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What else in Loire Valley?

Rick Steve's says if you go to the Loire Valley you are there to see chateaux's. But what else is there? How many nights, 3 or 4? Yes, we want to see chateaux's but maybe only 4 at most.

Posted by
6501 posts

"Chateaux" covers a lot of ground. Most of us think of the Renaissance palaces like Chenonceau, Chambord, Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau, etc. I like these but I agree with you that after 3 or 4 you're ready for something different. Another kind of chateau is an earlier site like Loches or Chinon, where at least a good part of the place is in ruins. Not much interior left to see (Loches does have a small royal residence within a bigger walled town) but a lot of history and surroundings. A very different feeling, for me at least. Tours is a bigger city with a fine cathedral and old medieval center, no chateaux there but other things to see. For some reason Rick Steves doesn't recommend Tours, but if you have time and don't mind a city there's much to do there. (I'd agree with RS that Tours might not be the best base for a multi-day Loire visit, simply because it takes awhile to get in and out. That's why he recommends one base east of Tours and/or another west.) For a real change of pace, the Zoo Parc de Beauval, http://www.zoobeauval.com/, is supposed to be one of the best zoos in Europe. We spent most of a day there when we got chateaux-ed out in the middle of a weeklong stay in nearby St-Aignan. The Sologne (?) is a marshy forested region east of the major chateaux. I haven't been there but I imagine it would be a change from the more developed valleys of the Loire, Cher, and Indre. And of course you can find lots of wineries to visit and taste. We found a week to be a bit more than we needed to enjoy the Loire, but I'd take four days over three.

Posted by
1336 posts

I, par contre, think that Rick is crazy for not suggesting Tours. It is a charming city with fabulous nightlife and enough sites to keep you busy for a few days. One can really experience "the good life" in Tours. There is a little chateau IN Tours, but it's quite small and not that fantastic. It houses temporary art exhibits. It also has a very nice Beaux-Arts museum where you can see Fritz the elephant.
I think it's a perfect base to explore the region. Amboise and Chinon are great, but I do love Tours.

Posted by
9420 posts

There's Clos Luce, Leonardo de Vinci's house in Amboise and.. hot air balloon rides!

Posted by
1068 posts

So much more than châteaux in the Loire Valley! That being said, my favorite châteaux are: Chenonceau (the Ne Plus Ultra of fairytale houses), Chambord (close to Chenonceau in crazy perfection of form), Blois (way-famous spiral staircase), Azay-le-Rideau (like a cake floating in a lake) and Villandry (lovely, crazily designed gardens). And for its MIND BLOWING apocalypse tapestry – featuring wild and almost acid-heady images from the Book of Revelations – you MUST go to Angers! I've never seen anything like it before or since. If you like oddball coolness in a museum and are in Azay-le-Rideau, check out the Maurice Dufresne Museum. It's dedicated to engineering, so if you like machinery of all ages and sizes, you'll love it. There are cars and rockets and tractors and tanks and farm machines and mangles and presses and things I could not even identify. All kinds of wonderful. There are magnificent cathedrals in the Loire Valley. Bourges is 12th or 13th century and is huge and glorious. In Tours check out St-Gatien and its truly exquisite cloister. Divine. While I'm on the subject of Tours... it is FAB. Delightful. Well worth a day or two. Here is a link to a piece that will whet your whistle: http://www.francetoday.com/articles/2011/06/05/lovely_laid-back_tours.html Of special note: in the garden outside the Musée des Beaux-Arts is an immense tree (forget what kind) planted by Napoleon. Yes, THAT Napoleon. Even cooler? The ELEPHANT. Yes, there is a stuffed elephant in Tours, in a little building in the garden of the fine art museum. They call him Fritz and he had something to do with a circus. Can't remember exactly, but it's nifty as heck. So yes, way more than châteaux!

Posted by
1914 posts

Thank you for all the ideas! I'm scared of hot balloons, but I may make myself do it anyway!
We are also going to the Burgundy region (have been before and love it) so I'm trying to decide if 3 or 4 nights is good for Loire OR 3 or 4 nights for Burgundy. Only have 7 nights to use and I love old medievel villages. But we have not seen too many chateaux's but afraid I might get chateauxed out, so the other ideas are good.

Posted by
9420 posts

I hear ya Susan and Monte, I'm afraid of hot air balloons too but when we were there last time, we saw many and it made me really, really want to do it. What better or more beautiful place than the Loire Valley.. floating over amazing scenery and unbelievable chateaux. That's an experience of a lifetime! However, it was too expensive for our budget.. But there's always next time! I love the Loire and I never get chateau'd out, but I love Burgundy even more. I'd spend 3 nights in the Loire and 4 in Burgundy. Have fun!

Posted by
1914 posts

Thank you! I'm leaning towards 3 Loire and 4 Burgundy. So hard to decide! The hot air balloon may be above our budget too, but if I were to do it, it would be there!

Posted by
9420 posts

"if I were to do it, it would be there!" Exactly!! Brilliant minds think alike... :)

Posted by
10188 posts

We found amazing troglodytes, cave dwellings, that were in use until the early 1900s in the Loire, the Anjou region. You can visit whole farms built underground. Just google "troglodytes loire valley" for a list of articles and places to visit. Next, the most interesting chateau I've ever visited, and we really find chateaux boring, is one that dates from the early middle ages and is in two parts, the troglodyte part underground--a complete chateau underground and it's totally mind blowing--and the less interesting Renaissance chateau above ground with all the ususal stuff: Chateau de Breze. www.chateaudebreze.com It's privately owned and also is a winery.
RS has never been there, but a lot of French people were there the day we went.