Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Trip to Loire Valley

On P1/P2 break I went on a two days trip to Loire Valley with my partner Inna. Loire Valley is an area in France located on both sides of the Loire river, and is rich with Castles, Chateaus and interesting cities.

The capital is Orlean, a city located 1 and a half hour drive from Fontainebleau. Unfortunately there is not much to see there, and another hour drive brought us to Chambord, the biggest castle in the area. It is truely magnificant, and the rich architecture of the roofs and terraces is impressive. There is a very interesting stare case with two parrallel starecases allowing two persons to go up without meeting. Leonardo De Vinci was involved in the engineering of the castle.

From there we went to Chambray castle (20 minutes drive), not very exciting.

Then we went to Blois (pernounces- blua), a city of medivial ages, a very impressive view from the other side of the Loire. A line of gray roofs, with several large castles and cathedrals, very dense on the mountain side. The Chateau is from 4 different architecture styles - Reinnesance, Gothic, and others. We walked on stairs that looks a lot like Piaza Espania in Rome, and in the couple of streets full of stores and pasteries.

The next stop was Embois, another small town, with a medivial style Chateau, near the Leonardo De Vinci museum. Again it was nice to walk for half an hour in the European Village style streets of this town.

The last stop of the day, and where we spent the night, is Tours, a large city located 3 and a half hours drive from Fontainebleau. They have a Gothis cathedral in the center of town (a small version of Notre-Dam in Paris?). It was a perfect location for next days' trip.
The next day we started with Azay Le Rideau Chateau, 20 minutes further from Tours. This Chateau is a small but impressive one, located on an artificial small lake, giving a reflection in the water. There is a small garden. Very nice. We came at 11:45 so only the gardens were open for a discounted price. It was sunday and there was a flee market out side the Chateau.

Next we started going back, visiting Villandry gardens. These are probably the largest and richest gardens in the Loire. Different shapes and colors, walking around different vegetables and fruits and a big artificial lakes and tunnels. You can walk up to the forest for a view of the entire area.

We ended the trip by visiting Chenonceaux castle. This is the most touristic attraction, and you can tell from the moment you enter the place. This chateau is the most impressive from the inside (although surprisingly small). It is located literally on the river, with several arcs holding it like a bridge. Pitty that the line of water is low. The gardens are nothing like Villandry but worth a visit. They have an old farm and a winary (the whole Loire is filled with winaries).

A little tip about the cost: Each chateau cost 7 to 10 euros per persons, sometimes there are discounts for students, or for persons below 25 years of age. Fuel (diesel) cost around 40 euros. And the hotel cost 35-100 Euros per night (search the web). You might want to sleep in Embois or Blois instead of Tours, or look for a small place on the way.

And a word about the roads in France: The highways cost money (probably 30-40 euros for the entire trip). Otherwise, N152 (I think) takes you all the way to Tours. It's partly yellow and partly red, but most of the ride is in one lane, and you can get stuck behind a slow car for half an hour. But the road is pretty, so there is an upside. Once you get near a chateau there are good way signs.


Anonymous said...

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Can you link to mine though?

zanat0s said...

Nice blog! interesting experiences you have there.

Let us keep in otuch. I am zanat0s, July 07 INSEAD blogger.

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