Palaces & Chateaux
Small Coach Tour The perfect choice for individuals, couples or groups of friends wanting a relaxing alternate to large coach tours but with the benefits of a stress-free organised tour. With no more than 16 passengers, get behind the tourist facade and truly enjoy the culture & history of each region with plenty of opportunities to explore & unwind.
CHARTRES, CHINON & CHEVERNY - With its eye-catching scenery, storybook castles, historical villages and splendid wineries, this tour will take you to the most famous chateaux in the Loire, including Chateau de Cheverny, Azay-le-Rideau and Chateau de Villandry. Discover these magnificent masterpieces of Renaissance architecture and their beautifully landscaped gardens and enjoy a sailing experience under the arches of Chateau de Chenonceau. Learn the art of French cooking in Chateau de la Bourdaisière, taste regional wines and meander through the rolling green hills of Loire Valley dotted with more than a thousand chateaux. If you are looking for an authentic French cultural experience then this is the tour that will deliver just that.
Day 1: Paris | Palace of Fontainebleau | Montlouis-sur-Loire
Thursday - Leaving Paris, today we travel to the wonderful Palace of Fontainebleau, used by the kings of France from the 12th century. The medieval royal hunting lodge of Fontainebleau stands at the heart of a vast forest in the Ile-de-France and has over 1500 rooms and 130 acres of parkland and gardens to explore. This afternoon we visit the charming town of Beaugency, liberated by Joan of Arc in 1429. We have time to explore its narrow medieval streets, stroll along its 14th century bridge or visit the Church of Saint Etienne and the City Hall, before continuing to the Montlouis-sur-Loire region, our base for the next two nights. (D)
Day 2: Montlouis-sur-Loire | Chateau de Cheverny | Montlouis-sur-Loire
Friday - This morning we will enjoy a tour of Chateau de la Bourdaisière’s gardens including its dahlia garden and tomato conservatory, which houses no less than 600 heirloom varieties. We then learn the art of French cooking with one of the chateau’s chefs before sitting down to enjoy the lunch we have cooked. This afternoon we visit Chateau de Cheverny, one of the only Chateaux in the region to appear untouched by the Renaissance, which is due to the fact that it has been owned by the same family for more than six centuries. The Chateau is surrounded by an English-style park consisting of magnificent giant redwoods and lime trees, which were planted between 1820 and 1860. Explore the Park, the Kitchen garden, the Apprentices' garden and the Kennels, home to over one hundred hunting dogs. (B.L)
Day 3: Montlouis-sur-Loire | Chateau de Chenonceau | Clos Lucé | Chinon
Saturday - Our first visit today is to the wonderful Chateau de Chenonceau, whose beautiful arches span the River Loire. It is the most visted and photographed chateau of the Loire Valley and is often described as ‘the ladies chateau’ as throughout its history it is the women who have most influenced its design and destiny. The castle has an exceptional collection of 16th and 17th century tapestries and a great number of masterpieces including works by Rubens. Enjoy a boat cruise under the arches and then stroll around the gardens, filled with hundreds of climbing and standard roses, orange trees and perfectly manicured box hedges. This afternoon sample delicious local wines in Vouvray, and then visit the fascinating Clos Lucé to gain a real insight into the life of Leonardo di Vinci. Our final destination today is Chinon, a medieval town located in the heart of the Val de Loire Region near the banks of the majestic Vienne River, which is steeped in history and rich with culture. (B)
Day 4: Chinon | Abbey of Fontevraud | Azay-le-Rideau | Chinon
Sunday - Today we make our way to the magnificent Abbey of Fontevraud, one of the largest monastic complexes in Europe, which was transformed into a prison by Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century, saving it from ominous destruction. Today, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Abbey contains the tombstone effigies of Henry II, Richard the Lionheart, and his infamous wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. After lunch we travel to Bourgueil for a wine tasting and cellar visit before our final visit of the day to the charming Azay-le-Rideau. This masterpiece of 16th century architecture rests on an island in the River Indre. One of the most visited chateau of the Loire Valley, the Azay-le-Rideau is an exceptional example of Renaissance architecture and offers stunning landscaped gardens. (B.D)
Day 5: Chinon | Chateau de Villandry | Chartres | Paris
Monday - Today we make our way to the imposing Chateau de Villandry, the last of the great chateaux to be built during the Renaissance in the Loire Valley. The Chateau’s glorious landscaped gardens, which occupy over 6 hectares, are some of the finest in France. Explore the tranquil water garden, the ornamental garden and the beautifully-designed vegetable garden. As Paris draws closer we stop in Chartres, a pretty town with medieval timber-framed buildings and a magnificent Gothic cathedral. The Cathedral of Chartres, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the best examples of gothic architecture in the world and is perfectly preserved with its marvellous stonework and exquisite 12th and 13th century stained-glass windows. (B)
Departs set Thursdays:
2013: May 16 & 30; June 13 & 27; July 11 & 25; August 8 & 22; September 5, 12 & 19; October 3.