The Loire Valley was not originally at the top of my “things to do in Europe” list. I was more interested in Paris, Prague and Munich…you know, the places everyone talks about. Watching a segment on The Today Show, though, put Loire Valley at the top of my list! What is the Loire Valley? It is a region in central France with rolling hills, beautiful vineyards, lots of rivers, and hundreds of Chateaux! A chateau is a mansion, palace or castle. This region of France spans two French states: Centre-Val-de-Loire and Pays de la Loire. When I was researching this area, I asked everyone I knew if they had gone and posted questions on various group pages regarding travel tips for the area. Only one person who responded had even HEARD of it! I found some wonderful blogs online and used http://www.experienceloire.com for the most helpful information. We booked a hotel and took the 7 hour drive across France.
My first impressions of France continued to prove accurate. The driving was easy, the people were generally nice, and the countryside was beautiful-it seemed to all be perfectly landscaped. The cities were plain, quiet and unobtrusive, and the gardens and window sills were covered in the most colorful flowers. The only problem we had was with the toll on the roads. We were prepared to spend 30Euro on tolls, but it was 52Euro. Yikes!
The main tourist area with the highest concentration of Chateaux is between Orleans and Angers. We had determined to stay central to the area in the wonderful little city of Amboise. After dropping off our bags, we took a wonderful little walk downtown for dinner. Amboise is a small city, with the downtown area centered around the Chateau d’Amboise, which is on the bank of the Loire River. A wonderful cathedral is just across the street, and down the street is Close Luce, a grand house where Leonardo da Vinci once lived. We walked around all of these places and their grounds, but we had set a budget for this trip that did not include going inside them. A few other things around Amboise are a zoo, Mini Chateaux park (small, to scale versions of the most famous Chateaux), Chanteloup Pagoda, and the Troglodyte Village (an area where you can see homes built into the side of the mountain). Just driving and walking around, you can see homes carved out of the mountain(s), so to me it seemed like a tourist trap to pay to see one specific section of the Troglodyte Village. We didn’t see several of these things because our priority was to see as many Chateaux as possible! Here are a few photos taken in lovely downtown Amboise:
Above: Le Close Luce, Leonardo Da Vinci’s former residence.
Below: Home built into the side of the mountain.
Each day we went out to see Chateaux-some we went inside of and some we did not. We were able to tour 2-3 per day, although we saw many more from the road. Remember, the Chateaux are spread out and pretty big, so plan on a couple of hours for each one. We ended each day by returning to Amboise for an early dinner then strolling the streets eating ice cream. A couple of things that we really appreciated about France were free parking in many areas and cheaper water than what we are used to here in Germany. I will list the Chateaux with photos and a few tips on my next post. We stayed 4 nights and it was enough time to see quite a few Chateaux without rushing…but of course we did not even get close to seeing them all! Amboise was the perfect location to stay in to see Loire Valley chateaux!
*We didn’t this time, but this area is GREAT for biking!*
See more posts: