Three days exploring the heritage and “art de vivre” of the Loire Valley
With its castles, royal river and gastronomy, the Loire Valley offers the perfect blend of heritage and “art de vivre”. On this three-day trip, you’ll experience a delightful mix of cultural visits and gourmet experiences
Morning: Angers and its castle
Your tour begins in the charming town of Angers. Overlooking the Maine river, Angers’ remarkable castle boasts 17 towers and twin-coloured ramparts built from slate and tufa. Within its walls, you can admire the 106m-long “Apocalypse Tapestry”, the largest medieval tapestry in the world. Representing the last book of the bible by St John, this remarkable medieval treasure is extremely well preserved.
After your visit, enjoy a stroll through the winding streets of the town to experience the relaxed quality of life evoked by the poet Joachim du Bellay. An officially recognised “town of art and history”, Angers is teeming with sights of interest for visitors : the David d’Angers gallery , Saint-Maurice cathedral, Le Mail gardens, and the Saint-Martin collegiate church .
Lunch in Angers or nearby
Several lunch options are available to you. If you prefer to stay in town, head for the « Monument Café », restaurant, inside the castle courtyard, where the menu is based around fresh, local products.
For lunch with an unbeatable view overlooking the Loire, follow the road towards Bouchemaine (10km – 14min) and eat at the traditional au A la pointe restaurant.
Afternoon: Château de Brissac and a tour of underground caves
This afternoon head for the Château de Brissac in Brissac-Quincé, just 20 minutes from Angers (20km). Its seven floors, making it the tallest castle in France, have earned it the nickname of the “Giant of the Loire Valley”. The decor inside the castle is truly splendid, featuring a Belle Époque theatre, prestigious furniture, and ceilings adorned with gold leaf. Its grounds are equally impressive, with their century-old trees lining the banks of the delightful Aubance river.
To complete your day of discovery, explore some of the area’s underground caves. Originally created by quarrying tufa used to build castles in the region, these troglodyte caves have nowadays been converted into wine cellars, restaurants and even mushroom farms.
In Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent, 35 minutes from Brissac (41km), you can explore the Bouvet-Ladubay wine cellars , which extend underground for 8km.
A little further away, enjoy another fascinating visit: the « Saut aux Loups », mushroom farm in Montsoreau, 50 minutes from Brissac (56km) and 23 minutes from Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent (18km). Inside its caves, you’ll find button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms and even the renowned Chinese shiitake mushrooms all growing here.
Dinner in Montsoreau or Saumur
For refined, modern yet local cuisine with views of the Loire, head for the Diane de Méridor restaurant, in Montsoreau.
Otherwise, head back to Saumur, just 7 minutes from Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent (3km) or 18 minutes from Montsoreau (15km), and enjoy a more relaxed supper at the Bistrot de la Place.
Overnight in Saumur
Two 4-star hotels are located 7 minutes from Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent (3km) or 18 minutes from Montsoreau (15km). The first the Château de Verrières, is an attractive property standing in 2ha of tranquil grounds.The second:the Hôtel Mercure Bords de Loirelocated on the Ile d’Offard, boasts unbeatable views of Saumur and its castle.
Morning: Fontevraud abbey
Travel to the Abbaye de Fontevraud, 20 minutes by car from Saumur (18km). The largest monastic property in Europe, the abbey stands out for its beauty and imposing presence.
Lunch in Chinon
After your tour, continue to Chinon, 21 minutes from Fontevraud (21km). Before visiting the town and its royal fortress, have lunch at the Au Chapeau Rouge restauran, where you can enjoy a menu featuring locally sourced seasonal produce, or at l’Océanic renowned for its excellent fish- and seafood-based dishes.
Afternoon: the royal fortress of Chinon and the royal city of Loches
From atop its rocky spur, the royal fortress of Chinon boasts an imposing appearance above the Vienne river. From here, numerous viewpoints enable visitors to appreciate the beauty of the valley below as well as the town in which the writer François Rabelais was born. Explore its 150m of ramparts and its towers on a tour that will bring the history of the fortress to life. The completely restored royal apartments retain the typical appearance of a Touraine-style residence from the 15th century.
After your visit, return by road (1hr – 62km) to the attractive royal town of Loches. This small medieval town full of charm boasts a fortified “cité” with an impressive and extremely well-preserved 36m-high keep. The royal residence, a fine example of Renaissance architecture, has hosted, among others, Anne of Brittany, Agnès Sorel and even Joan of Arc. Inside, admire its collection of armour, Flemish tapestries and other extraordinary works of art, such as the 15C altarpiece, the Passion of Christ, from Le Liget.
Dinner and overnight in Loches or Chédigny
Enjoy a delicious dinner at « La Galerie Bbefore heading to your B&B accommodation at « La Closerie Saint-Jacques ».
Alternatively, you can choose to stay at the « Le Clos aux Roses », qwhich offers B&B accommodation and a restaurant in the charming village of Chédigny, 12km by road from here.
Morning: visit to the Fromagerie Jacquin
Head to La Vernelle, a 50-minute drive from Loches (74km) or a 45-minute drive from Chédigny (63km). This morning’s tour includes a visit to the « Fromagerie Jacquin », where 1,000 tons of excellent goat’s cheese from the Berry region are produced and matured every year. Learn all about the traditional process used to produce different A0P goat’s cheeses (Selles-sur-Cher, Sainte Maure de Touraine, Crottin de Chavignol etc) as well as enjoying a tasting. Not forgetting the “Valençay AOP” appellation, which has the unique characteristic of incorporating a cheese and a wine under the same label. To understand the unique aspect of these two products, continue on to the next stop on your tour, the Jean-François Roy wine estate.
Late-morning: visit to a wine estate in Lye
Following your introduction to Valençay AOP cheese, it’s time to move onto Valençay AOP wine! For this, head to Lye, 15 minutes from La Vernelle (10km), where you will visit the Jean-François Roy estate.
Lunch in Valençay
If these two tastings have made you hungry, you’re in luck as you will enjoy an excellent lunch today at the “La Duchesse de Dino” restaurant in Valençay (13 rue de Blois – Tel: + 33 (0)2 54 00 16 25), 13 minutes from Lye (15km).
Afternoon: Château de Valençay and Château de Chenonceau
After lunch, discover the Château de Valençay, with its English-style park and French-style gardens. In 1803, this prestigious château, a harmonious mix of Renaissance and Classical styles, came into the hands of Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, the minister for foreign affairs under Napoleon. Its richly furnished interior (paintings, objets d’art, marble etc) is of special interest, in particular the Grand Salon, decorated in Empire-style.
Continue onto the Château de Chenonceau, 50 minutes from Valençay (50km). The white façade of this prestigious castle is reflected in the water of the Cher river, spanned elegantly by its famous gallery. Here, you can rent a boat and glide effortlessly beneath its arches. A visit to its gardens, highlighting the very best in traditional French garden design, is an absolute must. In particular, admire the luxuriant flowerbeds adorning the Diane de Poitiers and Catherine of Medici gardens.
Late afternoon: return to Paris
To return to Paris by car, allow 2hr 20min from Chenonceau (237km). If you’re travelling by TGV, head to Tours railway station, 35 minutes from Chenonceau (33km), from where the journey time back to Paris is 1hr 15min.
Suggested events at sites visited
A musically themed evening stroll at the Château de Chenonceau
“Gourmet Thursdays” at the Château de Valençay
“Fashion flower” festival at the Château de Brissac
The “Ideal City” at the Abbaye de Fontevraud