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Loire by Train (Amboise?)

Hi. We're planning to spend one night (July 2) in the Loire region before heading to Paris. The idea is to take a train from Switzerland, and stay in Amboise, as recommended by the Rick Steves books.

Problem is, there seem to be only 2 places to stay within walking distance of the train station. One is a hostel (L'Auberge de Jeunesse), and they haven't responded to my inquiries (2 emails in the last week). I just contacted the other (la Breche) but don't have high hopes on this short notice. It actually seems the nicer places are in town -- but too far to walk?

Naturally we plan to do the Chateau thing. The minivan tours from Amboise look like a good option. But... all things considered, would we be better off staying somewhere else? (Tours?) Alternatively, would it be worth the hassle to rent a car?

Posted by
11450 posts

Michael , for a two day car rental, insurance, gas and parking, plus then having to read maps etc. I would opt for the mini van tour.
I would also not limit myself to places within walking distance of train station, they must have taxis,and they could be that expensive as Amboise is just not that big. I guess you could email various hotels, check for availablities and ask how far they are from station and what do they suggest for transport to hotel and costs.

I have done the Loire by car, but I was not driving, my dad was, but, he is french so he had no problems with directions, or language. I also did a daytrip from Paris with my son but took a bus tour. I think the mini van tours would be a superior way of doing it( although my tour was fine for what it was, but it was too expensive)

I would really start flooding hotels with requests now though, you are correct many will be filled or filling fast.

Posted by
12040 posts

Realistically, unless you take a night train from Switzerland, you probably won't have time to see more than one chateau, especially without a car. So, you may want to consider saving the Loire for a future trip and spend an extra day in Paris instead.

But if you do stay in Amboise, the old town is fairly small and not far from the railroad station. It should be a fairly easy walk across the bridge to most of the hotels. At worst, you can take a taxi (which should be readily available in the tourist season).

Posted by
22 posts

Thanks all for the replies. Kent, regarding your first post, it was actually pages 269+ from Rick Steves' France 2008 that prompted me to ask the questions.

As for my itinerary not adding up, maybe you're right. I haven't fully figured out the train thing, but my thinking was to arrive in the Loire area on July 2 (from Gimmelwald - a long day!). Then do my exploring on July 3, and head to Paris later that night.

I did notice that the minivan tours that leave from Amboise don't return until 18:30. Perhaps a night train back to Paris and a late check-in?

Or we could take an earlier (9:10 or 11:10) excursion bus from Bloise to the chateaux, which might allow us to return to Paris earlier.

Pat's post reinforces my intuition of avoiding a car rental. Though in the interest of time, I guess we could rent one in Tours (where I assume my train from Switzerland will drop us off), spend the night wherever we want, visit the chateaux by car, and return the car to Tours, or even Paris if the drop-off fee is reasonable.(?)

Tom, if I had to choose between the Loire and Paris, I might choose the Loire, if only because I've been to Paris (1991). Good point about the walk across the bridge. On second glance it appears most hotels on Rick Steves' map are less than a mile from the train station.

Posted by
10344 posts

Okay, from Gimmelwald to Amboise in one day: it's 9 hrs just from Interlaken to Amboise. Add to that the time to get down the cliff from Gimmelwald to Lauterbrunnen and then Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken. Include waiting for the train time. Add all that time to the 9 hours. So maybe 12 hours of travel time? Raises questions about whether your accommodations in Amboise will be "guaranteed for late arrival", if it's family run they often are not flexible about that--and there is a possibility of your family ending up in Amboise without a place to sleep. Pick a mini-van tour that is doable given your need to be back at the hotel to get your luggage (for how long will the hotel hold your luggage with you not spending the 2nd night there?) and to the trains station in time for the night train to Paris.

Posted by
11450 posts

Is there any reason to not stay the night in Amboise and go to Paris next day( so yes, two nights in Amboise, which is not an unattractive town ). Then you do not have to rush about, plus, I bet you can get a cheaper hotel in Amboise then Paris, plus then you don't have to worry about what to do with luggage while touring( yes, you can leave it in hotel, but that means returning to hotel after tour to retrieve luggage instead of just going to train station.
When you arrive in Paris next am you can just dump bags at your hotel and go sightseeing , and you won't be exhausted!
Do you mind me asking how youve divided your days up for this trip, ?

Posted by
22 posts

Well what do you know? We heard back from Hotel la Breche and they have availability. Hmmm...

Kent, your input is valuable. We are definitely NOT in favor of checking off sites vs. experiencing them. However, we do intend this do be a high-energy Europe overview trip for our daughter. (16 nights, 5 countries.) I hope we found a balance. Rick Steves did mention that the Loire is a feasible day trip from Paris, so that's why I thought a 1-night stay would be reasonable.

We may want to consider Pat's advice of staying two nights in Amboise, and cutting out one of our three in Paris. That actually was our original plan, but we decided in favor of two ENTIRE days in Paris (our return flight to the US is in the morning, so no time to explore on that day). Our first night in Paris is in the southern Marais area; it would be tough to give that up. (The other two nights are up in the St. Martin area.)

