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itinerary help - Loire

Advice please! I am planning a trip, mostly to the Loire valley, with my mother, who will turn 87 on this trip – she doesn’t like speed, so we will be taking our time. We like historic houses, gardens, and countryside; not as interested in art museums or cities. Mom has never seen the Loire châteaux, and we’re planning to do them in roughly chronological order, as recommended by Ina Caro; this works out approximately west to east, with some crisscrossing. (See itinerary below.)

We will be arriving in France Oct 2 and renting a car. For the Loire part (8 nights), I’m thinking about spending a night or two in a hotel either near Chinon, at the beginning of our Loire stay, or near Chambord/Cheverny, at the end, and then renting a cottage/apartment for a week in the middle. So here are my questions:

  1. For our rental, any recommendations for pleasant little towns that are centrally located and/or close to major roads, to make getting around easy?
  2. Should we do the hotel stay at the beginning or end of the Loire segment?
  3. Have I grouped the châteaux in a reasonable way, allowing for the focus on chronological order?
  4. Since we’re traveling in October rather than summer, do we still need to visit Chenonceau very early or very late to avoid crowds?
  5. Also, I welcome suggestions of hotels in the Chinon or Chambord area, towns/villages to see, places to eat, and general critique of this itinerary. Many thanks!

Day 1--arrive CDG. Walk around in fresh air. Bus to Senlis or other sight? Sleep in Roissy.

Day 2--shuttle to CDG. Pick up car. Drive to abbey of Fontenay; lunch at Fontenay or enroute. See Fontenay. See church at Vézélay. Sleep with friends in Avallon 2 nights.

Day 3--see Château de Guédelon.

Day 4--drive to Loire.

Day 5--see Abbey of Fontevraud and Chinon.

Day 6--see Loches.

Day 7--see Villandry garden and Langeais.

Day 8-- see Amboise and Clos Lucé.

Day 9-- see Blois and Villesavin.

Day 10-- see Chambord.

Day 11-- see Chenonceau and Chaumont (castle and gardens).

Day 12-- see Cheverny. Drive to Roissy. Return car. Sleep in Roissy.

Day 13-- fly home.

Posted by
482 posts

Kathleen, forgive me for offering unsolicited advice. I suggest you and your mother break up your schedule with some other kinds of places and experiences. Even though I dearly love visiting historic sites and I have enjoyed the Loire Valley, I can't imagine immersing myself in that many chateaux scheduled one right after another. I fear Days 5 through 12 of your itinerary will become more of a forced march than a relaxed and fun experience. Perhaps eliminating a few of your planned stops and substituting something completely different would help.

Posted by
809 posts

Anita, thanks for raising this concern. It does seem to be a lot of castles - though a number of them have gardens that we plan to explore, weather permitting, and the Clos Lucé stop I believe has a lot of da Vinci models and engineering drawings, so that will be different. I'm hoping that some of these will be fairly short touring days, giving us time to sit around in cafes, or drive through the countryside, or whatever. I'll run this itinerary past my mother when I see her in a few weeks, and see what she thinks.

Posted by
86 posts

We are traveling to the same region at the same time of year. We were looking at places in Blois and saw a beautiful cottage available for rent. We aren't renting a car so we need to stay closer to the center, but it's worth taking a look at. It was 422048 on vrbo.com. Enjoy your planning! This is our first trip to the region so we are enjoying our research.

Posted by
8412 posts

The chateau of Loches is a quick visit as most of it is a ruin. It would take two hours at the very most. Beware that it has a lot of stairs, some without handrails, and uneven ground. Perhaps you can find some photos of it posted on line to see what I mean. This short visit would be good as it would give you some down-time in the middle of your trip.

It doesn't make sense to backtrack to Avallon to sleep after driving up to see Guedelon, since Guedelon is on the way to the Loire. You might want to combine that with your drive to the Loire and see something else near Avallon instead (Montreal, Grottes d'Arcy, keep Vezelay for this day, as both Fontenay and Vezelay in one day is a lot).

Fontenay doesn't have a restaurant, nor is it in a town. It has only a farm next door. For a fast meal on your way south, there is a large Autogrill restaurant which spans across the autoroute at the "Aire de Nemours" rest stop. It's French fast food, cafeteria style, but with a good selection of salads, main dishes, desserts, drinks--fast and tasty for what it is. We take this road yearly and often stop there.

