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The Loire Valley

  • Submitted by: Michael Zheng
  • Website: None Available
  • Submission Date: 04th Feb 2005



Planning





From the books that we read about this "countryside", we got the impression that there are plenty of hotels available in the Loire Valley. So we didn't reserve a room before we left. On the other hand, we didn't want to hunt for a room with all the luggage in our hands. So we went for convenience and decided to stay at Tours.

Well, Tours is exactly like what the "Let's Go Europe" says, " most convenient and least appealing". As a matter of fact, we were disappointed a bit at the first sight of it. The Town itself is just like any other cities, only with more constructions going on. The very first thing we did after we settled down was to rush to the Loire River and got a change of air. Yet the section of the Loire River that runs thru Tours is not the most beautiful either.

Our decision of staying at Tours started paying off when we started out on our bike trip to the Chateaux Azay-de-Ridue (sp?) and Ussy. As soon as we left the city, the bare Cher River flowed right by our side in the midst of green trees. You have to imagine how green it is in the Loire Valley during Spring time! Well, we got "very green" this year in California due to all the rains. Now that doesn't even come close to what it is like in the Loire (when you are biking).

Anyway, the point is, if you are planing on touring on non-motored vehicles, I would say Tours is the place to stay, simply because it's "convenient" and is close to many superb settings.

However, we rented a car on the second day and got to see most of the better known Chateaux more easily (and less involvingly). We found that the Tours is not the best place to say if we had a car, since we could easily reach from one end to the other in, to the most, two hours. In that case, I would really recommend reserving a room in the Blois (the east end of the valley). Take a train which stops at Blois (it takes about an hour for a 300km/hour train to go from Paris to Tours and Blois is closer to Paris), rent a car at Blois and you're on your way.

One thing we didn't try this time was the combination of bike/train tour. It seemed to me that not all bike shops allow you to rent a bike at one station and return it at another. If anybody has every done that, I would really appreciate any info.

One note on car renting. It cost me FF600 to rent a two-door, five speed Renault for one single day! (For those who are not familiar with it, that's a very small and clumsy car. But everybody seemed to be driving that type of cars where I went.) Someone told me later on that I could have saved lots of money had I reserve a car from the States.

As for hotels, it was to my surprise that 90% of the hotels on the list available from the local office of tourism were full. I think it's a good idea to reserve a room before you go; or if you end up leaving without, go to the tourist office before you do anything else. They speak english and will tell you anything you want to know. They can also help you call around and find the most suitable hotel for you, in French. The Office at Tours is three blocks away from the train station and they could even give you a thick stack of biking maps for free!






Sightseeing





I personally think that there is nothing comparable to the Chambord. It could literally take your breath away by its grand scale at the first sight. It's located at the east end of the valley and is near the Blois, which hosts its own grand Chateau right in the middle of the town. Next comes the Chenonceau, equally grand yet more gentle in style. And there is one chateaux that gives you the intimate feeling while it presents to you in such a awesome castle style. That is the Azay-de-Ridue. There are many other chateaux that you can see and most of them are worth seeing. But try not to do it in a hurry, though. Otherwise, you end up with a blurred image of the conglomeration of all.

The sound and light shows are great, better if you speak their language. We went to the one at Blois and find it real awesome. Note that you have to check that there is a show before you go, though.

The enjoyment is not just in seeing the chateaux. The country setting is really a superb scenery itself. That's why I think one you spend at least one day biking around.

The restaurants at Tours are not comparable to those in Paris - at least those that I went to. I found the Orangerie de Chateau at Blois extremely good, albeit a bit expensive (~$50/person).


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Michael Zheng
Integrated Systems, Inc. Email: mz@isi.com
3260 Jay Street Phone: (408)980-1500x517
Santa Clara, CA 95054 Best quote: none

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