The Loire Valley cuts through the heart of France and is a land of castles and kings. Chateaux, some of the most fabled sights in France, are thickly clustered around the valley, like grapes to be picked, and are ready to be explored.
Our “Loire Valley: Castles & Kings” tour will bring you back to the time of the kings and the intrigue of their courts. This region was beloved by royalty until Henry IV moved his court to Paris. The Loire Valley was hotly contested by France and England during the Middle Ages, ping-ponging between the two countries. Take a step back in time and explore the history and castles of the Loire Valley as you toast the good life!
Loire Valley: Castles & Kings, Day 1: Paris-Amboise
Board the high speed TGV train from Paris to Tours, where you are met by your driver/guide for the beginning of your private, luxury tour! Your first stop is the imposing Chateau d’Amboise, built in the 15th century on a cliff overlooking the Loire River. With a combination of Gothic and Renaissance styles, it is associated with Charles VIII, who hit his head on a low doorway lintel in the castle and died as a result of the injury. Although much of the castle was destroyed during the Revolution, there is still plenty to see and explore.
Take time to marvel at the view on the panoramic terrace fronting the river and to walk the gardens. Climb the winding stairs inside the chateau, which bring you to rooms where kings and queens once lived.
Visit the chapel where Leonardo DaVinci is buried before walking down into the market town of Amboise. Enjoy a leisurely lunch while sitting outside at one of the many cafés. Next, continue on for a visit to Clos Lucé, the manor house where Leonardo DaVinci lived the last years of his life at the invitation of Kind Francis I, whose own Chateau d’Amboise is just steps away. It is rumored that there was an underground passage between the king’s castle and DaVinci’s home that the men would use to meet.
How should you spend the remainder of the day? A visit to the Loire Valley would not be complete without an exclusive wine tasting in a cave with exquisite wine. Discover the local offerings with a local wine maker as you toast your first day in the Loire Valley! Overnight in Amboise or Tours.
France’s Loire Valley, Day 2: Chinon
After a delicious breakfast, head out with your driver/guide for another day of adventure. Your first stop is the Chateau Villandry, one of the last castles built during the Renaissance period. The 16th century style gardens of this chateau are thought by some to be the finest example of Renaissance garden design in all of France. Flower gardens, a water garden and even a vegetable garden delight the senses.
The next stop is the tranquil village of Chinon, with winding streets, half-timbered and turreted houses. Many of the buildings that you see were erected in the 15th and 16th centuries. Take some time to explore and indulge in some lunch and perhaps a glass of one of Chinon’s famous red wines, which regularly appear on prestigious lists around the world. The remainder of your afternoon is spent touring a vineyard (or two!) and sampling some of the best red wine that Chinon has to offer! Overnight in Amboise or Tours.
France’s Loire Valley, Day 2: Chinon
Bienvenue a les chateaux! History buffs, daydreamers and architecture enthusiasts alike will enjoy what is in store for you today. The first stop is Chateau de Chenonceau, which remarkably spans the River Cher on arched stone vaults.
Built in 1520 by a wealthy tax collector, the chateau eventually landed in the hands of Henri II. In 1547 King Henri gave Chenonceau to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. As you can imagine, this infuriated Henri’s wife, Catherine de Médicis. Needless to say, when Henri died in a jousting tournament in 1559, Catherine forced Diane to abandon the castle and soon added her own touches to the home.
Continue on to Cheverny for some lunch and a glass of sparkling wine before your visit to Chateau de Cheverny. This classically styled chateau, built in 1634, continues to be held by the original owner’s descendants. Marvel at the beautiful antique furnishings, tapestries and rich interiors. Horseback hunting with hounds was once quite popular here and the chateau continues to maintain a pack of hounds in their kennels.
Ready for another chateau? We saved the best for last! Set in the middle of a royal game forest, Chateau de Chambord is the largest and one of the most impressive chateaux in the Loire Valley. Built as a hunting lodge for Francois I, this extraordinary structure with its spires and turrets reaching toward the heavens makes you feel like you are stepping into a fairy tale. Beginning in 1519, approximately 2,000 workers toiled for almost 20 years until this Renaissance beauty emerged from the stones.
The chateau, with its 440 rooms and 365 fireplaces, is in a park of more than 13,000 acres, enclosed by a wall stretching some 20 miles. The three-story keep has a spectacular terrace from which you can picture the ladies of the court watching for the return of their men from the hunt. Return to Amboise or Tours this evening for a fine meal and a good night’s rest.
Day 4: Bid “Adieu”
Bid “Adieu” to the Loire Valley as you continue on to the next leg of your tour of France! Perhaps a luxury tour of Burgundy or Paris is next on your list? Let your imagination be your guide and let SVP Tours make it happen!