This weekend, we whisked ourselves away on a pup-free (sorry Hobson, thanks Torrie!) weekend in the Loire Valley, bouncing around from château to château with 1 or 5 glasses of wine in-between (not all at once, cmon guys). And, honestly, I gasped out loud at how amazing some of these places are. From the hunting ‘lodge’ that inspired the design in Beauty and the Beast to an over-water wonder built my some of history’s strongest women, come along as I relive last weekend in the best way: memories of fun and food, obviously.
WHERE WE STAYED
For me, that’s where the fun mostly ended. I’m sorry, Blois – you’re just not for me. We didn’t get to the Château de Blois in time to view it, and though grand, it wasn’t the reason for our visit to the valley. And while I was super keen to see the mechanical dragon clock across the square, it seems things were shut down for winter and I was left sorely disappointed and stomped my feet as we walked away to embark on a small tour of the town.
Location: About 2:30 south from Paris, between Orléans and Tours
Cost: Between 70 – 100 EUR / night depending on your choice!
Top tip: Walk across the bridge in the early evening for a beautiful view of Blois’ 2 cathedrals and the château.
WHERE WE VISITED
Loire Valley Stop 1: Château de Chambord
Yes, this is the château of the above-mentioned Disney related fame. PJ visited after a work meeting during the summer and had me green with envy when we FaceTimed, so I’ve been pestering him to visit ever since we made plans to be in the area. This place is STUNNING and has such an interesting history. Can you believe that it was created to be a private hunting lodge?!
We spent about two hours inside, visiting the rooms and the incredible centre double-staircase (allegedly built in this way so the king’s mistress could leave as the queen entered, leaving the entering regent none the wiser.
Location: Ideally located in – you guessed it – Chambord!
Cost: 15 EUR entry, but remember that you’ll need to pay for parking if you drive.
Top tip: Visiting any time outside of summer? Bring some layers. The weather outside was not bad, but inside I was freezing my suede-covered butt off.
Loire Valley Stop 2: Château de Chenonceau
After a quick drive through Tours and an impending rainstorm, we quickly decided that the ever-popular Chenonceau was next on our list.
It’s popular for a damn good reason.
Just look at this structure! It was absolutely beautiful, inside and out (bonus points because the fireplaces actually worked so my butt was nice and toasty throughout our visit). The château had a number of famous female inhabitants over the year – Catherine de Medici even ruled France from an office over the water for a time – and they expanded the size and grandeur over the years to make it the fascinating monument it is today.
My only regret is that we didn’t get to do a wine tasting, but that’s what Spring is for. Right? Thanks in advance, PJ.
Location: A 20-minute drive from Tours, almost spanning the entire river
Cost: 15 EUR entry and no parking costs!
Top tip: Take the tour, either with the booklet or histopad (included in your ticket price). It’s such an interesting place! Make sure to visit early in the day or at dusk for incredible light bouncing off the Cher river
Loire Valley Stop 3: Orleans
Why did we not stay here? I love this super quaint city, renowned for its liberation by the one and only Joan of Arc. And she. is. everywhere (for good reason, of course!)
As we were only stopping through, our tour was limited to the cathedral (gorgeous!), food (delish!) and Joan’s statue in one of the main squares (magnificent!), but I will easily go back and visit on a Saturday in Spring.
WHERE WE ATE
Le 12: Super cute wine and beer spot in central Blois. There’s a wine store inside, and all you have to do is tell them what kind of wines you like and they’ll bring you a recommendation to taste test before you order. Would highly recommend the mixed meat and cheese planche to go with your drink of choice.
Oh Terroir: Easily the best meal we had. It’s somewhat unassuming in Orléans, and the concept is that of ‘fast good’ – nice, quick food made from regional products. It was truly amazing – we each had a large lunch, glass of wine and water and dessert for a total of 38 EUR. And we were full. Would easily eat here again.
WHERE WE’D LIKE TO GO NEXT
Once we visit some more of Paris, I ‘ll happily go back and visit some of the other châteaux in the area! We tried to visit Château de Cheverny but didn’t have the time. Our next visit will definitely include Amboise so we can visit Château de Clos Lucé, where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his extraordinary life.
And I’d like to try some more wine. Some nice, dry, delicious Loire Valley wine. Who’s with me?
What would you recommend for our next trip down south?