While Paris is an amazing city, sometimes it’s best to abandon it for a few hours and explore the surrounding areas. Southwest of Paris is the Loire Valley, a region famous for its landscape, its wines, its beautiful towns and its chateaux.
Departure point: Gare de Montparnasse. Destination: Tours. Duration: approximately 1 hour. Time: Very early. Why? Because Tours is in the heart of the Loire Valley, one of the most beautiful regions in France that would be a crime to miss if you’re in France. The Loire Valley (Val de Loire in French) gets its name from the river Loire, and it’s a land that’s definitely easy on the eye. This is the land of the French chateaux, the famous countryside castles, the land of Joan of Arc, and a land of wine and vineyards that produce some of France’s most exquisite wines, because it’s not all about Bordeaux. Not everything interesting that you can find in France is at Paris’ doorstep; sometimes leaving the big city and going out to discover can bring the brightest and most beautiful surprises.
If you’re a fan of bicycles, then there’s no other better place in France for you to practice this sport/hobby/transport method. The Loire Valley has almost 400 miles of bicycle lanes, so hiring a bicycle to discover the region is an ideal way to do it. This is French history in its most pure state, and one which goes hand in hand with nature, culture and gastronomy.
Starting off at Tours, a visit to the city is a must. The city’s cathedral and the chateau are must sees, as is cycling along the shores of the river and visiting the emblematic Place Plumereau. From there, you can follow the river all the way to the town of Blois, where its beautiful chateau offers some of the most incredible views over the river and the surrounding areas, perhaps even better than the view you get on the bridge crossing the Loire at the town entrance. Blois has seen many important characters in history operate inside its limits, such as Joan of Arc, who used it as her base camp, King Louis XIII, his contemporary Duke of Orléans or even some members of the Medici family.
From Blois, there are two nearby locations that are the cherry on the cake of the trip to the Val de Loire. Firstly, northeast of Blois is Chambord. Picture in your mind a majestic castle overlooking a lake with its reflection on it and you more or less have an idea of Chambord. Its chateau is quite simply breathtaking and extraordinary. The castle has a visit programme which shows you in 3D the construction and history of the castle.
Following the river in the northeast direction you arrive at the city of Orléans, a city famous around France and the world for its cathedral, the Sainte-Croix, similar to Nôtre Dame and that stands out above the rest of the town. Also in Orléans are various museums and monuments dedicated to Joan of Arc, a real insight into French history that will fascinate both history lovers and travellers alike. Some of the best cuisine from this French region can be found here, an ideal place to enjoy the excellent cheeses and red wines. As the day is coming to a close, get the 60 minute train ride back to Paris Austerlitz and end an unforgettable day.
These are just some of the towns, chateaux and landscapes that can be found at the Loire Valley. As a day trip, this is all that time allows but who is to say you can’t go back the next day for more? The Val de Loire is a true French gem, a part of the country’s history that’s as beautiful as it’s interesting.