Hey guys, this is my last instalment of this little series about my trip to France. For those who haven’t read my other two travel reports yet: We’ve been to the north of Brittany, where we stayed in beautiful Cancale. Then we travelled south to see Carnac and the wonderful beaches. After getting a tan, it was time to get royal. The Loire valley was awaiting us!
Part III: Loire Valley, Blois
First of all, there is no place in Europe where you find so many castles and palaces like in the Loire valley. Believe me, you can find them everywhere in different sizes and styles. There are about 300 of them! So it’s almost impossible to see them all in one round, maybe even in one lifetime. Although, if you’re really dedicated, you could probably see them all. But who’s that dedicated on vacation, and who has got time for that?
Anyway, when travelling to this region, you have to make a selection, especially if it’s your first time. As it was our first time in this very French and pristine area, we decided to visit a few of the most famous castles the Loire has to offer. That was a good choice in my opinion, although of course the most famous ones are always a bit touristy. But it’s worth it, trust me! Another tip: Rent a bike if you have time and energy, it’s the best way to discover the beautiful countryside!
Where to stay
After almost a week in France with already two very different location I was sure the third wouldn’t surprise me. Turns out, it did. Our accommodation in Blois was located right at the cathedral, overlooking the river Loire. Our host was an elderly and very nice man, he greeted us right at the door checking our reservation on his smartphone. And they say the elderly can’t use those smartphone-thingies! First he showed us around his house, a crazy cluster of baroque rooms with mirrors, old furniture, a fireplace and so many plants! It was so typical old school French I instantly fell in love with its quirkiness. And the breakfast was to die for! Every morning he would prepare a fresh fruit salad, bake a cake and get everyone his personal croissant. What a wonder that I didn’t gain that much weight…
Where to eat
The Loire valley is famous for its wines, so prepare yourself for some drinking, may it be moderate or heavy. To begin with, we were lucky enough to have such a caring and well-informed host in our accommodation, because every morning he would give us a business card of a local restaurant. And what can I say? We were blown away by the food and the wine, and of course the atmosphere every time. One evening we ate such an interesting and delicious menu with some Norman-French dishes, I am still dreaming about it. Here are some places we went and some we didn’t have time for to try:
What to do
The city of Blois: The city where we stayed is definitely worth a visit! Because it is on a hill, you get lots of steep stairs and of course wonderful views. I loved the narrow alleys and the small shops. Furthermore, make sure to see the river Loire and the beautiful bridge!
Amboise: Amboise is another wonderful small town on the river Loire. We made a stop there from castle Chenonceau, had a baguette and relaxed at the river. The town has a lively pedestrian area with lots of restaurants, and a stunning castle up on a hill. Seriously, there’s so many castles here!
Castle Chenonceau: Chenonceau was the first castle we visited, and I was instantly blown away by the allée leading to the castle. Because you see, you not only have a nice little (or giant) castle, most of the time you have extensive gardens and lands as well. You can find Chenonceau on a river with the name of Cher (yes, like the singer), and it even goes across that river. You can see the inside of the castle, walk around the beautiful gardens and even make a boat tour on the river.
Castle Cheaumont: The second castle we visited, located up on a hill and overlooking the Loire valley. So we could enjoy the nice view as well! Cheaumont is a bit smaller than Chenonceau, the parks are not that extensive and everything is a bit simpler. Meaning that you don’t have baroque mirrors, walls and furniture but a more medieval atmosphere. Moreover we were lucky that the castle hosted an art exhibition with some pretty thrilling pieces and installations. Make sure to visit the vegetable garden!
Castle Chambord: Chambord is probably the most popular and the grandest castle in the Loire valley, and this with good reason. It’s huge, and it’s stunning! On that day we rented a pair of bikes and drove to Chambord through fields and forests, which was wonderful for a start. Chambord is not that far from Blois, so we didn’t take that long to get there. Above all, Chambord is breath-taking from the outside; the gardens and lands are huge, and you can easily go astray inside the castle. So this is a must!
I hope I wasn’t a bore to you, and I hope I could excite you a bit for this country!