Written by Wildcat Dianne on 19 Aug, 2009
I don't remember a lot of the French club's stay in Tours, France, but I remember we were only at our hotel at night for the two nights and three days we were there and used the city and our hotel, the Hotel Gambetta, as…Read More
I don't remember a lot of the French club's stay in Tours, France, but I remember we were only at our hotel at night for the two nights and three days we were there and used the city and our hotel, the Hotel Gambetta, as a jumping point to the chateaux de la Loire. I only have two photos from the hotel and our stay since any pictures I took at night didn't come out too well being that I had my sister Erika's 110 camera that didn't take the best of pictures.
I also remember having a rotten head cold during most of my 1985 French vacation, and it sometimes made the trip miserable since no one had any cold medicine on the tour, and I was afraid to take any French over the counter stuff. You could probably print on a t-shirt, "I went to Tours, and the only thing I got was this louzy head cold!"
Our first night in Tours, a few of us went out for a walk near the hotel. It was dark and we couldn't see much, but it was nice to enjoy the fresh night air after a day of being on the bus from Paris. There were some guys hanging around a park we passed, and we thought they were following us, so the the walk ended with us running back to the safety of our hotel. The next night, most of us stayed in our hotel rooms talking and drinking wine from a winery we had visited the following day.
I do remember hearing about the history of Tours, France before and during my visit, and its not a really happening place. It is the capital of the Indre-et-Loire region of France and a prominent industrial and educational center of France that has been in existence since Roman times when it was known as Caesarodunum (hill of Caesar). Eventually the name of the city was shortened from its Gallic name of Turones to Tours in the 4th Century.
Tours has suffered through many wars and invasions including the Romans, Vikings, and Galls. Protestants were also massacred by the Catholics during the Saint Bartholmew's Day Massacre in 1573. During World War I, an American army of 25,000 men invaded Tours and set up a textile plant for its uniforms to be made in France, and during World War II, Tours was an important military garrison for the French and then the Germans from 1940-1944. Tours suffered much destruction during World War II including a 1940 German bombing raid at the beginning of their invasion of France. More bombings happened in 1944 when the Allies liberated France and several railways into Tours were destroyed in order to slow the American advance.
Today Tours is the central of the railroad in the Loire Valley and serves as a jumping off point for tourists and businesspeople. There is a nice little old town and the Cathedral built during Gothic times. Too bad I didn't have a chance to see much of Tours, and some day I will have to return to Tours to see what I missed in the dark.
Written by Wildcat Dianne on 29 Jul, 2009
The Loire Valley (Valloire in French) is one of the most beautiful places in France. Located in the Central part of France, this region has endured centuries of wars, occupation, rape, pillage, and royal intrigue and mystery. Many of France's kings built hunting…Read More
The Loire Valley (Valloire in French) is one of the most beautiful places in France. Located in the Central part of France, this region has endured centuries of wars, occupation, rape, pillage, and royal intrigue and mystery. Many of France's kings built hunting or vacation chateaux in this region either for hunting game or mistresses, and some of the chateaux were given to many royal mistresses as gifts.
Our April 1985 trip to the Loire Valley only scratched the surface, but we were able to enjoy visiting three of the chateaux de la Loire--Chambord, Chenonceau, and Amboise. This journal will cover all three of the chateaux and give you information on how to get there and where to stay.
WHERE TO STAY AND HOW TO GET THERE
There are many hotels scattered throughout the Loire Valley for all budgets. Our group stayed in the nearby city of Tours which enabled us to enjoy two days of chateaux hopping and other adventures while we were there. Located about 60 miles south west of Paris, the Loire Valley makes a good day trip from the City of Lights by car, bus, or train.
Once in Tours, walk around the city located on the Loire River and enjoy several of the sites in the city. A small group of girls and I took walk at night after dinner and enjoyed it very much. While we were walking, we thought we were being followed by strange men, and ran back to our hotels, but it turned out not to be anything serious. But use precautions when wandering around any city at night and avoid bad areas of the towns.
The best way to see the chateaux is by foot on your own or on guided tours. Our trips to Chambord and Chenonceau were unguided, but we were led on a very good guided tour of Amboise with a native guide who spoke in French with our English guide translating for us.
The Chateaux of the Loire Valley are well-worth a day or two of your time and should be in any itinerary for a trip to France.
