We've been thinking of booking a trip for late October-early November and finally decided on the Loire Valley, with a couple of days in Paris at the beginning or end. We plan to rent a car after taking a train to the region. I read some suggestions in a Rick Steves Facebook group but thought I would also come here to get ideas. We usually like to choose a home base and rent an apartment so we're not spending time packing and unpacking. Is that a good way to see the Loire Valley? What are the must-sees? All suggestions will be appreciated!
In the search box on this page, type in Loire Valley and you can see a lot of threads on this topic.
From Paris Austerlitz station you can take a direct train to Blois (1h 30m) and make Blois your home base.
Chenonceau and Chambord are the two top two sights in the Loire Valley. You can take a bus to Château de Chambord (30-minutes) followed by a 15-minute walk to reach the château.
To see the Château de Chenonceau, rent a car for the day (1h) making the logistics easier.
Blois is a good idea for a home base, with its own excellent chateau. Another is Amboise, with a chateau and maybe less travel time to others because it's a smaller city. I'd recommend a car for the Loire.
Tours is the big city of the Loire Valley and there are excellent chateaux and other sights both east and west of Tours. If you have enough time in the area, you might consider a second base town west of Tours for chateaux like Chinon, Azay le Rideau, and Villandry. It takes awhile to drive around Tours and longer to drive through it, though Tours has its own attractions, despite our host's ignoring it.
Here are his suggestions for what to see in the Loire (see "At a Glance").
We are doing something very similar but in early October. Three days in Paris (Le Marais district) at the start, then train from Paris Austerlitz to Orleans. Pick up a car there, using Amboise as a base for 4 nights, visiting Chambord, Chenonceau, Villandry, maybe Chinon. Thanks to ‘France with Vero’ we’d like to explore Tours a bit, and Amboise of course too. We have a hot air balloon ride scheduled for one early evening flight. Then off to Provence for 9 nights split between Vaison la Romaine and Saint Remy de Provence.
EDIT: We are in Provence for 14 nights, not 9. (Thank goodness I’m an oil & gas guy not an Accountant).
I prefer staying in smaller places than Tours and Angers. Saumur and Chinon are good, charming central bases with a good selection of accommodation, restaurants and cafes. However, I wouldn’t head to the Loire at that time of year as it can be cool and very wet.
We flew into Paris, picked up our car and drove to Amboise……loved it……..stayed at Manior Les Minimes……..charming older home that has been turned into a hotel and breakfast spot……its a wonderful town to walk through, especially the mornings before you get in your car to tour the castles and gardens….load up on goodies from Amboise’s pastry shops and strike out……the countryside is charming as well……we LOVED Chenonceau, Cheverny, Villandry, Azay Le Rideau…..easy drive from our hotel and a lovely place to return to each night after driving during the day…….the year we were there Chambord had flooded and we could not go so we will return ASAP…….the local Amboise castle was a delight as well…….Villandry took our breath away…….so big and beautiful and well-planned. We WILL take a hot air balloon ride when we return! Research the restaurant scene there as there are many great places to eat…….that valley is beautiful…….if you have watched ESCAPE TO THE CHATEAU you are aware that there are a lot of chateau owners in the Loire Valley that rent out chateau rooms as B&B or have gites……you might even try that…..their places are incredible and they rent to be able to maintain the costs of the chateaus they are living in….also there is a wonderful website called THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VILLAGES IN FRANCE…… a wonderful group of villages living up to a standard to be deemed by this group and you might be surprised at how many you will drive through on your way from town to town……like driving through real-life postcards!!! I have yet to see one that was not a fun stop for a coffee on our way to another town.
This is very helpful. Thanks!