Romantic Castles of the Loire Valley

Romantic Castles of the Loire Valley

The Romantic Castles of the Loire Valley

Have you ever wanted to visit a romantic, centuries-old castle in France? There’s something very ethereal about taking a walk back in time when life was both simpler and yet more difficult than today. In an age of technology where instant communication can be commanded at the tip of one’s fingertip, it’s a curious notion to suddenly find yourself transported to a period where the most advanced invention is crudely archaic by today’s standards.

Yet, so many things from those times stand to this day. There are a true appreciation and a dedication to the preservation of historical structures in Europe in particular and the Loire Valley specifically. A visit to central France provides numerous opportunities to experience the Gothic and Renaissance architectural monuments and historical significance of chateaus or castles.

Imagine. You are walking down the path to history where royal knights once traversed along these ancient cobblestones to reunite with their beloved as they announced victory over their enemies. Parading down the throughway across the moat, you can see the resplendent palace of Kings and Queens of times past dominating the landscape.

As you stroll past the prominent coat of arms in the entrance way as you enter their lavish manor, you can almost feel their presence lingering. You are drawn into the cavernous quarters sheltered by kaleidoscopic frescoes framed by a massive stone fireplace between two mammoth floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows that reveal a breath-taking view of the rolling, emerald green countryside.

A Brief History

A standard since the 10th Century, chateaus in the Loire Valley began as a haven for French kings who were quickly followed by the nobility who didn’t want to be too far away from the seat of power. There was a shift when King Louis XIV built the Palace of Versailles near Paris in the 17th century, however, those who remained in the King’s good graces were allowed to stay in the Loire to renovate existing chateaus or build new ones as their summer residences.

After the French revolution, many chateaus were destroyed and demolished. The surviving ones are now either privately owned homes or operated as a bed and breakfast, gites (holiday homes) or hotels. Some are owned by local government authorities and their upkeep is subsidized by opening the chateaus and their gardens to hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. Today, the Loire Valley in central France is a UNESCO World Heritage site and an excellent side trip from Paris that will take less than a day to complete.

Tourist Information

The Loire Valley is located two hours south of Paris by car and is a favorite pick as a day trip for tourists who want to maximize their time in the city of light. The trip from Paris takes a little over an hour on the TGV (France’s high-speed rail line) leaving from the Gare Montparnasse station or about two hours on the slower train leaving from the Gare d’Austerlitz station. You will need to get off at the St-Pierre-des-Corps stop in the city of Tours. You must buy your rail passes at http://www.raileurope.com/us/rail/tgv/ . Be sure to book your tickets before leaving your home country because most passes can only be ordered that way.

 

loire valley

Some of the most popular Chateaus of the Loire Valley region that are open to tourists are Chambord, Azay Le Rideau, Cheverny, and Villandry. You will be able to independently plan a visit to each of these lovely residences by contacting the tourist office in the city of Tours at Rue Bernard Palissy (located right in front of the St. Pierre-des-Corps station) at www.ligeris.com.

The tourism authority for La Touraine (the Loire Valley) is at 9 Rue Buffon in Tours at www.tourism-touraine.com. The tourist office for Chenonceaux is located at 1 Rue Bretonneau.

Itinerary

There are also wonderful tour operators who offer day-long guided tours to multiple chateaus. One of the most popular is conducted by the Western France Tourist Board whose day long guided tour includes:

  • A round-trip rail pass from Paris to the city of Tours
  • Pick up from the Tourist office in luxurious climate controlled shuttle bus
  • Scheduled visits to:

Chateau D’Azay-Le-Rideau (http://www.azay-le-rideau.fr/) which was built in 1518 on an island in the Indre River where its foundation rises straight out of the river. The chateau is a mixture of Italian and French design where each side is framed by medieval towers capped with turrets that are framed by a high sloped slate roof.

loire valley

Jardins de Villandry (http://www.chateauvillandry.com/) is the next stop. It is one of the last castles built in the Loire Valley during the Renaissance in 1536. Its grounds boast the most extravagant geometric knot gardens that are worked by eight full-time gardeners who plant 60,000 vegetables and 45,000 plants per year.

loire valley

  • Return to Tours and lunch near the Tourist office
  • Depart in a shuttle bus for second half of trip to:

Chateau De Chenonceau (http://www.chenonceau.com), a French renaissance masterpiece that was built in the 16th century on a bridge across the River Cher. King Henry II gave it to his favorite mistress, Diane de Poitiers and after his death, his widow Catherine de Medicis, banished Diane from Chenonceau.

loire valley

Chateau D’Amboise (http://www.chateau-amboise.com/) was built over a span of the 15th and 16th centuries by Charles VIII, Louis XII, and Francois I. It shelters an exceptionally well-preserved collection of furniture and boasts the most famous panoramas in the Loire Valley.

loire valley

A visit to Chateau du Clos Luce (http://www.vinci-closluce.com/) in Amboise caps off the end of the tour. This was the only home of Leonardo da Vinci where he lived from 1516 until his death in 1519. The chateau features his 40 marvelous mechanical inventions and a chapel with restored Italian crafted 16th-century frescoes: The Annunciation, the Assumption, and the Virgin of the Light.

loire valley

  • Board shuttle bus to the tourist office for transport back to the Pierre-de-Corps train station for a return trip to Paris.