Written by UK Flower Girl on 27 Jun, 2004
As we drove along the Indre River one afternoon, we came across a donjon, a castle keep, in Montbazon, just south of Tours. We paid €3 each to get into Le Faucon Noir, the black falcon, the oldest surviving castle keep in Europe.…Read More
As we drove along the Indre River one afternoon, we came across a donjon, a castle keep, in Montbazon, just south of Tours. We paid €3 each to get into Le Faucon Noir, the black falcon, the oldest surviving castle keep in Europe. At the entrance, a woman was taking the money and selling a few items, a sort of mini gift shop.
We wandered down into the castle keep. It was of massive proportions with thick walls, and a beautiful copper Statue of the Virgin sat above us. We studied it and looked out over the city of Montbazon and when we were done we started wandering out. As we came to the ticket office, a man came out and walked towards us and said, "Did you take a look at the gem?" OK, do we look that obvious that he spoke English to us? We didn’t speak English when we came in—maybe he saw our car parked outside!?
This man started chatting with us about this project and we ended up standing there in the rain chatting with this guy for some time. This couple, Jacqueline and Harry Atterton, are the owners of Faucon Noir. He is an interesting man being from England (and was actually one of the guards at the royal palaces in London some years ago), but living in Canada and making his life as a journalist and aviation deregulation expert. His wife comes from New Caledonia, a French island in the South Pacific, and together they make their life restoring castles in France. They purchased and restored another castle in France (château Bouesse in Berry County in the heart of France) to a château-hotel which they sold and then took over this ten-year restoration some years ago.
It is so interesting to meet people and find out their stories. What a small world. Harry had actually been an invited speaker at the University of North Dakota where my husband and I both graduated. Being a deregulation expert, he gave lectures at the world-renowned aviation school. It isn’t everyday that you run into someone in France who has actually heard of, let alone been to, the town where I was born in North Dakota.
We learned that this was only the first phase in development. It had only been opened to the public since August 2003. This will allow additional funding to continue the project. They have plans to open museums, medieval games, underground passages, a history classroom and several other projects. They were enthusiastic about this project and were very friendly with all of the people coming into and going out of the castle keep.
The castle keep is the work of the Count of Anjou, Foulque Nerra and dates back to the end of the 10th century. He is most remembered as one of the first builders of stone castles in France. He also founded a number of other abbeys and monasteries.
The building had been struck by lightning which caused the huge crack down the middle of one wall (see picture). You can also see where they had to add a concrete stabilizer around the inside of the top of the keep.
William Perry Dudley, an American officer during WWI is accredited with saving the keep 75 years ago. He fell in love with the castle keep and purchased it when it became known that it would be demolished. After the war, Dudley returned to make a life for himself in France, becoming an architect and landscape gardener. This provided him with the funds to continue work on the keep. He is the one who reinforced the interior with the band of concrete. He is somewhat of a legend in the area and they even named a street after him in Montbazon.
Although the castle keep has a long way to go, we truly enjoyed our visit to Faucon Noir in Montbazon, France. If you are in the area, please stop to see the castle keep and help Harry and Jacqueline in their quest to complete their newest adventure in castle-saving—I know they will appreciate your business.
Since our holiday coincided with the British bank holiday, we booked early on the Hoverspeed. Things tend to get extremely busy and sold-out during this time. We chose the Hoverspeed service because of its price and speed. It was the same price…Read More
Since our holiday coincided with the British bank holiday, we booked early on the Hoverspeed. Things tend to get extremely busy and sold-out during this time. We chose the Hoverspeed service because of its price and speed. It was the same price as the ferry and took over half an hour less time to get from England to France. We paid £93.10 for the crossing when we made the booking back in January.
We love taking the Hoverspeed. It takes almost exactly one hour to get from Dover, England to Calais, France. The ferry is usually a little bit cheaper, but it takes longer to cross plus loading and unloading take longer because there are more cars getting on and off. The boats used by Hoverspeed aren’t actually hovercrafts like they used to be, they are catamarans—really big ones!!
From London, you follow the M20 down towards Dover. All along the way you will see signs for the ferries, it shows a boat with cars in the bottom of it. Once you get to Dover, you follow the signs to Hoverspeed. You check in with the agent who will also check your passport. They will give you your return documents and then you will go into whichever queue (line) they told you to go into.
You are supposed to be there half and hour before departure at the very latest. Some people show up much earlier to get a better place in the queue but it really doesn’t mater. The boat is small enough that no matter when you get there, you will get a decent place. It takes no time at all to load everyone onto the boat whether you are first or last.
