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Loire......what are the best places to see?

We will be flying to Paris in Sept. and going straight to Versailles for a night. From there, we are heading to the Loire Valley by car through Chartres. We have booked a B&B in Esvres......because it looks wonderful and will be a base for our travels. Our overall stay in the area is for 7 nights.

I'd like some recommendations of must-see towns/castles.......and wouldn't mind renting bikes for 1 day to see the country side.
Any advise would be welcome. Thanks, Holly

Posted by
435 posts

I enjoyed Angers quite a bit. The chateau with it's Apocalypse tapestries was just fantastic!

Posted by
11450 posts

Holly I guess you may already have these names.. but just in case.. my favorite chateaus were Chenonceau and Chambord,,( the other "C" chateau Cheverny did not wow me) and when I return I have Chateau Villandry( the gardens there are apparently very impressive) and Usse on my list.. I also enjoyed Blois but was not blown away.. ok the staircase is nice.. blah otherwise..

Posted by
4792 posts

I wouldn't call Blois blah (if you can get your tongue around that), it's historic and interesting, with each side representing a different style from 15th-17th centuries. In the middle of a fair-sized city instead of out in the countryside like most of the other chateaux. Amboise is also excellent, including the little chapel and the separate Clos Luce where Leonardo spent his last years and you can see models of some of his machines. Chenonceaux for its history and river setting. Chambord for its size and complexity. I don't know the ones west of Tours as well.

Just SE of Esvres is Loches, with a Roman column, an unusual Gothic church, a Renaissance royal residence, and the remains of an older medieval castle keep, all on a dramatic walled hilltop overlooking the town.

A week will give you plenty of time to explore these and others, including a bike day I'm sure, but others will have to help you with the logistics of that. Have fun!

Posted by
211 posts

Gardens at Villandry are quite beautiful. Highly recommended. Great views from the chateau at Amboise. Also recommend Chambord and Chenonceau. Angers has a great castle -- super dark in the tapestry room.

Posted by
8005 posts

I love them all, and love the Loire Valley, but my all time favorite chateau is Chenonceau... including the grounds. They have a nice cafe with good food and you can sit outside by the chateau to eat.

Posted by
1294 posts

Chenonceau for beauty. Chinon for history. The link mentions Joan of Arc, it does not mention Henry II of England. For a brief period Chinon served as the capital of the Angevin Empire covering much of Western France and England. If you have seen 'The Lion in Winter' it is largely set in Chinon. However Chinon is an early medieval castle, a fortress, not the sleeping beauty castle of Chenonceau or Chambord.

Chinon is also a beautiful historic town, links to Rabelais, and is, in my opinion, home of one of the best wines from France.

Posted by
399 posts

We really like Chenonceau. I believe its construction was overseen by women and that may be why its scale is so inviting. I was put off by the immensity of the King's "bedroom" at Versailles but always fantasize about actually living in Chenonceau. We were lucky to have the place to ourselves one morning by being first in line, followed by a rather large group from Japan. They took a long time getting organized at the ticket booth, then walked through the gardens, so we were alone in the Chateau (except for staff) for about a half an hour. It was great.

I would also second the recommendation to visit Villandry if you like gardens. The gardens there grow on you as you discover their different levels. You can imagine strolling in them before there were so many other entertainments vying for your attention.

Usse is nice to look at from afar but we haven't been inside based on RS advice. Rick's France book does a good job of describing each of the major chateaux. I don't think you can go far wrong no matter which ones you choose, as long as you target the kinds of things that interest you.

I hope your trip is wonderful.


Posted by
228 posts

Holly, we visited this area two years ago and will return a just a week or to after you guys visit (first week of October). MUSTS: depends what you like, or course. We plan to explore mostly new sites, but we will return to two of our absolute favorites: Loches and Chaumont sur Loire. Loches is an entire village built around the base of this walled compound of castles/church/homes/etc. You get to explore it at your own rate. We could have stayed there all day. We did have both lunch and dinner in the village outsid eof the main gate. Chaumont-sur-Loire was the whole enchilada... I guess in France is would be the whole crepe. Beautiful castle, exceptional setting and landscaping/gardens. Plenty of elbow-room to explore at your own pace.

As you explore this area of France we will give you some advice we wish we had been told. NOTHING seems to be open after 6 pm and on all day Sundays. So if you want to return back home after being gone all day, and want to hit the grocery store to pick up dinner... if it's after 6, it's most likely going to be closed. The BIG grocery near us had its lights off and doors locked with a woman letting people out, but not in, at 6:15... and they were closing at 6:30! On Sunday we found ONE restaurant which was open... every place else was closed.
the other bit of advice, when you rent your car BE SURE TO GET A GPS! I am excellent at map-reading and for those of you know what I mean, "I've never been down this road before, but I know exactly where I am" , the GPS was heaven sent. Not that I didn't know where to go... but the little villages you will run into and have to wind your way through to get to the other side to continue on... well they weren't meant for cars and are utterly frustrating to get through. But, follow the GPS path and Voila, you're through and a saved marriage on the other side. It really took a stressor out of the vacation and I will absolutely rent a car with this again.

Final advice, I don't know when in Sept you're going, but the 2nd or 3rd weekend of Sept is European Heritage Days. During this long weekend, there are many castles, abby's, follies, etc which are never open to the public are open then. We visited two privately owned castles... L'islette and Gue Pean... neat!

okay one more. Amboise castle has a village of resturants at its base. We went there for dinner and LOVED IT! The warm sunset illuminated the tall fortress walls on the other side of the street, and the swallows were flying in and dicing into their nests. The restuarants made it feel like Paris! they even had "Amorino" gelato there... oh God now I really want to be there and now wait half a year!

Posted by
1548 posts

Richelieu, the place of the famous cardinal, some 20km south of Chinon is nice. Alas the palace don’t exist anymore, but the walled park and the city are well preserved. It’s a bit quiet place but nevertheless worth a visit as a remedy if you start to suffer from chateau fatigue :).
Fore those interested in philosophy there is a museum about Renée Descartes in (Le Haye-)Descartes, some 30km south-west of Loches.

Posted by
3167 posts

I'll second the recommendations for Angers and Loches. Both less crowded with tourists than the "C" group, and each has some unique features. . The Tapestry of the Apocalyse, at Angers, is gorgeous and enormous. In my opinion, it, alone, makes Angers worth a visit. I understand that a modern tapestry has been added to the chateau, but that was some years after we had been there, so I can't comment on it. Loches is quite interesting because at one time it was used to house upper-crust prisoners. One of them, Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, wiled away some of the hours of his eight year detention frescoing one of the rooms.