Vintage Loire Valley
You are invited to join us on this superb tour of the beautiful and historic Loire valley in France.
This two centre holiday is based in the cathedral cities of Tours and Nantes, in the heart of the Loire valley.
As you would expect for a tour that visits this famous part of France, we see all the main attractions. We visit the magnificent Chateau d’Chambord with its many beautiful gardens, the hilltop fortress at Chinon and the Chateau d’Amboise overlooking the river. We go wine tasting in Vouvray and we also enjoy two river cruises.
Those with a passion for railways are also well catered for. We cover two heritage railways (one steam operated and one diesel operated), with lunch provided on both, and a ride in a fabulous former Orient Express carriage on the latter.
For your convenience, this tour is a no fly tour, with easy rail transfer between Eurostar and French TGVs at Lille (there is a short walk along a pleasant pedestrianised street from Lille Europe to Lille Flanders).
Finally, to offer some extra luxury, the outward and return journeys on Eurostar and TGV are upgraded to Standard Premier/1st Class for extra comfort, and catering aboard the Eurostar.
If you have ever fancied visiting this part of France, this tour is probably the easiest way to see all the sights, and get more than just a flavour of what is on offer to the visitor.
This tour, now in its second year, is based on our renowned Douro Valley tours and should particularly appeal to anyone who has travel with us in the past to the Douro.
Tour Manager: David
Tuesday 11th July: (L,D) We meet at St. Pancras station at 10.00 for our journey (10.58 departure) via the channel tunnel to Lille Europe. We have a short walk to Lille Flanders station to catch our high speed TGV to St Pierre des Corps, arriving 17.59 with a short coach journey to our hotel. Tours is the ideal base for the start of our exploration of the Loire Valley. The Cathedral city is flat and easy to walk around for us to visit the medieval heart of the city that has been so lovingly restored. Narrow streets, half-timbered houses with wooden posts carved with figures and scenes are just some of the wonders of this city. Inside the Cathedral St-Gatien we find marble tomb of Charles VIII, a 14th century fresco of St. Martin giving half his cloak to a beggar and beautiful stained glass windows. In Tours there is also the tram that can be taken across the River Loire, over the ‘Pont Wilson’. The bridge is known as the ‘stone bridge’. It is a replica of the 18th century bridge which collapsed in 1978. We will be staying in a hotel that is within easy walking distance of the station and the historic centre. After check in we will meet up for our welcome dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight in Tours.
Wednesday 12th July: (B) This morning we will take our coach for the short journey to Amboise which was once home to the French Royal Court. This small market town, which lies on the banks of the River Loire, is dominated by the Chateau d’Amboise, once the home of Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots. Inside the grounds of this Royal Chateau we can visit the late-Gothic Chapelle St. Hubert where Leonardo da Vinci is buried. Some of his inventions are still here. Amboise also boasts a lovely pedestrian street, the Rue Nationale, which passes under the 15th century Clock Tower. The street is lined with small shops and patisseries, with many temptations. After time for lunch, we will be met by our coach for our journey to visit a winery for a wine tasting experience in Vouvray. This will be followed by a boat trip on the River Loire. Overnight in Tours.
Thursday 13th July: (B,L) Today we head north by train from Tours to Le Mans and change onto a local train to Connerré Beillé where we join the picturesque private line of Chemin de fer Touristique de la Sarthe. Waiting for us will be a steam hauled vintage train which will take us on a 12 km ride to Bonnétable. A light lunch will be served on the train as we start our return journey to Connerré Beillé. Overnight in Tours
Friday 14th July: (B) Heading west from Tours on a different railway line, we alight at the station of Blois-Chambord where our coach will be waiting to take us to Chateau d’Chambord. Prestigious, majestic, colossal, extravagant… these adjectives may not be enough to fully describe the splendour of Chambord. The largest chateau of the Loire Valley is indeed full of surprises for those who are lucky enough to explore its domain. This remarkable piece of architecture is certainly more than just a castle: it is the dream of a King, transformed into reality. We return to Bloise to catch our train back to Tours, though you may also want to visit the nearby Château Royale de Blois. Overnight in Tours.
Saturday 15th July: (B) Again we return to the railway station, but this time for our journey on the branch line to Chinon. We will be met by our local guide for our walking tour of Chinon along the riverside. It was here in Chinon that Joan of Arc arrived in 1429 and where her transformation from peasant girl to the warrior-saint took place. The magnificent Royal Fortress of Chinon runs along the hill above the River Vienne at the crossroads of three provinces: Anjou, Poitou and Touraine. The castle was built here around the 10th century. From the 16th century, Chinon was no longer a royal residence and later the castle fell into disrepair. In the late 19th and 20th centuries Chinon grew to the east, towards the railway station and to the north on the hill. Since 1968 restoration has been taking place in order to preserve its historic and architectural identity. We will cross the stone bridge (built in the 12th century by Henry II) for the best views of the fortress before entering the narrow streets. Then perhaps sample some of the best wines in France during our lunch break. We should now have the energy to climb the hill to visit the fortress. Overnight in Tours.
Sunday 16th July: (B) We then travel on for our final three nights in Nantes. Once the capital of Brittany and home to the Duke and Duchesses of Brittany. Also famous for its Muscadet wine which we will taste during our stay. We travel by loco-hauled inter-city train to Nantes on a railway that follows the Loire, through the famous wine-producing town of Saumer. Nantes was once a major commercial harbour, the largest city in North Western France and the historic capital of Brittany. Nowadays it is a surprisingly pretty, interesting and vibrant city. It is home to the largest and busiest tramway in France, opened in 1985. The Dukes of Brittany made Nantes their home, building the castle on the banks of the Loire. Most of the dukes and duchesses are buried in the castle, cathedral or abbeys. After a guided tour of this beautiful city, we will take a cruise on the River Erdre and view Nantes from another aspect. The remainder of the afternoon will be free to explore Nantes at leisure. We will be staying at the Sozo Hotel near the town centre. This is a 4-star boutique hotel located in a completely transformed and redecorated 19th century chapel. Voted #1 hotel in Nantes on Trip Advisor.
Monday 17th July: (B) This morning we will travel by train from Nantes to Le Croisic. This is as far west as our tour will go as we now overlook the Atlantic. Today is a free day of exploration of this pretty French port and towns. Look out for the salt flats that we pass through on the train. Why not make the most of the French cuisine and enjoy the fresh fish at one of Le Croisic’s many seafood restaurants? Afterwards maybe dip your toes in the Atlantic or just stroll around this wonderful French seaside town. Later we take our train back to Nantes. Overnight in Nantes.
Tuesday 18th July: (B,L) Today we head south east from Nantes – approx. one hour by coach – to the town of Mortange-sur-Sevre where we join the picturesque private line of Chemin de Fer de la Vendee. Waiting for us will be a vintage diesel hauled dining train (see photo above) which will take us on a 22 km ride to Les Herbiers. A five course lunch will be served during the delightful journey on the former Orient Express restaurant car. On the return journey there will be a stop, for those interested, to visit the railway workshops to see their collection of rail vehicles and locomotives.
Wednesday 19th July: (B) After breakfast we return to the UK via rail. Arrival back into St Pancras is late afternoon.
To enjoy this tour to the full, you should be able to walk a few hundred metres and climb stairs. In Lille and Nantes, you will need to be able to walk a distance of about 400 metres with your luggage.