If you have time, you may want to do some shopping or use the toilet inside the duty-free shop. Since the catamaran doesn’t hold nearly as many cars as the ferries, it doesn’t take long to load up everyone on the boat. Once you have boarded, you lock your car and head up to the deck.
Up on deck there are three different sitting areas: First-Class which you would have made an advance purchase, the lower/outer seats and the upper/middle seats. I prefer to sit in the lower seats if the seas are calm—this way you can watch out the window—not that there is much to see between England and France. On one crossing the boat rocked so much you couldn’t even walk. It was so bad that you had to hold on while walking and even then you appeared to have been at the bottle a little too much. You can also go out onto the outside deck and stand in the wind which can be interesting to watch as you are leaving port or coming into port. If you go stand at the front of the boat you can see the controllers and all of the radar equipment they use.
Of course, the first thing you want to do is find your seat and then have one person rush up to the bar for drinks. If you don’t get up there right away, you will be standing there waiting for some time because the bar is very busy during the channel crossings. There are sandwiches and snacks available for purchase, too. Of course, duty-free is available on-board, so pick up your cigarettes and alcohol. You can get these at the duty-free counter, but most of the time someone will come around and take your order, too.
They will announce when it is time to start heading down to the car. Don’t sit around and have one last beer because you might hold up a whole line of cars upon departure. Once you get down to your car you can take a few minutes to get yourself organized because off of the boat you go straight onto the Autoroute. Most importantly, DON’T START YOUR CAR until it is time for your row to go. Most people aren’t going to care for the fumes or the carbon monoxide poisoning.
Remember when you come off of the boat that you will now be driving on the other side of the road. This can be confusing for a couple of minutes. You would think that this is basic common sense, but it takes your brain a few seconds to switch over.
Remember that when you are driving in France that you need to have some necessities in the car such as spare bulbs, warning triangle, etc. If you are in a rental, these things should be already supplied. If it is your own car, you will have to do like us and run out to Halford’s after about your fifth crossing because your company car didn’t have anything in the boot and you didn’t know you needed all of these things. Don’t forget that you need to have a GB sticker on the back of your car if your car is registered in GB. If it is registered elsewhere, you should have the appropriate country sticker on the back of the car.
Written by Harrod on 30 Dec, 2006
If you are keen on gardens, as we are, then don’t miss the Chateau de Rivau. A short drive West of Chinon the Chateau and its grounds are on the edge of a tiny village. Now surrounded by great yellow fields of cereal it is an…Read More
If you are keen on gardens, as we are, then don’t miss the Chateau de Rivau. A short drive West of Chinon the Chateau and its grounds are on the edge of a tiny village. Now surrounded by great yellow fields of cereal it is an oasis of green tinged with wonderful imagination.The Chateau was built in the 13th and 15th centuries and is mentioned by Rabelais in his famous book ‘Gargantua’ who makes the giant give Le Rivau to his fellow soldier Captain Tolmere as a reward. Rabelais provides some of the inspiration for the garden which has recently been revived and restored along with the Chateau itself and the attendant farm buildings. Park just outside the walls of the garden which is close by the entrance through an old door in an impressively massive stone wall farm out building. There is a terrific start as you stroll past a remarkable lavender knot garden which separates the car park from the entrance. Its lovely scent wafts up to you as you stroll through it.I can’t remember what the entrance charge was but it would have been modest no more than 8 euros or so. Having paid we walked into the courtyard surrounded on three sides by old farm buildings and with the small chateau on the far side across a restored draw bridge. The courtyard now contains the ‘Gargantua Potager’. A series of raised beds containing giant vegetables. Great fun and helps you to imagine that Gargantua may have even existed.Then round the corner and out into the garden which has a number of different areas. A key feature is the fairy tale inspiration in the garden which makes good use of statues and imaginative works of art which are dotted all over the place. Some inspirational, some amusing. The ‘Enchanted Forest’ leads on to the ‘Flowery Meadow’. The ‘Border of Delights’ contains medieval plants. The ‘Family Chessboard’ is made up of scarecrows, garden tools and old red terracotta plant pots. But the highlight for me was the ‘Running Forest’. Several of the trees have large pairs of legs attached to them. Really large. Possibly four or five metres high. The legs reach down to the ground on each side of the trees and as they sway gently in the breeze each tree appears to be running. Fantastic.There’s also the ‘Loving Wood’, the ‘Fantastic Orchard’ and a delightful ‘Secret Garden’ in the small courtyard immediately outside the main chateau building. The Chateau itself is a private house only parts of which are accessible. It’s an interesting historical building but on a more homely, friendly scale than some of the more well know historical Chateaux in the region. An excellent place to spend two or three hours. It is not one of the more famous historical sites in the area. The garden will usually be quite so you can stroll around at your own pace enjoying the different aspects, the imagination of the designers and artists and perhaps making believe in true fairy tale fashion that you are the owner taking stock of your property. Close
