Please sign in to post.

Chartres and Orleans, or Loire Valley

I'm trying to decide between two itineraries. This will be a 4 night side trip from Paris in February. The plan is to rent car and either go to Chartres and Orleans, or the Loire Valley. Which Itinerary would be best:

Itinerary 1 - Chartres and Orleans:
1. Leave Paris
2. Visit Versailles
3. Stay 1 night at Maintenon
4. Visit Chateau de Maintenon
5. Stay 1 night in Chartres
6. Stay 1 Night In Orleans
7. Stay 1 Night Near Fontainebleau
8. Visit Chateau Fontainebleau
9. Return to Paris

Itinerary 2 - Loire Valley:
1. Leave Paris
2. Visit Versailles
3. Stay 1 night at Chateau near Blois
4. Visit Blois
5. Visit Tours
6. Stay 1 night at Chateau Near Tours
7. Visit Amboise
8. Stay 1 night at Chateau Near Amboise
9. Stay 1 at Chateau near Blois
10. Visit Chateau Fontainebleau
11. Return to Paris

Posted by
2931 posts

I agree with Mary Pat. Although I think changing hotels every night while in the Loire is unessesary; especially with a car. Pick a central spot and day trip from there. You can comfortably visit about 2 chateaux per day, with time left over to explore their associated towns.

Posted by
2746 posts

February may not be the most scenic time to visit the Loire Valley, but I'd vote for it anyway. I agree with the recommendation to stay in one place. Your rental car will allow you to get around without wasting time changing hotels.

Since you have four nights, I'd recommend basing yourselves farther away from Paris and visiting the chateaux that are not so full of Paris day trippers. We stayed in Azay-le-Rideau at the Hotel Biencourt, which was absolutely charming. We would stay there again in a heartbeat. This allowed us to visit the Fortress of Chinon, as well as Chenonceaux (about an hour's drive) and the chateau in Azay-le-Rideau itself. We would have gone to Villandry too . . . long story, but you get the idea.

Posted by
4700 posts

Good suggestions above, and I guess I agree that your #2 plan makes better use of time than #1. I also agree that a single base makes more sense than moving each day. Amboise or Blois could be a good base. Would you be renting the car in Versailles? Keep in mind that it will take awhile to do that after spending a good part of the day seeing the palace, gardens, and other buildings that interest you. And it's a good two hours' drive or longer to Blois.

Unlike many on this forum, I'm a fan of the Blois chateau. Instead of symmetry and architectural unity, it offers four distinct building styles from different centuries, and it's the site of some dramatic events in French history. Tours gets too-short shrift in the RS guidebook, but you might think about whether the sights you want to see there are worth the time it will take to drive in and out of that bigger city. Most of the best chateaux are in smaller towns.

Chartres is wonderful and could be a day trip from Paris and back if your overall timeframe allows.

Posted by
2291 posts

Another vote for itinerary 2 (but without 1-night stays). Orleans is just "OK" in my opinion, and Maintenon is no match for, say, Fontainebleau.

Posted by
7598 posts

Because February is gray in the Loire Valley, I’d stay in the cities and not near the cities. There won’t be many tourists, so some hotels and restaurants take their own vacations in January and February. There is school ski vacation in February, so you could run into some camp groups.

Is there a particular reason you’ve chosen Orleans? Otherwise, your other sites are within a one-hour train ride from Paris and not worth moving your luggage from place to place. The exception would be if this is, in fact, a gastronomic side trip.

Posted by
6521 posts

I agree with what everyone has said here. Loire Valley is preferable (although not at its most appealing in February), and you will be a LOT happier staying in one place and going out from there rather than changing lodging every night.

Bets makes an excellent point about this perhaps being the time to stay in a city so you have some possibilities of restaurants.

Posted by
967 posts

Well itinerary 1 consists of smaller, more quaint sights. I used to live in this area, so I am partial to it. However Orléans is not worth your time. The bulk of it was bombed during world war 2, and the only thing to see is a newer cathedral. I would swap it out for the city of Vendôme or Châteaudun or Nogent-le-Rotrou.

Posted by
2791 posts

I would reduce the time in Loire by one night and do a day trip to Chartres from Paris.

Posted by
2814 posts

I would also agree to eliminate a night in Loire and visit Chartres from Paris. We spent two nights but with limited time a day or overnight would be wonderful. Our highlight was the magnificent light show on the Cathedral facade, touring the Cathedral with historían Malcolm Miller, walking the charming town, & enjoying the great cuisine.

Posted by
12357 posts

Given the 2 choices, I vote for Itinerary 2 Have you considered staying in Saumur for day 6?

Posted by
2791 posts

I too loved the Chartres light show but i doubt that they do it in Feb.

Posted by
2814 posts

@Cala, I now recall that the light show in Chartres ends in January. Thanks for update.

Posted by
29 posts

I love the Loire, but I wouldn't go there in February if I had a choice--too cold and dark. You'll miss the gardens entirely. But you seem to have no choice. As others have said, stay in cities, not the countryside, and choose one home base. Amboise or Blois would work best for your plan. Chenonceau and Chambord are must-see chateaux that work in winter. Also plan on seeing the "local" chateau in the city where you're staying. Visiting Fontainebleau on your way back might be too much; it depends on your style of travel.

Posted by
1540 posts

Maybe you already take it into account, but mind the opening days of the places you plan to visit. Like Versailles is open every day except Monday, Fontainebleau open every day except Tuesday.

It's interior is a bit empty, but I wouldn't miss anyway seeing Chambord from the outside. Really impressive, about a half hour driving east of Blois. I visited Versailles in January 2015, no crowds at all. There were just a few visiting Marie Antoinettes hamlet, but it lacked due to the cold weather the right atmosphere. Visited the main building the two hours before closing time and ended with seeing the Hall of Mirrors, together with a handful of other visitors I enjoyed the setting sun beautifully illuminating the place. With a bit of luck it's still possible experiencing it in February too.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks for all the wonderful tips and suggestions. After reading all of this, is there somewhere else you would suggest for a 4 night side trip from Paris, in February? I've looked into taking the train to Strasbourg, but I'm not sure it the weather would be worse. Anyhow, any suggestions, would be greatly appreciated. No problem renting a car, or taking a train. Thanks!

Posted by
1540 posts

In case there is snow Alsace will be very very romantic ofcourse. But snow can make it harder moving around too. In February there will be no problem finding a place to sleep (unless there is an event going on somewhere), so you will have more flexibility about where to go. You can make a planning for both the Loire and Alsace and decide, or toss a coin once you arrived in France which to choose. Good idea?