We have a lovely little apartment booked in Amboise for the end of August/beginning of Sept. It's my husband's birthday and we will be traveling with our two year old. I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to see chateau, the zoo, go biking, watch hot air balloons (cause our son isn't old enough to go), sit in cafes...you know - French stuff. But now I'm wondering if we should split our trip in two and see someplace else as well. We will have a car and be flying in and out of CDG. I can still change our Amboise rental if need be. I don't want us to feel rushed, but I also don't want us bored or driving long distances each day to get to more things. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
Too much for me may not be too much for you. I think Amboise is a good base to see the chateaux in the west side of the valley. For chateux toward the east, I'd prefer a base a little further east, maybe Blois, just to reduce daily backtracking.
I rode a bike to some of the chateux but might not want to have done the initial climbs out of Amboise (Chenonceau and Clos Luce) with a two year old on the back. If you rent a bike for a day, take the bike trail toward Villandry. It's on the river so a very level ride and all on a good bike trail, all or mostly paved and mostly closed to cars. I wouldn't try for all the way to Villandry because you have to go through Tours, which is a fairly big city.
Amboise has a nice area for cafes in the center. My favorites ended up being along a street just under the Chateau Amboise wall.
I also can't dictate what's best for your situation, but one of our France tours breaks up the Loire valley with these stops further east:
Today we'll leave Paris and head for the Château de Guédelon — a medieval castle being built today using 13th-century materials and techniques. Local experts may give us a close-up look at masons cutting limestone, sheep being sheared, and blacksmiths at work. Then we'll drive past farms, forests, and vineyards to the overlooked town of Bourges. Once we arrive we'll wander along the cobbled lanes and medieval half-timbered houses. Our tour will culminate with a visit of Bourges' Cathédrale St-Étienne, where we will learn how to read some of France's most remarkable and original medieval stained glass before having dinner together this evening. Sleep in Bourges.
Sure you will like Amboise very much. Very cute town. My wife and I just returned as part of a two-week driving tour of France (also starting in CDG) that we do every two-three years. If you want to stay in this area, one thought is to divide your time between Amboise and a place like Blois, also in the Loire but a different community, for a change of scenery and for seeing different things. Also consider a short drive to Loche, a little south of Amboise for a nice day trip.
We have limited capacity for visiting chateaux so we actually only stayed two nights and two full days in Amboise. There wasn't that much that I wanted to do in the area beyond two days but that's just us and you may want to be more settled with a young one. Don't know how much you want to drive but we drove from CDG to Bayeux (Normandy) and then to Dinan (in Brittany which we loved). Maybe that's too much to do and way too much driving with a two year old and I suspect that it is but you can check that out. We also then went to Sarlat, which was the best of all but that's probably too far.
By the way, agree with the post about the bicycle trail. Really nice for a rider or a runner (me) and would be great if you have a carriage for your two-year old to ride. I seem to remember that it took around 45 minutes to get to the next town running so faster if you ride. Flat trail but somewhat buggy.
In my opinion, it is too many days. Dinan is a nice option to divide the time. My family and I just did 4 days Amboise area and 4 days Dinan and it worked well. Here's the home we rented.
Eight days in one place gives you a chance to relax and live like a local. Rather than hitting a couple well-known sites, you can see much more in one region. Good idea with a 2-year old. Search out neolithic sites, underground dwellings, hiking trails, etc. Local TI office can lead you to all this stuff.
I'm not big on chateaux, so I actually prefer the western side of the Loire Valley, its hills and older castles. One recommendation is the Chateau of Breze, incredible with an underground medieval chateau and above ground Renaissance palace. It's not in the typical guide books, so you won't get many recommendations for it on an American website, but it's one of the most fascinating places I've visited--and I've been visiting France (or living there) for forty years. http://www.chateaudebreze.com/castle-france-loire-saumur-underground.html
Amboise and Blois are both in the eastern part of the Loire region, about 20 miles apart. Blois is worth visiting but I wouldn't bother to relocate there. If you want to relocate for part of your trip, I'd suggest someplace west of Tours.
But you really could spend all your nights in Amboise and still have plenty to see and do nearby. The zoo just south of St-Aignan, about 25 miles from Amboise, is supposed to be one of Europe's best.
I'd go for staying in Amboise. There's a lot to see and towns to visit in the area, in all directions.
Thanks all! I appreciate your feedback. I think we will stay put and add a day trip to Breze and the surrounding area. We will definitaly bike toward Villandry as well. Good to hear that the local tourist office is very helpful. I'm so used to planning everything ahead of time and online in the States. You're been very helpful with your feedback. Happy future travels to you!
We found this place to be right up our alley.
We bought 2 kg of mushrooms and ate them in dinners for the following week.
If you're going to Villandry, here's a favorite restaurant http://restaurant-le-gosier-sec.zenchef.com/en/
It's in a cave but also has tables outside. We chose the cave for our noon meal as it was hot outside.
The other place I stayed was Chinon. I liked it because it had a different kind of castle, a fortress ruin, instead of the chic hunting lodges the area is known for. It was also near Fontevraud Abbey, which has a lot of history. The town is also older. I hesitate to recommend it because it felt somewhat run down and didn't seem to be close to the Chateaux most people come to the valley to see.