One of my favorite things Rachel and I did during our week in Paris was book a day trip to the Loire Valley. I wanted to see castles, Rachel wanted to taste lots of French wine, so this trip was a win-win. It was a long day, but well worth it.
Our first stop was Chateau Chambord. It’s the largest and one of the most well-known chateaux in the Loire Valley. Our guide took us inside and showed us some of the art as well as the interesting double helix staircases.
But as with most castles, I enjoyed the outside of the castle better than the inside. We walked around on the balconies and enjoyed the views, and we went back out to the front to admire the castle’s facade.
Lunch and Wine Tasting
At midday we went to a winery for lunch and, even though it wasn’t specifically a wine tour, it did include a fun wine tasting. The lunch wasn’t too impressive, but still tasty: chicken, tomatoes, peas, and potatoes. We got to try several different kinds of wine, and afterwards we took a short tour of the property.
Our last stop was Chateau Chenonceau, the castle I was looking forward to the most. It is a beautiful castle built over the river, so part of it looks like a bridge. While we were in the van on our way to the castle, our guide told us about parts of the castle’s history.
King Henry II gave this castle to his mistress Diane de Poitiers, but after his death, his wife Catherine de Medici forced Diane out of Chateau Chenonceau and into Chateau Chaumont. The letters H and D were used in decorating the castle, but Henry always insisted to his wife that the D was actually a C for Catherine.
In one of the smaller buildings on the property there was a wine cellar where we got to taste more wine. It was a nice way to end the tour before the ride back to Paris.
Visiting the Loire Valley
There are many different ways to visit the Loire Valley castles, and many more castles than you could ever visit in one trip. Several towns in the area have hotels or guesthouses if you want to base yourself there for a few days of exploring. We chose to book a day tour from Paris.
We booked this tour through Viator for 165 euros per person, which included transportation to and from the Loire Valley, a guide, lunch, and quite a bit of wine. It was a long day (12-13 hours) but it’s hard to do it in less time since the region is not super close to Paris. I actually would’ve preferred a little more time at Chateau Chenonceau, but I understand they didn’t want to get back to Paris too much later.
Overall it was a good tour with interesting information about the places we visited. If you want to see a few castles and taste some local wine, this is a good, stress-free option to add to your Paris itinerary.
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