We will be spending a week in early September in The Loire Valley, staying between Saumur and Chinon, and plan to take day trips (via rental automobile) most days to different sights/places/cities. One ideal destination for one of these outings would be a Coastal town. Any recommendations? Looking for a memorable day out, scenic drive, a few sights and a nice lunch or dinner. Any other recommendations for cities not to miss welcomed (Limoges? Nantes? Tours? Orleans? Le Mans?). It will be our first visit to this area, but have travelled in France previously. I am also interested in a Balloon Flight over the Castles/Chateaux of the area, reasonably priced and reliable. Thanks in advance for any all help, guidance, info & suggestions. This is a wonderful tool to help me plan our trip. PS. planning on 2 nights in Dinan, with a day-trip to Mont St Michel from there as a base. Doable? We will be taking the train to/from Rennes (from Paris) and renting/returning our car rental there.
Jim, most coastal towns would be close to 3 hr drive from Saumur so it would be a long day and a long rd-trip drive. Saint Nazaire and La Rochelle are both in that time/mileage range. I've not been to Saint Nazaire but it looks interesting, La Rochelle is a popular resort town and very crowded in summer (might be a lot less crowds in Sept) but it's nice with lots of nice restaurants. I'm sure you'll get other suggestions, possibly closer than these. Good luck.
I think you should count on your time in Dinan being your time at the coast. As Nancy mentions, the Loire is rather far from any coast. St. Nazaire is a big shipbuilding hub, I don't know that it would be my choice for a vacation stop.
Jim, we flew into Paris and took the TGV down to Tours, which is smack in the middle of the Loire Valley. The train ride was less than 2 hours, and there is a car-rental company literally right outside of the train station. You might consider arriving in Tours, enjoying this area, then drive up to Mt St Michel and leaving from Pontorson (Mt. St. Michel area).
The first replies are spot-on. It makes no sense to daytrip to the coast from the Loire. We stayed three days near Chinon, and then two or three in Dinard. Since you expressed an interest in the coast, consider staying there instead. We like off-season (sleepy-important detail) Dinard, but Saint-Malo is busier and more glamorous, I think. However, staying on any peninsula adds time to each day's daytrip. It's even a voyage from Dinard to St. Malo. Dinan is attractive, but didn't seem to me rich enough a destination to sleep there. (But it is close to MSM!) I was sorry we didn't have time to drive to the steam train in Paimpol. But Vitré (I mean as an example, not a must-see) was just as rewarding a medieval town as Dinan, but seemed more like a place real people live and work. I found its sites, like Mme. de Sevigny's mansion, to be more worthwhile. When you come down to it, they are both touristy towns. Because we like gardens, we should have allocated more time for the many open gardens in Brittany and Normandy. Driving to them takes a lot of time.