Chateaux and wine in the Loire Valley

We researched trains and buses to get to the Loire valley and on to the south of France, and quickly realised that we were going to pay about the same amount to go by public transport as we were by train – so we hired a rental car and picked it up in the middle of Paris.  This was one of the more stressful destinations to get a rental car from, as it meant driving on the right through Paris traffic in a manual car, but we eventually made it out of Paris and down through the countryside.  We stayed off the expensive toll roads and on the free roads, which are longer but take you through beautiful countryside.  One of the nicest things about France is how easy it is to have a tasty picnic – just get some cheap, amazing tasting cheese and a baguette and you are set! (This actually turned out to be one of the few days we were able to picnic outside of the car – it turned out winter wasn’t quite over)!

 

Our picnic spot in the country
Our picnic spot in the country

 

Our car - the "Chateau Stalker"
Our car – the ” Chateau Stalker”

 

We stayed in Tours, a cute little town that we were able to explore a bit by bicycle. (Random side note – Tours and Nice are two of the most challenging google searches as they can be so misunderstood!)

 

Tours - very cute
Tours – very cute

 

From here, we visited a different chateau and winery each day.  There are dozens and dozens of chateaux in the Loire Valley, but to explore them all would be very expensive (each one costs between 10 and 15 euros per person) so we picked our top three to visit. On our first day, we headed to the beautiful Chateau Chenonceau.  Here we wandered through the gardens until we came to the chateau, which is perched on an island in the middle of the river.  We were able to tour right through the chateau and really appreciated the lit fire and fresh flower arrangements that complemented the beautiful rooms.

 

 

Our first view of our first chateau
Our first view of our first chateau

 

One of the gorgeous rooms
One of the gorgeous rooms

 

 

 

Beautiful flowers in the chateau
Beautiful flowers in the chateau

 

 

 

In the ballroom
In the ballroom

 

The gorgeous chateau
The gorgeous chateau

 

Jumping in the morning sun
Jumping in the morning sun

 

In the afternoon we went to the Cave Producers of Vouvray, where we found out that English tours didn’t run in winter…but they let us in, showed us around and gave us a free tasting anyway.  French wineries are fabulously priced – here we could get a nice bottle of wine from the winery for only 5 euros!

 

Learning how sparkling wine is made
Learning how sparkling wine is made

 

On our second day we drove to Chateau Chambord (pictured above), the biggest chateau in the valley, which is famous for its double helix staircase inside.  It was absolutely freezing here – we would explore a couple of rooms then run to the fire and huddle in front of it!

 

 

The massive chateau
The massive chateau

 

The beautiful detailing at the top of the chateau
The beautiful detailing at the top of the chateau

 

Looking up the double helix staircase
Looking up the double helix staircase

 

 

We visited Domaine de L’Aumoniere winery here, which turned out to be an underground room that the owner let us in to through a tarpaulin – but the wine was excellent and we picked up another bottle.

 

 

There was also a chandelier made from bottles. Cool.
There was also a chandelier made from bottles. Cool.

 

We also popped into the town of Amboise on the way back for a quick look at their castle. On our third day, we went to Chateau d’Usse. Its claim to fame is that is was possibly the inspiration for the author of Sleeping Beauty – not sure if this was true, but the castle was beautiful (and there was a former underground passageway).  One of the best parts about visiting the Loire Valley in winter was we had the chateaux nearly to ourselves which was great.

 

The chateau
The chateau

 

In the former underground passage
In the former underground passage

 

One of the beautiful ceilings
One of the beautiful ceilings

 

 

Looking out at the view
Looking out at the view

 

Not a bad view!
Not a bad view!

 

Us at the chateau
Us at the chateau

 

 

That afternoon we went to Nicholas Paget for wine tasting and added another bottle to our collection.

 

Our modest collection
Our modest collection

 

Now, you may have noticed we christened our car the Chateau Stalker. Although we only paid to visit three chateaux, we also did a bit of “Chateau stalking”.  Here are some of the chateaux we saw from the outside only!

 

P1210001

P1200967

P1200990

P1200959

P1200955

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mum Bunn says:

    Lachlan McKenzie and Nicholas Wood would be so jealous!!

    Like

  2. Lynette Olson says:

    What amazing buildings the Chateaus are.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s