Culture

Vintage Loire Valley

20 to 28 April 2020
France

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, in city centre hotels.

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 Chenonceau with its many beautiful gardens and the hilltop fortress at Chinon.  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 three heritage railways (one steam and two diesel), with lunch provided on two of them, including a ride on a fabulous former Orient Express carriage on the latter, and at a nearby hotel for the third. Additionally, three of the cities and towns have their own tram systems, some of which are quite extensive. We use rail travel to visit places that are rail connected and have the use of a luxury coach where they are not rail connected.

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). The road coach will also be on hand at the destinations to help tour participants with their luggage get to/from the hotels.

Finally, to offer some extra luxury, the outward and return journeys on Eurostar and TGV are upgraded to standard premier or 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 is based on our renowned Douro Valley tours and should particularly appeal to anyone who has travelled with us in the past to the Douro.

Highlights

  • No fly
  • Standard Premier on Eurostar, first class on SNCF (where available)
  • Two centres
  • Wine Tasting
  • Chateau d’Chenonceau
  • Private steam train ride
  • Private vintage dining train
  • Two river cruises
  • Good, centrally-located hotels
  • FREE Single Supplement option

Tour Manager: David  david@ptg.co.uk

From: London St Pancras (escorted)

 
Itinerary

Day 1 Monday 20 April (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 17.58 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 Loire River, 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.

Day 2 Tuesday 21 April (B,L) Today we head north from Tours to Le Mans and change onto a local train to Connerré Beillé where we have a private charter on the picturesque 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

Day 3 Wednesday 22 April (B) This morning we travel by train to visit the famous Chateau de Chenonceau. The Chateau was unusually influenced and protected by several women over its history. In 1547 it was donated to Diane De Poitiers, the favourite lady of King Henri II. Diane De Poitiers created gardens which were among some of the most spectacular and modern at that time. The interior of the Chateau contains a fantastic collection of furniture and works of art. Each furnished room inside the Chateau has fresh flower displays that add to the luxury and charm of this magnificent Castle. We will see beautiful Flemish tapestries, the painting of ‘The Three Graces’ (all royal mistresses) and the ‘Gran Galerie’ that stretches across the River Cher. After time for lunch, our coach will be waiting to take us to the River Loire for an enjoyable cruise along the last major untamed river in France. We end the day with a visit to a nearby wine producer where we will have the opportunity to try some of the wine from this wine-producing area, accompanied by local specialities. 

Day 4 Thursday 23 April (B,L) This morning we have a private charter on the Loire Valley Tourist Railway. Travelling slowly in a train dating from the 1950s, the Loire Valley opens before you, from Thoré to Trôo – the village of Trôo and its troglodyte dwellings, the tunnel at Saint Rimay, Montoire and its station, unfortunately known because of its role in the 24th October 1940 meeting between Hitler and Pétain, the caves of Thoré la Rochette – and you will greet the TGV as it passes the exact spot where a TGV broke the world speed record at 513.3 km/h. After our trip, we stop at a local hotel for lunch, then return to Tours for a free afternoon to explore the town.

Day 5 Friday 24 April (B) We travel along a quiet branch line out of tours to the town of Chinon. We will be met by our local guide for our walking tour through the town’s medieval streets. 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. Henry II, Plantagenet Count of Anjou and King of England, ruled England as well as the Loire Valley. 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. After free time for lunch, we visit the fortress. Later we will meet at the station for our return journey to Tours. Overnight in Tours.

Day 6 Saturday 25 April (B) Returning to St Pierre des Corps station, we catch a train to Nantes. 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 time for lunch, 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 in a well-located city-centre hotel.

Day 7 Sunday 26 April (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 excellent 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.

Day 8 Monday 27 April (B,L) We travel south from Nantes to the Chemin de Fer de la Vendée for our farewell lunch. Waiting for us will be a vintage diesel-hauled train which will take us on a 22 km ride to Les Herbiers. On board our restored Orient Express dining car, we will be treated to an excellent five-course lunch with wine included. The train will pause on a viaduct so we can enjoy our lunch with uninterrupted view of the valley below. This is definitely one of the highlights of the tour.

Day 9 Tuesday 28 April (B) After breakfast, we catch the TGV from Nantes to Lille, where we change to our Eurostar back to London.

This is a relatively gentle tour, though you will need to be able to take your luggage between stations in Lille (about 800 metres) on the outward journey. The towns we stay in are fairly flat and we are in centrally located hotels in both.

Place(s) available

FREE Single Supplement Option

Holiday Prices (per person)
  • Full 9 day holiday including rail travel from London St Pancras: £1,875
  • Full 9-day holiday joining in Tours: £1,575

Options

  • Single room Supplement: £395 (main hotels) or FREE (different hotels)

Deposit

• £500

 

Main Hotels

  • Hotel Oceania L’Univers, Tours (5 nights)
  • Mercure Nantes Centre Grand Hôtel (3 nights)

Alternative Hotels (no single supplement)

  • Kyriad Tours Centre, Tours (5 nights)
  • Ibis Styles Nante Centre (3 nights)
Online Booking
Hotel Room:
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Price includes

• All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
• Good quality en-suite accommodation
• Meals as shown in the itinerary; B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
• Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted from, and back to, St Pancras