touring the loire valley castles

Old Oct 20th, 2015, 01:13 PM
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touring the loire valley castles

I'm planning a loire valley trip next spring. I'm trying to figure out how many days to spend there. will be flying into and out of Paris, with the TGV to Tour. my tentative plan is to fly into paris on a Tuesday morning, stay Tuesday and Wednesday in Paris, and then take the TGV Thursday, rent a car at the station, and stay in Amboise Thursday through Monday morning, then back to Paris to fly home Tuesday., any thoughts?

Tom O.
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Old Oct 20th, 2015, 01:54 PM
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Depends on your interests, it would be too much for me, but I'm not that fascinated by chateaux. Some people are. 2-3 are enough for me. So I wouldn't want to tour that many over four days. Do you want to do anything else? YOu can, of course, there are some vineyards, and Tours center has a few sites of interest.

I gather you are just focusing on the Loire and perhaps have been to Paris before or just don't like big cities, as you are spending less time in Paris than the Loire. I'd do the reverse but as I said, I like cities better.
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Old Oct 20th, 2015, 04:29 PM
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Do realize that the chateaux are not fortresses. They were almost all built much later than that as pleasure palaces of the very wealthy - although there are a few (Amboise being one) that started out as a palace.

There are a fair number of private chateaux in the area that are older and were originally fortresses (we stayed in one that had a moat and super thick walls with arrow slits).

We spent 6 nights there and saw quite a few of the major chateaux as well as visiting a couple of wineries and the Fontrevaud Abby - burial place of many of the plantagenet monarchs, including Richard Cour de Lion

Be sure to look into the son et lumiere performances. You may be too early in the year but id not they are truly fascinaitng.
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Old Oct 20th, 2015, 04:37 PM
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Sorry - you really need to do some reading to see which of the chateaux you want to see. Some are almost empty, some quite well decorated and some known for their gardens (such as Villandry).

Assume the most you can cover is 2 per day - since they are often in the deep countryside on very small side roads and getting to and fro can take a while.
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Old Oct 20th, 2015, 06:45 PM
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Are you visiting museums in Paris? If this is the case, your routing makes sense.

However, if you are not visiting Paris museums, there is a way to rationalize your routing to get one more night in Loire valley, reduce cost, time, and hassle associated with one check-in/out cycle.

If you arrive early in the morning in Paris, you would probably not be able to get into your accommodation in Paris anyway. While not use this time to travel straight to the Loire Valley? You don't have to rent a car on the day of arrival. You can do in on next day after you have had a nice sleep. By doing this, you consolidate your stay in Paris - two nights you planned and the second night takes over the last night in Paris stay with your original plan - a 2 for 1 benefit.

However, since your last full day in Paris is MONDAY, this Paris at the end strategy does not work if you wanted to visit museums. Many are closed on Monday.
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Old Oct 21st, 2015, 01:44 AM
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Excellent advice so far.

We spent one week in the Loire to visit about 10 castles.
We did identify the castles we wanted to see and had prepared an itinerary.

In our case, a car was really mandatory.
(and allowed us to stock a lot wine since the car brought us home).

There are also some museums that are fabulous - I think of Saumur if you're interested in tanks and fichting vehicles for example.
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Old Oct 21st, 2015, 08:06 AM
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Saumur has the Musee des Blindes - all the armored vehicles (tanks, troop carriers) you'd ever want to see from WWI to present and from various countries (Germany, France, USSR, UK, US).

The chateaux are a varied lot.

Amboise's eponymous entry overlooks the Loire and has the burial place of da Vinci and the carriageway exit that's more than worth a look. The Clos Luce is a country home in Amboise where da Vinci resided until his demise.

Chateau Chambord is enormous - it's Gormenghast in real life. The roof alone is worth the trip.

Chateau Villandry is for gardeners and garden enthusiasts; the interior is uninteresting. Its neighbor Usse is the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty but not as glamorous.

Chateau Chevigny is Marlinspike Hall from Tintin. The hound feeding is . . . intriguing.