I'm also starting to warm up to the Tours/car rental idea (that I came up with while typing last night's post). This will take more research. Meanwhile, I envision our lodging options are diminishing by the minute. Kinda stressful....

Posted by
10344 posts

Michael: For 5 countries in 16 nights, You are hereby awarded the Helpline Most Ambitious Itinerary of 2008 CertificateWe like to recognize superior performance when we see it. Some challenges will be:1. Getting to your Loire accommodations before they lock the door for the night, and then you have no place to sleep.2. Getting from your accommodations to the chateaux without a car. The chateaux are of course country places, so it's challenging to get to them by public transportation on a tight schedule.3. A car is one option, but adds the complications of where to pick it up and the time to do all of this in your one partial day. Usually our concern, in answering questions here, is that an inexperienced traveler may unknowingly get themselves into an itinerary that is difficult or impossible and they simply don't get to their booked accommodations before they shut down at night, this happens in Europe with the smaller family run places you're likely to encounter in this part of France: and then the inexperienced traveler has a problem, no place to sleep, etc. But it seems that you are aware of exactly what you're doing, so we'll stop worrying about you.BTW: I don't think Rick actually recommends what you're doing, he gives a qualified recommendation for doing the Loire as a day trip from Paris if you're on a tour letting someone else handling the transportation logistics. I do see on p. 270 (France 2008) where he says "A day and a half is sufficient to sample the best chateaux." And also, on p. 271: "A limited visit to the Loire is doable as a day trip from Paris. Several minivan and bus tours [he means from Paris] make getting to the main chateaux a breeze"--but this is a different scenario than yours.A condition of posting here is that if Rick doesn't recommend it, you aren't allowed to do it.Anyway, best wishes on your trip.

Posted by
1158 posts

Michael,

I am pro renting a car because you can see more and you can stop anywhere you want. I went by car from Paris, South on Loire Valley all the way to Golden coast and it was an amazing drive. I took the little roads not the highways and I saw many castles, stopped in a few little towns and bought wine.I didn't have any problems driving or reading the maps. Well, I speak French.

Posted by
12040 posts

Rick Steves lists the Loire as a feasible day trip from Paris? I'm going to challenge that assertion. Although it technically is possible to arrive in the Loire and return to Paris in a single day, you wouldn't have time to do much more than visit a single chateau and maybe have a quick meal.

Posted by
10344 posts

Tom: I strongly agree with what you just said above. The original poster said: "Rick Steves did mention that the Loire is a feasible day trip from Paris, so that's why I thought a 1-night stay would be reasonable." And in response to that, I was being picky (my usual style) and replied that the only two statements I could find in a quick check of France 2008 are: "A day and a half is sufficient to sample the best chateaux" (p. 270)"A limited visit to the Loire is doable as a day trip from Paris. Several minivan and bus tours [he means from Paris] make getting to the main chateaux a breeze" (p. 271, emphasis is mine).It's physically possible but the question comes up: what is the best advice to give a traveler, if they are posting here asking for advice about what the best experience will be and not just what is physically possible.

Posted by
4125 posts

Re Loire as a day trip: Tours is an hour an 10 minutes from Paris.

It wouldn't be my cup of tea, but if you went early, returned late, and rented a car while there, seem that you could cover a lot of ground.

Posted by
10344 posts

Tom and Adam and I are agreeing, it seems to me: It's physically possible to do it, because of the TGV--but each of us (the 3 of us) is saying personally we wouldn't choose to do it that way. Some travelers don't have one night, but in many cases the traveler does have a choice to allot nights in a certain way. And so our advice to someone who had a choice would be to give it at least one night.Separate but related point: a close reading of Rick's book shows that it (doing the Loire Chateaux as a day trip, except from Paris with a tour handling the logistics) is not what Rick is recommending when he says it's doable as a day trip.

Posted by
11450 posts

I have done the Loire Valley both ways. I have spent two nights there( Amboise) and we had a rental car and we drove all over the place. We had come from Zermatt to Amboise and then proceeded to Paris.Big difference we were not under same time constraints. We did Paris and Zermatt in just under 24 days!!

I have also taken my son on a daytrip with a bus tour from Paris. We saw three Chateau . We left Paris at 7 am and returned around 9 or 9:30, since we were not driving we could sleep there and back and we didn't have to worry about parking or getting lost. Even so what a long day it was, I imagine if one was driving a rental car it would be a longer and more exhausting day. If one is going to rent a car and do it I would take the train from Paris to Tours, rent car there, tour area for 2 or 3 days , then return car to Tours and take train back to Paris. Thats just how I would do it not that it matters to anyone else.

Michael, you know your stamina level, and I would hate to think you would take a night away from Paris based on what I suggested, I assumed you had allowed at least a week in Paris,, but only 2 days,, my condolences!!

Posted by
22 posts

Wow, I can't believe the response. What a wonderful forum!

Kent, I'm amused by your posts. You've also put a little healthy fear into me. Now that I've reserved 15 of my 16 nights (I will make a decision about Loire really soon), I will figure out my connections, and arrange late check-ins, if necessary.

At least I'm not doing Amboise as a "day trip" from Paris! :-) Though only slightly better, I know...

