If you like castles and history, I know a place you should go…
The Loire Valley in central France has some of the most beautiful chateaus (French for castle) I have ever encountered. I’ve visited them twice; once as a junior in high school, on my first trip to France that started a lifelong love, then again when I was studying abroad in college. I may be going back this December when we visit Paris, but in the meantime I thought I’d share some of my older photos of this lovely region.
Transportation: The chateaus are not all right next to each other in one town–they’re quite spread out. I went with a tour group organized through my school, but there are tons of other tours out there. I haven’t personally been on one so I can’t recommend any. But if we go, I think we’re going to skip the tour thing and rent a car. It’s not a far drive from Paris and renting a car from Charles de Gaulle (the main airport) is surprisingly easy. (Just remember that automatics cost more than manuals in Europe, so you save money if you know how to drive stick.)
Where to stay and what to see Friends of mine just did this trip, and they made Saint Michel sur Loire their first home base, staying at this adorable Airbnb. While there they visited Chateau d’Usse, Chateau Azay Le Rideau, and Chateau Villandry. You can dine in nearby Chinon, which has a great medieval downtown area–and also do a wine tasting 🙂
For the second leg of their trip, my friends stayed in in Noizay, at this Airbnb. From there you can visit Amboise, a lovely little town that contains Clos Luce, the home of Leonardo da Vinci. From there you can also visit the most famous chateaus: Chambord (the second photo) and Chenonceau (the header photo). A lot of people say Chenonceau is their favorite–it is quite lovely, the way it rises out of the water–but I’ve always adored Chambord. It’s just so HUGE. I wander around, looking at the tiny centuries-old furniture and think about what I would do with this many rooms. (A great many of them would be dedicated to books.)
Other stops? I recall the town of Blois being quite nice. Chartres is also amazing though a little further from everything else. And there’s a ton of other stuff I know I’m missing. If you have more recommendations, please let me know!
If I could spend a month there, I would–I will someday.
All photos taken by me, March 2004