Chateau Chenonceau is the pretty view everyone knows about - the castle spanning the small river. The interior is surprisingly small (comparatively), the gardens are nice.

Chateau Beauregard obviates any need to visit a portrait gallery - it has HUNDREDS of portraits of European Renaissance rulers, nobles, pontiffs, etc. Its exterior is not the attraction, the portraits are.

Chateau de Blois is the architect student's must see b/c it's varied wings of different styles.

Chateau Azay-le-Rideau is in a nice setting and has notable carvings on its facade.

The Abbey de Fontevraud is worth the trip for both the resting place of Richard the Lion-Hearted and the grounds.

Chateau de Chaumont is a defensive castle and overlooks the Loire. Why Diane de Poitiers would be disappointed with it after formerly living in Chenonceau is obvious.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2015, 03:44 AM
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Just returned from there (and getting a trip report together for posting here), and we did one a day for 6 days. We went on guesses and recommendations, but found our selections (some mentioned above) to be an interesting mix: Amboise, Chambord, Chenonceau, Blois, Villandry, and Angers. Amboise, Blois, and Angers have the added advantage of being associated with towns with other places of interest.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2015, 05:15 AM
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We spent 2 weeks in a gite just outside of Blois last year, and visited about 16 chateaux east of Chinon. We were west of Chinon in about 2007 and visited about a dozen then. We also visited the chateaux east of Chinon for 2 weeks in 2001 - but my wife has a digital camera now, & she didn't in 2001. Digital pictures were the purpose of the visits in 2007 & 2014.

For the "biggie" chateaux (Villandry, Chemonceaux, & Chambord) we arrived as soon as the chateaux opened in the morning, immediately took exterior pictures, and then went inside and took interior pictures (except at Villandry). We then had a nice lunch on the premises. After lunch, the sun had shifted enough so that the afternoon exterior pictures were completely different from the early morning pictures. This was especially true for Chenonceau. We were "wiped out" after these 3 chateaux and didn't visit any others on those days. For the other days, we visited a maximum of 2 per day.

My wive & I spend 2 months each year visiting various regions in France. We have spent approximately 3 1/2 years total doing this, since 1999 when we retired early so that we could travel more. The chateau in the Loire are fantastic, but the countryside and villages in the Loire Valley were not nearly as interesting to us as villages & countrysides in other areas in France, Only Chinon would be in our "top 50%.

Here is my wife's shutterfly book for our Fall trip to the Ile de Re and the Loire Valley
https://stududley.shutterfly.com/24

Click "full screen"

She hit the page max - so she did a separate book for Villandry & Chambord
https://stududley.shutterfly.com/27

Because of Shutterfly software problems, many notes & captions are either truncated or missing.

Stu Dudley
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Old Oct 23rd, 2015, 09:08 AM
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thanks so much. I lived in paris for a while and have visited it some since then, and enjoy it a great deal. I have been to the loire a few times, but not for a number of years. my partner has never seen the loire, and I thought it would be special to go with her. of course, I will enjoy it too. I love all the history.

I get a sense that on this list there is some disagreement about a good base, but that a majority favor Amboise for the eastern chateaux.

we hope to rent a car at the TGV station in Tour. has anyone done this? is it relatively convenient?

thanks.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2015, 10:28 AM
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Cars are very convenient at St-Pierre-des-Corps = Tours' mainline TGV station which is an easier and shorter drive from it than Tours in-town dead-end station - Avis as usual I think is in the station and several major brands just outside it - there is not much in the station area but some neighborhoods so easy to find.

Take trains from Paris-Montparnasse - get discounted tickets if book in advance at www.voyages-sncf.com or www.capitainetrain.com - same trains same fares latter site is said to be easier to actually get to work for Americans. Amboise is a short train ride from St-Pierre-des-Corps.