To book this tour, please call toll-free in the US and Canada 1-866-996-9727 or book online at www.linkparis.com prices range from $155.00 for no rail service,$276.00 for standard service and $351.00 for first class service.

Bon Voyage!

Comments

comments

Renee King
aviewtoathrill@gmail.com
13 Comments
  • Monica
    Posted at 11:57h, 20 June Reply

    Questions for you. Did you take the tour yourself? If so, can you tell me (this will sound silly) if the roads to the castles on the tour are very winding and narrow? Also, how large the bus was they conduct the tour in? Also, about how long the tour is including travel to and from Paris? Thanks!

    • Renee
      Posted at 12:28h, 20 June Reply

      Hey Monica,

      Yes, I took the tour…that’s me standing in front of the castle. The roads were not winding at all. It was as if you were on the interstate highway…highway signs overhead included. There were six tourists on our bus, but it could hold maybe four more. It depends on how many tourists have booked a particular day…then they send the appropriate size bus to pick you up. The train ride (round trip) was about two hours. The actual tour started around 9ish, we came back to Tours for an hour lunch and continued on for another three hours. So, the entire tour was about six hours total, train ride was two…so it took an entire day…eight hours. Our fellow tourists decided to spend the night and go back to Paris the next day. We went back the same day.

  • Mel
    Posted at 01:51h, 26 June Reply

    Hi, i wanna ask you, can we take photos inside the castle or just the outside? there’s always gonna be a tour guide with us or we could just wander alone? Thanks 🙂

    • Renee
      Posted at 13:53h, 01 July Reply

      You are allowed to explore a bit, but you will be mostly within the confines of the group. The items are very fragile (read: expensive) and quite a few things are roped off and you can only view from a reasonable distance. All in all, you will completely experience all that the castles have to offer. We took photos inside and out.

  • Pictures of Paris, France
    Posted at 09:27h, 11 July Reply

    […] romance was palpable. We decided to maximize our stay by doing a daytrip in the Loire Valley where romantic castles are all the rage. We were thrilled to see the summer home of Leonardo da Vinci […]

  • Jennifer Woodard
    Posted at 21:16h, 05 May Reply

    Renee,

    Looks like a wonderful place to visit. I have never visited a castle and it seems like it would be great fun. I hope to increase my travel opportunities, maybe I will include castles to my list.

    Jenn

    • Renee
      Posted at 10:10h, 07 May Reply

      Jennifer,
      I think it would be a great idea to include castles and chateaus in your plans….they are so unique and the USA has very few of them. It will be a wonderful memory to create!

  • Catherine
    Posted at 08:52h, 06 May Reply

    I truly appreciate your posts. You write about intriguing places.

    I also enjoy your writing style its informative and easy to read.

    I also get a true sense of what it would be like to visit the places you write about. You spark a desire for me to want to visit, as well.

    Keep posting, you bring joy to my day! 🙂

    • Renee
      Posted at 10:11h, 07 May Reply

      What a lovely compliment, Catherine! Thanks, I try to make my articles interesting and present trip ideas that people can appreciate….thanks for noticing!

  • Jill Tooley
    Posted at 17:44h, 06 May Reply

    Renee,

    This post left me so floored! I’ve always adored old castles (I have pictures of my favorites hanging in my office) and these are among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The gardens are stunning, too! How did you get such a bird’s eye view of them? Unfortunately, I don’t get to travel much and I’ve never been outside of the US, but I hope to someday. Until then, I guess I’ll just live vicariously through you! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your adventures!

    –Jill

    • Renee
      Posted at 10:18h, 07 May Reply

      Thanks, Jill! The great thing about taking the tour is that you were pretty much able to go everywhere. There were very few places that were off limits. I was able to go to the top floor to take a picture of that knot garden. It was so beautifully unique, we had to get a good picture to take with us. I encourage you to try to see as much of the world as you can. It seems as if you have the desire, just try to squirrel away a few dollars a day and within a year, you will be surprised at how much you end up saving. There are lots of package deals (air, hotel and tours) that you can get for a reasonable price. Let me know if you need any help….I am happy to give it.

  • ZaccshegzyBlog
    Posted at 17:14h, 14 July Reply

    This post is a great one, kudos to you for taking out time in visiting all these wonderful structures.

  • TRAVEL PHOTO THURSDAY
    Posted at 14:25h, 17 March Reply

    […] of Tourism to meet the tour group (I’ve got a million of ‘em) for our tour (told ya!) of the Chateaus and Castles of the Loire Valley.  One of the major tenets that I ascribe to is “If you’re going to travel in a metal […]

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