Posted by
6488 posts

Hi Kathleen. This is just a suggestion based on my own experience. I love chateaux/castles and thought I wanted to see them all. After the 5th one I got a bit burnt out on them and their unique features began to all run together so I couldn't remember where I saw what. Now, you may not have that problem but, just in case, instead of seeing them in historical order it might make more sense to make a priority list (based on your and your mother's research) of the ones you most want to see and then do them in that order. That way if you get a chateau overdose you can eliminate a couple of those not high on your list. It's good that you plan on staying in one place for most of your trip, much easier to relax at the end of a day of sightseeing when you don't have to pack up and move on. Enjoy your trip, love the Loire Valley.

Posted by
809 posts

Thanks to all for the helpful comments. Montreal sounds very interesting and a good start to our historical tour. I don’t think we’ll burn out on châteaux, because we do plan to see other interesting things that pop up along the way, but ranking them in priority order is a very good idea. We do want to stick with the chronological approach, but that way we can just take a day off if we start to feel overloaded. So here’s a revision:

Day 1--arrive CDG late morning. Walk around in fresh air. Bus to Senlis or other sight? Sleep in Roissy.

Day 2--shuttle to CDG. Pick up car. Drive to abbey of Fontenay; lunch enroute [thanks, Bets!]. See Fontenay. Sleep with friends in Avallon 2 nights.

Day 3—See Morvan regional park? [near friends’ house], Montreal, church at Vézélay.

Day 4-- See Château de Guédelon. Drive to Loire. Stay in area 2 nights - at RS-recommended convent in Azay-le-Rideau? Other recommendation?

Day 5--see Abbey of Fontevraud and Chinon.

Day 6--see Loches. Sister and BIL, avid bikers, join us after a few days in Normandy. Move to rental – where?

Day 7--see Villandry garden and Langeais.

Day 8-- see Amboise and Clos Lucé.

Day 9-- see Blois and Villesavin.

Day 10-- see Chambord.

Day 11-- see Chenonceau and Chaumont (castle and gardens).

Day 12-- see Cheverny. Drive to Roissy. Return car. Sleep in Roissy.

Day 13-- fly home.

General feedback is most welcome, and I have a few questions:

  1. How long should we allow for Guédelon? How big is the site? Mom and I are pretty geeky – we spent an entire day at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe last fall. And came back later to finish… We will want to read all the labels and see the construction techniques.

  2. Any recommendations for a 2-night stay in the Chinon/Azay area?

  3. I’m looking at rental cottages in the Chenonceaux area; there are some possibilities in the Gites de France website. Any personal recommendations for a nice town or village in the area?

  4. Any advice for biking in the greater Amboise area?

Many thanks to all the Helpliners (can I still use that term?) for your patience and dedication!

Posted by
86 posts

Kathleen, I put some info up on another post called Biking in the Loire in the last few days.

Posted by
8412 posts

Since you are as geeky as we are, allow four hours at Guedelon, at least.

Normally at Montreal, you park the car at the bottom and walk up the hill to the church on top. Your mom sounds pretty spry, but in case she needs a ride up, you can do that too and park in front of the church. It's the interior of the church that is remarkable. There is a nice tea shop/cafe/gift shop on the walk up called Creme Anglais run by some English people. (Jane, correct me if I have the name wrong.)
If you go to the Morvan, you might want to see Quarre-les-Tombes with its fifty-two stone carved coffins from the 7th and 8th centuries sitting out in the church yard. It was a center for coffin carving back in the day. A slice of local life during the early Middle Ages.
Your trip looks fabulous. Bon Voyage.

Posted by
8299 posts

We've done the Loire many times, and we never get tired of chateaux and their gardens. That's just us. This trip would be heaven for me. We've stayed in Amboise a couple times, it's in the middle and a charming, little town on the river. It's also where Clos Luce is.
Chenonceau is my all-time favorite and I'd recommend going early in the morning so you can spend as much time there as you'd like. On one trip, we spent the entire day there and I still wasn't ready to leave. Love the chateau but the gardens and grounds even more. They have a nice cafe with good food and you can sit outside while you eat right in front of the chateau.

Posted by
191 posts

Kathleen,

Have you considered spending a night at the Hotel Grand St. Michel right outside Chambord? I have not stayed there myself but would like to do so sometime after seeing it when visiting the chateau. The hotel gets some mixed reviews (which you can check out on the net) but everyone seems to agree the restaurant is really good, the price is not out of sight and the location can't be beat! If you like wine (and are all chateau'ed out), check out the cave coopertive in Vouvray just to the west of Tours on a main road along the Loire River.

Posted by
8299 posts

There's also a hotel and restaurant that is often recommended here on the Helpline / Travel Forum very close to Chenonceau in the town of Chenonceaux called La Roseraie... hotel-chenonceau.com/‎