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Jan 18, 2012 04:29 AM

A few days in the Loire Valley

I'm visiting Paris this summer and plan to make a stop over of ~4 days in the Loire Valley. I am trying to decide whether to rent a car or not. Heard that Tours made a good base even without a personal car but am concerned I might miss out on gems if I can't get off the beaten path. Any recommendations for must-dos?

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  1. I encourage you to arrange for a car to be picked up at the Tours TGV station. You won't regret having the freedom to explore the area. We used Vouvray as our base, stayed at the Manoir de l'Echeneau. It was wonderfully quiet and welcoming after a full day of visiting chateaux and wineries!

    1 Reply
    1. re: prestose

      " Heard that Tours made a good base even without a personal car"

      I beg to differ and think prestose's idea is much more workable.
      The Loire and its castles and villages are spread out in a sprawling region. Public transport exists, sort of, but does not have good coverage or good frequency.

    2. Tours is not particularly interesting IMO. I would definitely rent a car, and my recommendation of a place to stay would be La Roseraie in Chenonceaux. Comfortable, charming and quite inexpensive. They have a restaurant which is very good for traditional food, but there are several other restaurants in town, particularly Le Bon Laboreur, that may be more interesting. It's nice to just park your car at the hotel for the evening and have everything within walking distance, including the wonderful chateau.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rrems

        I agree Tours is the by-default town if one doesn't have a car.
        The Loire covers a large area. For 3, 4 days, one can only have one base and concentrate on the villages and castles nearby, and give the not so near ones a miss.
        I like the lunches and cheeses (own production) and local producers' wines of this ferme-auberge in Mareuil sur Cher.
        It has simple nice rooms. I have only eaten there and have not stayed there. And you will be near At Aignan, Montrichard, Chenonceau, Blois, Amboise, Cheverny…
        Remember: it's a farm in. Lodging is simple and nice. The food too is simple but extremely fresh, using the farm's or nearby farms' ingredients..

      2. Hi there
        I live in the Loire between Angers & Saumur. A car is a must I would say if you really want to take advantage of the Loire valley as it is as others have mentioned, a sprawling region with many things quite off the beaten track. I think it depends upon your priorities for your visit - are the chateax the main attraction or is it the wine or a combination of both. Tours is a natural base when coming down from Paris and is close to the big Chateaux. You might want to consider a different tack though - come in to Angers and see some of the vineyards around there and then move eastwards towards Tours taking in Saumur, Fonteyvraud (where Eleanor of Aquitaine is buried) and Chinon on the way.
        Let me know if I can be of help. You can take trains from Angers to Saumur then Saumur to Tours no problem but you would be limited without a car.

        3 Replies
        1. re: le tasting room

          Thanks for the information. We are planning a trip for the end of June which I image will be a busy time. Any restaurants not to be missed? We haven't settled on a location yet (maybe restaurants will determine that!) but will definitely have a car.

          1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

            Near the top of my "want-to-try" in that area is Une Ile in Angers Since I have never been there, I am hoping that le tasting room can give us a yea or nea on this one. I heard about it through now-defunct Michelin magazine "Etoile" which, during its short life, sent us to a dozen or more fabulous restaurants and lodgings.

            1. re: mangeur

              I've not eaten at Une Ile since it relocated from a little island called Behuard close to Savennieres but - I did eat there and it was a great experience. No overcomplicated menu - focus on fish (whatever is freshest that day), lots of little extras such as nice amuse bouche (we had the best lightly poached oyster I have ever had) and little raspberry sorbet to cleanse the palate after the main. The Bossés are the owners, him in the kitchen and she organising the wine. We found her to be extremely knowledgeable and very friendly. There is an option to have a different glass of wine with each course.
              These days I think the lunchtime menu is about 40€ a head and the wine maybe another 15€ a head for 3 different wines. While this might seem quite expensive on the face of it - it does have a Michelin star and I have eaten at so many restaurants around here having paid around 35€ excluding wine that have been really mediocre I think it's well worth it. There is another Michelin restaurant in Angers called Le Favre d'Anne - we've not eaten in the main restaurant but have in the bistro. Our experiences there have been very disappointing. Other good restaurants in Angers are Le Relais - traditional French cuisine good service, decent wine list and a good lunchtime option 24€ for entrée, plat, Villa Toussaint - bustling and busy, Le Petit Comptoir - it is petit and great food.

        2. Buzancais is quite a way south of Tours but we make the drive there to eat lunch at l'Hermitage. This is a peaceful hotel along the river and we've had some of our best lunches in their pretty dining room. The staff is warm and attentive. Even when the dining room is packed service is quick. We aim to go on the market day for Buzancais, when I think the dining room is a little busier. We like watching the other diners, but of course the food is the main draw.

          1. I agree that a car is a must. My friends went around by public bus a couple years ago and barely saw anything as it took forever to get from place to place. My husband & I rented a car in Paris near the Champs-Elysees and drove -- it's not far, about 2.5 to 3 hours from Paris to Tours. The area around Tours is pretty central but would recommend staying in one of the villages or the countryside and not Tours itself. We stayed in a chateau (Artigny) a little south of Tours, rather romantic; there are others.

            My husband really enjoyed the meal at the gastronomic restaurant at Artigny, and the little local artisan food building at Chambord -- they have free tasting of wines & various local products. Both of us liked stopping at the various wineries for tastings & purchases. We went in mid-June which did not seem overly busy.