Do I really win Most Ambitious Itinerary of 2008? Wow, I thought the trip was pretty reasonable. I don't think it's any crazier than our last trip. ('Course we were 17 years younger then....)

OK I'm going beyond the topic of the thread here, but here's the itinerary:

  • 4 nights in London (w/ 2 sets of friends)
  • 2 nights in Bruges
  • 1 night in Bacharach, Germany (castle hostel!)
  • 1 night in Rothenburg
  • 2 nights in Munich
  • 2 nights in Gimmelwald, Switzerland
  • 1 night in/near Amboise
  • 3 nights in Paris

(We're saving Italy for spring break, 2011. )

We had to to slash a lot to come up with this. No Holland, Prague, east Germany or Austria.... But I hope this will be a good intro to Europe for our 15 year old daughter.

I admit there are two parts that are tighter than I would like: pre-Munich and Pre-Paris. I think the way to address these is to leave early in the morning from both Bruges and Gimmelwald. Maybe rent a car for portions of Germany or France, if it helps. (Thanks, Bea, for your input, by the way.)

Now.. Time to figure out those train connections....

Posted by
1717 posts

Hello Michael. I agree with Kent : your trip itinerary is excessively "ambitious". I think you and your daughter would enjoy the trip in Europe more if you go to less countries. I recommend : delete Germany from your trip itinerary.

Posted by
104 posts

This is an ambitious itinerary. Im not sure if this is possible, but you might see if you could fly a budget airline into Tours. Then I would recommend a day or half day chateau tour from Tours. Acco-Dispo tours can be taken from Tours. We choose the half day tour which was enough for us. The TI there will arrange it for you. We also wanted to see the gardens at Villandry which was not on the 1/2 day tour, so the TI arranged a driver to pick us up at our hotel at the time we choose, took us there and back. You can see what you want there and then leave. Tours is not as charming as Amboise by any means, but for a very short visit, you have an airport and a major train station with plenty of trains to Paris. Ashley

Posted by
131 posts

Greetings, Michael! This might be too late to be of any use for you, but I will throw in my experience since I spent quite some time walking to and from the Amboise train station last summer (it was late June).

Contrary to what Pat said, there are limited services at this small train station. No taxis waiting outside. There is a small waiting room and if you arrive late at night there might not be an agent there- you exit directly from the tracks. It is about a mile and across two bridges and you would not want to do this at night with bags- I got lost looking for my B&B in daylight. If you opt to do this, stay by the station, for sure- not charming, but logistically better. Get good directions, too!

In fact, the rental car agency near the river we were going to use had been shuttered even with the 2007 RS guidebook for advice. We ended up having to take a taxi outside the town for about 15 minutes to the AutoEurope/Avis store (attached to a tire shop and not opening until after 9 am, and even then slooowly). The B&B phoned for the taxi the night before and the owner said it is necessary to do that.

Amboise was just delightful and perfect base for the chateaux- but with your limited time you might be better off with a bigger town and a rental car- or- just enjoy Amboise for the day. You can bike on a loop to some chateaux, even, from there-two rental places quite near each other.

Good luck- your trip sounds amazing!

Posted by
12040 posts

Looking at your intinerary... you're going to spend far too much time in transit, no matter if you drive or take the rail. A car in Germany for your itinerary, at that time of year, will probably prove more of a hassle than a benefit. Think about it, your three destinations, Bacharach, Rothenburg and Munich are all very compact, with sparse parking. You'll arrive late in the day to each destination when parking will be even tighter.

Posted by
1158 posts

Michael,

Try europcar.com to rent for less than 3 days.
A few years ago we tented a car just for a day in Amsterdam, but it was very expensive, almost as much as we paid for 7 days.

Posted by
22 posts

Thanks to everybody who responded. We finally made a decision! While most of our trip will be by train, we will be renting a car from Basel/Mulhouse to Paris --by way of the Loire region.

With Auto Europe, we're stuck with a 3-day minimum rental, though we only "need" a day and a half. (Not sure if it would be different with any other agencies -- must investigate.) However, the total cost for the 3-day rental is not much different than the train cost for one person -- and there are three of us. ('Course there's gas....)

One of the reasons we originally opted for Loire en route to Paris is, it is a fairly direct shot from the Berner Oberland. But as it turns out, the trains go UP to Paris, then DOWN to the Loire. (In retrospect, I realize it was somewhat silly to plan a train-based trip in terms of straight lines drawn on a map, but ultimately it did help us narrow down our options.)

While there are some obvious disadvantages to car rental, it does allow some flexibility on our short Loire visit. We can stay where we want (e.g., farmhouse-type B&B's), vs. being limited by proximity to the train station. Furthermore, we're not stuck with bus/van tour schedules; we can visit chateaux when and where we want.

We're also making things easier on ourselves by spending the previous night in Bern instead of Gimmelwald.

As for a late checkin in Paris (thanks to Kent for the heads up) the Hotel Loiret appears to be a 24 hour operation, so I think we're OK there also. (I'll contact them to make sure.)

Again, I really appreciate all the comments. There's much I'd like to respond to, but I think I've said enough in this post. :)

Cheers,
Michael