For lots of great info on French trains - www.seat61.com - good info on discounted tickets; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

Some TGVs are duplex - two levels and a seat in the upper level yields far better views than ones down below the grade level so you see mainly guardrails and wind blocks. You may be able to see Chartres famous cathedral perched high on its hill from the right side of the train when going to St-Pierre-des-Corps.

big Russ has given a great list and description of the best chateaus of the Loire - I would concur with his descriptions after seeing every castle of major interest and many of lower several times.

If into biking there is a short sweet bike ride between Amboise, my favorite base for the best of the castles, and Chenonceau thru a forest on un-trafficked roads.

Weird thing - Chenonceau is the castle and it's in the small village of Chenonceaux!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2015, 10:55 AM
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Well Chateau Cheverny is perhaps a lesser castle but is famous for its Feeding of the Hunting Hounds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j166VdqWLYY

near Chambord so could easily be twinned with that.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2015, 11:11 AM
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We rented our car in paris - which we have never found to be a problem. Just pick an agency that has a large office convenient to the peripherique and you can avoid most of the Paris traffic unless you travel in the midst of rush hour.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2015, 11:15 AM
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If you can get a discounted train ticket that may be actually as cheap or cheaper than the petrol and steep autoroute tolls alone - but a car gives you the chance to blast right down from Paris to the Amboise exit much quicker than doing the train thing.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2015, 11:53 AM
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I get a sense that on this list there is some disagreement about a good base, but that a majority favor Amboise for the eastern chateaux.>>

we have stayed in both Saumur and Amboise - of the two we preferred Saumur but I don't know where would be better than Amboise for the eastern Loire to be honest.

You don't say what time of year you are travelling, but except in mid-winter, Villandry would be top of my list, plus Chenonceaux, Angers for the tapestry, Fontavraud for the relics of the Plantagenets, and Amboise for the Clos Luce.

And if you have an interest in gardening, there is a garden festival every year at Chaumont:

http://www.domaine-chaumont.fr/en_festival_festival

it doesn't say what the theme for 2016 will be - they are often quite avant garde!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2015, 02:48 PM
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Having lived in the Loire area for months on end and seeing them all a lot my favorites in order of how much I liked them - a very subjective thing of course:

Azay-le-Rideau
Chenonceau (pst pst annhig no x on the castle just the town!)
Chambord - sheer size of it and that double helix staircase (or whatever it is called)
Amboise - one of few really fortress castles here
Usse
Loches - grim fortress known for its Hanging Cages where the kings of France literally strung folks out to dry for year on end in darkness in cages not big enough to stand up in.
Villandry - gardens
Chaumont - along with Amboise and Blois one of few castles actually on the Loire
Meung-sur-Loire - neat because the owner/occcupant was mopping the floor and manning the entrance
Beaugency - where I learned about oubliettes where folks were literally discarded to die at the bottom of a chute that served as toilets for floors above - the ultimate ugly death I guess!

Chinon is my favorite town - its castle ain't much but there is a Joan of Arc Museum in it, if I recall correctly.

Amboise and Azay and others have neat Son-et-Lumiere shows at night in summer - local folks dressed up in period costume with special effects, music and fireworks usually.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2015, 03:02 PM
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Amboise and Azay and others have neat Son-et-Lumiere shows at night in summer - local folks dressed up in period costume with special effects, music and fireworks usually.>>

go further west past Angers to Cholet and you will find the ultimate son et lumiere at the Puy de Fou - a really wonderful french theme park based on the history of the Vendee area which does a light and sound show at weekends during the summer billed as the biggest in the world:

http://www.puydufou.com/en/shows/nig...?season=summer

Highly recommended!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2015, 05:23 PM
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FYI the Castle in Chinon- fortress rather than chateau, is a ruin - although the town is charming and has some nice casual restaurants. And there is a small museum for Jeanne d'Arc - although there is a much larger one in Rouen/
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Old Oct 23rd, 2015, 09:50 PM
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To visit Loches, you must go there with several french local fathers.

You'll have 'les pères de Loches', always nice to see.
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Old Oct 24th, 2015, 07:25 AM
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I like to hang out in Loches castle!
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