As mentioned in the Tegernsee post before, June was a wedding month for us. One of them was in beautiful Bavaria, the other one in the equally beautiful Brittany. We took the second one as an opportunity to make a road trip in a part of France, which was new to us.
We took the plane from Munich to Nantes where we booked a rental car in advance and headed to the Loire Valley. An itinerary will follow.
The Loire Valley – a dream for arte-viewers
No sea, no Paris and no colourful houses. But: all the more castles and they’re everywhere here. There are over 72 castles that are situated along the Loire River. Château de Chenonceau and Château de l’Islette, which we visited, are not included here. They’re some of the many more situated close to the Loire River.
Those not interested in cultural heritage (which we don’t mean in a derogatory manner) will feel very bored here. It’s not happening much in the Loire Valley and at least during the low season, you will mostly find elder people or retirees mainly from Great Britain, Germany and the Benelux Countries. We love to call them the arte-viewers. (For all non-Europeans: arte is a German-French TV station offering mainly cultural TV Programs and news).
The Loire Valley is for everyone who’s not getting bored of the following: fantastic food, good wines and Châteaus. Especially the rural area (the small towns appear really busy in comparison) is perfect to get to know the ‘real’ France.
Means: shops don’t have usual opening hours (closed on Mondays), the baguettes are the best and you won’t meet a lot of people. But those you meet are really friendly. You can’t get far with English alone. But while using your hands and feet and some French, people from this area are willing and happy to help you as much as they can.
Château de Nazé – Staying in a castle
While you’re in chateau country anyway, you should avoid staying in a regular hotel. Better stay in one of the beautiful castles of the area.
We can highly recommend you the beautiful Château de Nazé. Everything of it is so impressive: The long and wide doorway, the beauty of the manor, the decadent interior design. There are paintings of noble people hanging on the walls whose eyes are following you to the next room. The kind of chateau with a little spooky factor (Jan doesn’t share my opinion in this case).
The owner is super friendly and helpful. The rooms were clean and the location just perfect (near Saumur). Starting from here we explored the surrounding. And this is where the really interesting part starts.
We arrived on a Monday morning around 9 a.m. in Nantes but had to wait until 5 p.m. until we could check into our room (late check in times are usual in France).
We wanted to use the time somehow and just strolled around kind of like zombies. Our first destination was Saumur, a small town near our chateau.
The Old Town of Saumur is really small, pretty and is fast seen. If you want, you can go the way up to the chateau. We were more like in the mood for eating and spoilt ourselves with a three-course meal for lunch. Because that’s just what you do here in France.
After our good lunch, we wanted to visit a winery which we picked up before online. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to take part in that wine tasting without booking in advance. So we just left and tried to find something else.
We discovered the Château de Chaintres by coincidence. It’s a beautiful, little chateau built in the 17th century surrounded by vineyards. The wine tasting was good and we took some bottles with us.
If you’re searching for a good but short wine tasting with a relaxed atmosphere and you prefer being surrounded by an old manner, this is your place.
Château de Chambord
For the short time we had in the Loire Valley, we wanted our time to be well spent and just see the best. The two nights we stayed here are definitely not enough to see the many chateaus. But to be honest, at some point you’ve definitely seen enough chateaus. Three were totally enough.
One of the three we’ve seen was the famous Château de Chambord built in the 16th century. It’s the Loire Valley’s largest palace. It’s said to be really impressive from the inside as well but because of time and the size of the palace, we couldn’t make it. But seeing it from outside was definitely worth the ride here.
It’s really huge and somehow absurdly megalomaniac. This explains, of course, the crowds that were already here in June. At the same time, the parking lot was just half filled. We really don’t want to experience the summer madness here.
This monster of a chateau has high demands. Therefore the visit is not for free: 13€ p.P. plus 6€ parking fees.
Château de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau is as impressive and even more visited. It was built in the 16th century and is the most visited chateau in France after Château de Versailles.
It’s surrounded by ditches and famous for its reflections in the water. The appearance of the castle and the gardens were shaped by two women: Diane de Poitiers and Katharina de Medici, which is why it’s also called Château de Dames.
The inside of the castle is worth seeing but it’s definitely more impressive from the outside.
Entrance: 13 p.P. In June, parking was free.
Château de l’Islette
Our actual plan was to visit the city of Tours the same day. We realised fast that this plan was too optimistic and changed our itinerary quickly after seeing a leaflet at the entrance of the Château de Chambord. It convinced us to better visit a smaller, less known but not less perfect chateau of the region.
The Château de l’Islette was the total contrast to what we experienced at the other two chateaus. It was perfect. It’s small, there’s an overload of prettiness and calm. There were only a few people here and I really can’t understand why.
It was built in the 16th century. The owners live in there during the winter months why it can be only visited in the summer months.
The whole complex was really beautiful. The buildings and surrounding plants were perfectly reflecting in the water. And if this wasn’t enough, there’s a cute and cheap little café here and: it’s calm!
When thinking about it now, I actually don’t care why no one was here. Better for us and everyone, who came here.
Entrance: 9€ p.P. Parking: Nothing.
Which of the castles would you recommend? Did you like the Loire Valley?