Three days exploring the heritage and “art de vivre” of the Loire Valley

Three days exploring the heritage and “art de vivre” of the Loire Valley.
With its châteaux, royal river and gastronomy, the Loire Valley offers the perfect blend of heritage and “art de vivre”. On this three-day trip, you’ll experience a delightful mix of cultural visits and gourmet experiences. 

Day 1

Morning: Angers and its château
Your tour begins in the charming town of Angers. Overlooking the Maine river, Angers’ remarkable fortress boasts 17 towers and twin-coloured ramparts built from slate and tuffeau stone. Within its walls, you can admire the 106m-long “Apocalypse Tapestry”, the largest medieval tapestry in the world. Representing the last book of the bible by St John, this remarkable medieval treasure is extremely well preserved. 

After your visit, enjoy a stroll through the winding streets of the town to experience the relaxed quality of life evoked by the poet Joachim du Bellay. An officially recognised “City of Art and History”, Angers is teeming with sights of interest for visitors, such as the David d’Angers gallery,  
Saint-Maurice cathedral, Le Mail gardens and the Saint-Martin collegiate church. 

Lunch in Angers or nearby
Several lunch options are available to you. If you prefer to stay in town, head for the “Monument Café” restaurant, inside the château courtyard, where the menu is based around fresh, local products.

Afternoon: Château of Brissac and a tour of troglodyte caves
This afternoon head for the Château of Brissac in Brissac-Quincé, just 20 minutes from Angers (20km). Its seven floors, making it the tallest château in France, have earned it the nickname of the “Giant of the Loire Valley”. The decor inside is truly splendid, featuring a Belle Époque theatre, prestigious furniture, and ceilings adorned with gold leaf. Its grounds are equally impressive, with their century-old trees lining the banks of the delightful Aubance river.

To complete your day of discovery, explore some of the area’s underground caves. Originally created by quarrying tuffeau stone used to build châteaux in the region, these troglodyte caves have nowadays been converted into wine cellars, restaurants and even mushroom farms. 

In Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent, 35 minutes from Brissac (41km), you can explore the Bouvet-Ladubay wine cellars, which extend underground for 8km.

A little further away, enjoy another fascinating visit: the “Saut aux Loups” mushroom farm in Montsoreau, 50 minutes from Brissac (56km) and 23 minutes from Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent (18km). Inside its caves, you’ll find button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms and even the renowned Chinese shiitake mushrooms all growing here.

Dinner in Montsoreau or Saumur
For refined, modern yet local cuisine with views of the Loire, head for the Diane de Méridor restaurant in Montsoreau.
Alternatively, head back to Saumur, just 7 minutes from Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent (3km) or 18 minutes from Montsoreau (15km) and enjoy a more relaxed supper at the Bistrot de la Place

Overnight in Saumur
Two 4-star hotels are located 7 minutes from Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent (3km) or 18 minutes from Montsoreau (15km). The first, Château de Verrières, is an attractive property standing in 2ha of tranquil grounds ; the second, the Hôtel Mercure Bords de Loire, located on the Ile d’Offard, boasts unbeatable views of Saumur and its château.

Day 2

Morning: Abbey of Fontevraud and visit to a wine cellar
Travel to the Abbey of Fontevraud, just 20 minutes by car from Saumur (18km). The largest monastic property in Europe, the abbey stands out for its beauty and imposing presence.

Then head in the direction of Chinon, which is 20 minutes from Fontevraud (21 km)

Stop off at Domaine de Noiré to visit its wine cellar and taste Chinon wines accompanied by local produce. You can also explore the vineyards in a horse-drawn carriage or climb aboard a Gabare boat for a trip on the Vienne including wine and local produce tasting.

Lunch in Chinon
Before visiting the town and its royal fortress, have lunch at the Au Chapeau Rouge restaurant, where you can enjoy a menu featuring locally sourced seasonal produce, or at l’Océanic, renowned for its excellent fish- and seafood-based dishes.

Afternoon: Royal Fortress of Chinon and the Château of Le Rivau
From atop its rocky spur, the royal fortress of Chinon boasts an imposing appearance above the Vienne river. From here, numerous viewpoints enable visitors to appreciate the beauty of the valley below as well as the town in which the writer François Rabelais was born. Explore its 150m of ramparts and its towers on a tour that will bring the history of the fortress to life. The completely restored royal apartments retain the typical appearance of a Touraine-style residence from the 15th century.

After your visit, continue to the Château of Le Rivau and its gardens situated just 15 minutes away (12 km). Behind the tall, medieval facade you will discover refinement and comfort in a lordly residence whose rooms are now home to numerous contemporary art works. Its beautifully restored royal stables are thought to be the oldest in France. The 14 fairy-tale like gardens at the foot of the château also house monumental works of art and an impressive collection of 450 varieties of roses that have been carefully selected for their scents.

At the end of the visit, travel on to the attractive Royal City of Loches, which is an hour’s drive away (62km). 

Dinner and night in Loches or Chédigny
Enjoy a delicious dinner at “La Galerie B” before heading to your guest room in “La Closerie Saint-Jacques”
Alternatively, choose to stay in the “Le Clos aux Roses” B&B and restaurant in the charming village of Chédigny, 12km away by car.  

Day 3

Morning: Visit the Royal City of Loches

This charming medieval town boasts an impressive fortified city with an incredibly well preserved 36-metre keep. The royal suite exemplifies the Renaissance style and has played host to Anne of Brittany, Agnès Sorel and Joan of Arc. Inside, visitors can admire armour, Flemish tapestries and fine paintings such as the Chartreuse du Liget altar piece titled “The passion of Christ” (15th century).

Then head in the direction of Veuil, which is 45 minutes’ drive away (48 km).

Lunch in Veuil
L’Auberge Saint-Fiacre will be sure to satisfy all your desires. 

After lunch, travel on to Valençay which is 10 minutes away by car (7 km).

Afternoon: Château of Valençay and Château of Chenonceau
After lunch, discover the Château of Valençay with its English-style park and French-style gardens. In 1803, this prestigious château, a harmonious mix of Renaissance and Classical styles, came into the hands of Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, the minister for foreign affairs under Napoleon. Its richly furnished interior (paintings, objets d’art, marble etc) is of special interest, in particular the Grand Salon, decorated in Empire-style.

Continue onto the Château of Chenonceau, 50 minutes from Valençay (50km). The white façade of this prestigious château is reflected in the water of the Cher river, spanned elegantly by its famous gallery. Here, you can rent a boat and glide effortlessly beneath its arches. 
A visit to its gardens, highlighting the very best in traditional French garden design, is an absolute must. In particular, admire the luxuriant flowerbeds adorning the Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de’ Medici gardens.

Late afternoon: return to Paris
To return to Paris by car, allow 2hr 20min from Chenonceau (237km). If you’re travelling by TGV, head to Tours railway station, 35 minutes away by car (33 km). The journey time back to Paris is 1hr 15min.

Events at the châteaux:
- Tasting under the stars at the Château of Chenonceau
- Festival of the rose at the Château of Le Rivau
- “Gourmet Thursdays” at the Château of Valençay
- Illumination of the Abbey of Fontevraud