Where to stay and what to see in 4 days in Loire Valley
We have 4 days in Loire Valley in mid October with car, from Paris. We thought we should stay in two different parts. Which towns would you suggest for accommodationa and which Chateau must we not miss ? Quite keen on B&Bs.
While the section of the river between Orléans and Angers gets all the fame on account of its storybook chateaux which have stoked the world’s romantic imaginations for the past few centuries, I really like the section upriver, around the pretty hilltop village of Sancerre, famous for its white wines. This is the spiritual home of Sauvignon Blanc and the village is well supplied with wine shops selling the famous wine to which it gives its name. Another local standout is Pouilly-Fumé, which carries a trace of the smoky flavours implied in the name. Visit the Parc Floral garden at Apremont-sur-Allier, just south of Nevers, it’s an absolute knockout, especially in spring, and Apremont is rated one of the most beautiful villages in France. Just a little to the north of Sancerre the Briare Aqueduct is a 662m metal trough that allows barges on the Canal Lateral to pass over the Loire River, and a wonder of late 19th century engineering. Yet another nearby marvel is Rogny-les-Sept-Écluses, another glorious village named for the seven locks that once allowed barges to step 34 metres, a vital link in the chain between the Seine and the Loire.
Okay, so you really must put those fabulous chateaux on the to-do list. More than 100 are open to the public, so my advice would be to focus on a few. My list would include Chambord, one of the most fabulous of all the Renaissance chateaux and the largest, Chenonceau, casting its Narcissus-like image on the river Cher, to the delight of the French postcard industry, the fairytale Azay-le-Rideau and Cheverny, still inhabited by the descendants of the family that built it 400 years ago.
The region is also famous for its gardens, and those that twine around the glorious Chateau de Villandry are France’s finest example of Renaissance garden design. The grounds were the conception of Joachim Carvallo, a Spanish doctor and scientist married to an American heiress, and grandfather of the present owner. As a convert to Catholicism, Carvallo expressed his view of the world in the gardens at Villandry. The lowest of the three-tier garden is the herb garden and potager – food for the body. On the mid level are elegant plantings of box – 17 kilometres long – with borders of tulips that signify beauty, intellect and worldly accomplishment. On the upper level is the water garden, signifying the quest for eternal life.
For accommodation, my picks are
Le Prieuré Saint-Agnan close to Sancerre,
and Le Cèdre