Only one hour by train from Paris, and you are in the magnificent Loire Valley. If you are looking at hiring a car, beat the traffic and collect your vehicle from outside the city centre. We chose the village of Tours which meant not only a quick train ride out of Paris, but then only a short drive to our hotel in the centre of the Loire Valley.
Where to Stay
Chateau Amboise – credit:istock.com/alxpin1
We chose to base ourselves, in the village of Amboise. A village famous for its stunning Château d’ Amboise, which dominates the town centre overlooking the Loire river.
Hôtel Le Choiseul – credit: SLH
Our hotel, the stylish Le Choiseul, located only a short walk to the town centre, is conveniently placed for visiting the châteaux of the Loire Valley. The rooms here are stunning – traditionally designed with bright floral décor, you will enjoy the relaxed and comfortable atmosphere this hotel provides. Outside you will find a quiet oasis with an outdoor swimming pool set within the beauty of Italian styled gardens and sculptures. It provides a fabulous location to unwind after a busy day.
Hôtel Le Choiseul Swimming Pool – credit: SLH
During the day the town of Amboise you can expect to be busy, with many visitors stopping to see the key sites and enjoying lunch at one of the many restaurants and cafes. Being so close to the town centre we could wonder in for an evening meal, once many of the day trippers had left, giving endless dining options offering exquisite local wines and produce of the region.
Château de Chambord – credit: iStock.com/JoselgnacioSoto
A great way to witness the glamour and grandeur of French royalty and aristocracy is a visit to some of the most famous Chateau’s in the Loire Valley.
We started with the grandeur of the Chateau de Chambord. Originally built as a hunting lodge, it’s sheer size and presence make it hard to miss. Stepping inside you will gain an insight into ‘castle life’ and be awed by the intricate stone staircase believed to have been designed by Leonardo de Vinci.
The second château we visited was the privately-owned Château de Cheverny – which has been inhabited by the same family for over 6 centuries. The châteaux provided inspiration for Hergé’s Captain Haddock’s stately home in ‘The Adventures of Tintin comic books, and is home to a permanent museum dedicated to this.
Château de Chenonceau – credit: iStock.com/VladislavZolotov
A short drive from here and we arrived at the beautiful Château de Chenonceau. Built over the River Chere, in traditional renaissance style, the château is exquisite in both structure and interior – Its beauty and location make it a personal favourite.
Take your time to browse the surrounding grounds which includes the stunning flower gardens and the stylish Italian Maze. Within the grounds is the gastronomic restaurant, L’Orangerie. A remarkable place to stop for lunch, with quality produce and exceptional service. Enjoy a four-course meal of well balanced and beautifully presented dishes within one of the most relaxing and magical settings. Be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment. Staying in Amboise, we could not miss visiting its gem of Château d’ Amboise. This royal residence, known as the royal nursery, where many future kings and queens were raised, offers an incredible panorama over the Loire Valley. Steeped in history, it is where Mary Queen of Scots spent her childhood and is also the location of the final resting place of Leonardo da Vinci.
Learning never exhausts the mind Leonardo da Vinci
A short walk from the Château d’ Amboise and you will arrive at the Château du Clos Lucé. This was the home of Leonardo da Vinci for the last three years of his life, until his death in 1519. Not only was Leonardo da Vinci an incredible painter and sculpture, he was also a man of many talents, with a true gift for invention. His unwavering imagination allowed him to envision and create (at least on paper) inventions which would not be seen for many centuries to come.
Within the basement and grounds of the Château du Clos Lucé you will find 3D exhibits and life size models that have been made from Leonardo’s drawings. This collection showcases his incredible talents and diverse knowledge in all things, including hydraulics, engineering and mechanics.
Taste of the Loire Valley
Château de Chinon – credit: iStock.com/LeonidAndronov
This visit to the Loire valley has only wet our appetite for the region. Offering extraordinary scenery and tantalising flavours with its diversity of local dishes and exquisite wines, it is only natural to wish to return and experience this region of France in more depth.
Our favourite three markets in the Loire Valley
Amboise Outdoor Market – Sundays the day to head to the popular market of Amboise
Chinon Antiques Market – Every third Sunday of the month, head to the village of Chinon for a fabulous antique market
Loches – Head to this citadel village on a Wednesday or Saturday and experience a showcase of the regions gastronomy