, and I saw that you had already been persuaded. I am pleased for you.

One thing I like particularly about the Loire Valley (which I visit frequently) is the gentle pace of life I experience there. Sometimes two chateaux a day seems far too hectic. Last summer, in a four-day trip, I visited no chateau at all.
Padraig is offline  
Feb 19th, 2007, 02:33 AM
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Hi, Joe -

Having toured the loire a number of times in the last few years, I have to say that I agree with OPs - for example we spent a good 4 hours at Chenonceau and the whole day at Villandry.

As you are a solo traveller, how about a cycling tour - I just googled "cycling in the loire" and there are several options. I seem to remember seeing lots of bikes outside the chateau, and being a valley, it shouldn't be too strenuous.

Or if you don't want to be organised, just hire a bike!

Good luck!
annhig is offline  
Feb 21st, 2007, 11:23 AM
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My husband, son and I drove around everywhere so I cannot comment on the bus tours but I found that we needed half a day to see most chateaux and after that, preferred to spend the time wandering in towns for the rest of the day (as opposed to seeing the inside of another chateau). If you take an audio tour, there are so many stories to listen to that you will not be doing justice allocating any less time. You may get a few ideas from my trip report at www.sujablogs.blogspot.com
Suja is offline  
Feb 21st, 2007, 11:33 AM
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Oh, by the way, I heard back from the tourist office. They said you get 1 hour in each chateaux. Doesn't seem like enough time for me, and I move fast!
JoeTro is offline  
Feb 21st, 2007, 02:15 PM
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Hi Joe,

Last year I did a 4 day tour of the Loire Valley, solo, at the end of April and it was one of the best trips of my life. My itinerary was:

Day 1 Blois and Chambord
Day 2 Villandry, Chenonceau and Amboise (+wine-tasting)
Day 3 Vouvray (wine tasting!) and Azay-le Rideau
Day 4 Angers

Most days I took a bus or train, but Day 2 I did van tour and I thought it was fantastic. Yes, your time is a bit more limited with a tour, but at that time of the year the chateaux won't be too crowded. I did not feel rushed - on the contrary, doing the tour bus allowed me to see a lot more chateaux much more quickly. Also, I had the greatest folks in my van - from China, San Francisco, and southern France. Plus, the driver was amazing, very knowledgeable. Highly recommend it for at least 1 day.

To consider:
Some chateaux do require more time - Chambord and Villandry for example.
Azay-le-Rideau, Amboise, and even Chenonceau aren't that big, and are better done with a tour.

Here’s what I would do, if I were you:

1) Thursday: after arriving in Tours, take a short train to Blois and see the chateau (very cool – where the Duc of Guise was assassinated during religious wars. The chateau is also a fusion of three different centuries architecture)
2) Friday: do the tour you picked – most of those chateaux are smaller and can be done more quickly, as will need to be the case with a tour
3) Saturday – pick one of the bigger Chateaux and leisurely explore (Chambord or Angers, for example). If you do the afternoon tour of Chambord and Cheverny (totally doable), you could squeeze Angers in the morning, if you leave early (and the train times are conducive)
4) Sunday – explore Tours

Also, a plug for the castle at Angers - it is very different from all the others on your itinerary - much older and very different architecture - it would offer a good contrast to the rest. Plus, the stunning, curious Apocalypse Tapestries are housed there and, in my opinion, are not to be missed. You'll never see anything like it!

Lastly - Tours was a great sleeping base, but not that exciting in and of itself. The things I did enjoy in were the Musee de compagnonnage, walking around the city center, and having lunch along the main street (can’t remember name)

Hope this helps!
kas238 is offline  
Feb 21st, 2007, 02:25 PM
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Thanks very much for your comments. Unfortunately, I have decided to postpone this trip as I now have an extra week to play with ... I am thinkig Central Europe now, but I really appreciate your comments. I hope to make it to the Loire eventually.
JoeTro is offline  

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