48 Hours in the Loire Valley
- December 10, 2018
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Visiting Loire Valley in Two Days
Imagine you’re taking planes, trains, automobiles – and maybe a horse-drawn carriage – to reach the Loire Valley. Once you make it to this vineyard and castle-filled landscape, what’s next? For a whirlwind royal experience of the most breathtaking architectural feats and historical sites, prioritize these OuiPlease-approved activities and locations. Bon voyage!
Start your first day in the western part of the Loire Valley at Chateau d’Amboise between Tours and Blois. Chateau d’Amboise is architecturally unique because it was built in the 15th century in a French Gothic style, and later enhanced with Italian Renaissance decorative motifs. In 1840, Chateau d’Amboise was listed as a historic monument by the French Ministry of Culture. Today the chateau is known for its impressive collection of Gothic and Renaissance furniture, as well as its picturesque gardens that overlook the Loire Valley.
Once you’ve toured the royal chateau, venture down into the charming town of Amboise for brunch. There you’ll find a host of cafés where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or an omelet. Afterward, wander the cobblestone streets to shop and pick up a few trinkets.
After brunch, make your way to Chateau du Clos Lucé, also in Amboise. The site has a long history laced with personal histories of royals beginning in the 15thcentury. Chateau du Clos Lucé is perhaps best known as the final residence of Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo was brought from Italy to the Chateau in 1516 with three of his most important works, including the Mona Lisa. It was in Chateau du Clos Lucé that he completed this iconic masterpiece. Researchers have brought Leonardo back to life at Chateau de Clos Lucé by building the innovative machines he imagined and planting the botanical species he drew.
Finish your day at the incomparable Chateau de Chenonceau, a 20-minute drive from Amboise. This chateau, which beautifully floats over a lake, is often referred to as “Chateau de Dames” because it has been preserved by a succession of women over the course of history. Visit the chateau to view Old Masters paintings by Rubens, Van Loo, Poussin, and more.
Alternatively, you could spend your late afternoon sailing down the Loire River. Boats conveniently leave from Amboise, and you can request a private tour for you and your friends. Sailing between islands and sandbanks, you’ll see grand chateaus and get acquainted with the river valley that has transported travelers and goods for centuries.
That evening, dine at Le 36, a Michelin star restaurant offering a beautiful view of the city. Option 2 fi you are looking for something more casual, Chez Bruno. This restaurant is inexpensive, rather casual, and a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Chez Bruno is the ideal place to order a regional bottle of wine, eat a comforting, home-cooked French meal, and slow down after a busy day. A little tip from us to you? Engage locals and your waiter in conversation to get some coveted tips on Loire Valley wine!
After a day full of impressive castle tours, head back to your room at Le Manoir Les Minimes in Amboise. The “Prestige Manoir Suite” is, not surprisingly, our room of choice. Here you’ll enjoy a plush bed, a deep bathtub, and an elegant interior decorated with sprawling chaise lounges and gilded mirrors.
Your second day in the Loire Valley will begin at Chateau de Blois. This compound is made up of four different chateaus centered around a courtyard. The chateaus each represent a different era, and thus a different example of French architecture. It was at Chateau de Blois that Joan of Arc received a blessing from the Archbishop of Reims before defending Orléans from the English. Surrounded by decadent furnishings and the aura of history, you’ll feel transported back in time during your visit.
The largest chateau in the Loire Valley, Chateau de Chambord, is also a must-see on your tour. Chateau de Chambord was built at the command of King Francois I, with the help of Leonardo da Vinci in 1516. Originally a weekend hunting lodge, Chambord became an ambitious architectural endeavor over time that was referred to as a “wonder of the world.” With 440 rooms, 365 chimneys, and 84 staircases, the chateau successfully immortalized its creator, the “architect prince” with its ostentatious grandeur. While visiting Chateau de Chambord, don’t miss the Museum of Hunting and Nature, as well as the castle’s impressive collection of historic tapestries.
For thrill-seekers, another option would be spending the morning on a hot air balloon adventure. Flights leave near Amboise just before sunrise when the winds are calm. Including takeoff and landing, the activity lasts three hours. During the flight, you’ll see many Loire Valley chateaus from a completely new, aerial perspective.
Regardless of your morning activities, for lunch, you must go to the incredible restaurant, La Maison d’à Côté in Montlivault near Chambord. The ingredients are local, seasonal, and the dishes are inventive and fresh. All courses during your dining experience are beautifully presented and well-explained by the chef himself. A final component we love about this restaurant is the clean, modern décor and the inviting ambiance.
End the day at a local vineyard – we’d suggest Cour Cheverny if you’re in Chambord. Cour Cheverny wines are completely made with Romorantin grapes, making it the only appellation in the world to do so. White wines made with these types of grapes are dry, full-bodied and have a long aging capacity. The Cour Cheverny wines exist today thanks to King Francois I, the creator of Chateau de Chambord.
After drinking your fair share of white wine, head back to your home away from home at Le Manoir Les Minimes. Jump into bed and congratulate yourself on a trip well-spent.