Every month, My Next Memory gives you our real feedback from a French destination and tells you how it’s really like to travel there. And since it’s also the end of our “Castle Month” series, we are naturally taking you to …the Loire Valley!
The Loire Valley is one of My Next Memory’s favourite destinations in France because it is easy to visit and can please absolutely anyone, regardless of your age and background: it simply is a delight!
When to go to the Loire Valley? And for how long?
The Valley, in theory, could be all the surroundings of the Loire river which is one of the longest in France. The tourist area most of us go to is actually the region extending between Tours and Blois, both cities being easily accessible by high-speed train from Paris. That being said, apart from one or two major sites like Chenonceau, few Castles are accessible directly by public transport: we strongly recommend having your own car for an easy and enjoyable stay in the region.
Also, an important aspect to keep in mind is not to aim at visiting all the Castles….First, there are way too many of them, over a thousand, and second, any of us understandably gets some form of castle fatigue after seeing a few of them.
Instead, we suggest you make careful planning to select the 4 to 6 Castles you will like and plan to stay 4 to 5 days in the Valley for an unforgettable vacation! Finally, while most attractions are open year-round, considering the beauty of gardens and the opportunities for outdoor activities, we recommend visiting the Valley from Spring to Autumn.
Visiting the Loire Valley Castles….a lifetime’s quest!
As mentioned, aiming to visit all of the castles would take a lifetime. So a well-planned Loire Valley trip is about combining the right amount of visits you can take to the style of landmark you fancy. Do you plan to see one, two or three castles per day? Our advice is to mix a selection of the most famous and iconic castles to some lesser-known little gems where you will also have the place more to yourself, away from the big crowds.
Major landmarks of the Valley include of course Chambord, Chenonceau and to some extend Blois and Amboise, once Royal Residences.
Smaller places can be selected among the various attractions depending on what you like or how you plan to go there. Many castles of the Valley are easily accessible by bicycle and include very nice picnic areas for families! We particularly like:
- the Clos Luce, Leonardo Da Vinci’s last residence,
- Azay-le-Rideau for its very delicate and romantic architecture,
- Beauregard for its breathtaking portraits gallery of absolutely all the French Kings
- Villandry for its stunning symmetrical and colourful gardens
- Cheverny the Castle that inspired Moulinsard in Tintin comics
Alternatives to Castles
Castles are not your thing? You are getting tired of hearing anecdotes of French history you won’t remember? No worries. There are so many other things to do to give your mind a break!
First, the Loire Valley is an amazing region for wine discovery! Plenty of small producers will gladly show you around their properties! The local wines are known for being light and delicate, easy to drink and without a need to wait many years. They are also affordable and very diverse, so don’t hesitate to try the different taste from one side to another of the Valley!
The Loire is also famous for its weird, yet quite impressive stone houses carved directly into cliffs! The troglodyte houses are definitely worth a visit if you want to see something original!
Other interesting activities include a boat ride on the Loire River, a visit to France’s most prestigious horse training school or Europe’s biggest wildlife zoo which will dazzle any kid or grown-up with its incredible number of species! Contact us for more details on those places!
How about accommodation? And food?
A trip to the Loire Valley isn’t complete if you don’t stay in a castle or a mansion yourself! You should definitely treat yourself here as the region has a good and value-for-money selection of really amazing accommodation options! Our favourites are located in or near Amboise which is probably the best city to be based for exploration as it has an equal and reasonable distance to all attractions: less than 30 minutes drive! The perfect opportunity to live in comfort and on the footsteps of historical figures!
The more brave explorers will also try a few nights in some of the Troglodyte hotels!
As for your taste buds, Loire Valley is particularly famous for its affordable wines, white and red alike, its very delicate and light goat cheeses as well as river fishes! You may also want to try the delicious rillettes, a typical local dish that all French people love: cooked pork cut into small pieces and cooled down with several condiments, salt and spices!
In a nutshell
The Loire Valley is a true delight because it can please anyone: by offering a slow-paced and beautiful travel opportunity, there are activities to satisfy everybody in the region! We find it perfect for families, couples or friends who want to learn more about history and culture! It also is an amazing place to come to regularly as it offers so many different castles that can visit different ones every time!