Written by Harrod on 02 Dec, 2006
A really good garden worth a small detour to find just a short distance away from the more famous Azay le Rideau. The house is a small chateau and a private home. Looks like it is recently restored. Must have been at some cost. The…Read More
A really good garden worth a small detour to find just a short distance away from the more famous Azay le Rideau. The house is a small chateau and a private home. Looks like it is recently restored. Must have been at some cost. The attraction is the garden. An entrance fee of 6 euros at the little gate house and then a short saunter down the graveled track into the garden. Set in a small valley and surrounded by a flower planted meadow. Our visit was on a blazing hot July day. The meadow was past its best by that time of year but still provides a good setting for the garden. One thing lacking on a day like that though was sufficient shade. The other was anywhere to get a drink. This is a private house. The garden is a public attraction but it is wholly uncommercialised and all the better for that.It looks like a fairly recent creation and is very deliberately planned and laid out. There are different sections; science, romance, fragrance, silence and others. I liked the science section particularly. Laid out like a giant chess board with alternating squares of grass and plants that had medicinal, culinary, dyeing properties and such things. There’s also a really romantic rose garden with a trellised path covered in climbing roses, heavily scented and hiding secret little arbours.On the sun-blazing day we were there we saw no-one working in the garden. Not surprising. They would soon have had heat stroke. But we got the impression that a huge amount of creativity and energy had gone into the design and creation of the garden and maybe the owners are now sitting back a little to enjoy it. Some parts are a little overgrown and untidy. Unless they keep on top of it the plants, as they always do, will take over the design. Nevertheless a real treat of a garden in which to spend an afternoon. And good to see so much energy and creativity going into the creation of a modern garden. Something of a change in this part of France which has so many historic gardens and parks. Close
Written by Harrod on 04 Nov, 2006
We stayed in Angers for two or three days as part of a holiday in the Loire Valley. We usually stay in Blois further up the valley but this year we thought we would have a change. But to be honest Angers was…Read More
We stayed in Angers for two or three days as part of a holiday in the Loire Valley. We usually stay in Blois further up the valley but this year we thought we would have a change. But to be honest Angers was a bit of a disappointment. We never got a strong sense of the character of the town. The river flows through the town with the main central part on the southern side. The Chateau is high up on a the bank and is an older, more fortified castle sort of building than many of the other more decorative chateaux in the region. A little tourist train runs around the town but it’s not a very big place and doesn’t take long to stroll around. Close by the Chateau is a series of narrow streets with characterful old houses which lead towards the Cathedral and some impressive steps leading down to Pont de Verdun an old narrow bridge over the river.The centre really is a bit characterless. There are lots of shops and cafés but they are mostly pretty down market. Angers definitely gave us the impression of a town that was not in the flush of prosperity. Surprisingly we found it difficult to find French food in the centre of town. Lots of Chinese, Moroccan, Lebanese, Greek, Indian even Cuban cafes but not much that is typically French.We are interested in plants and gardens and on that front Angers does have things to offer. The Jardin du Mail just outside the main central area of the town across the Boulevard Foch is a characteristically well kept French public park. Clean, no litter, beds well planted and obviously regularly and well cared for. Not just planted with evergreen shrubs and abandoned as is more likely to the case in the UK. The centre piece is a large ornamental fountain. The origins of the park are as a place to play ‘mail’. A game of some sort. Not one that I have heard of. Have you? Blue and orange were the main themes of the loral planting and lots of cheerful smaller sized sunflowers. Again characteristically French the park has a good café/ restaurant.A short walk down the Boulevard Foch takes you to the Jardin du Plantes - the botanical garden - next to the Palais du Congress. Although a park in an urban setting it is set in small valley which makes it quiet and peaceful insulating it from the nearby traffic noise. Not very big with a couple of pools in the valley bottom populated by ducks and swans. Lots of shady trees and benches to sit on and relax. In one corner a small aviary housing a collection of parrots. A nice little place to get away from the bustle of the town for a while, to sit and watch the birds, admire the plants and maybe have a little picnic on a sunny day.On a different front the Musee des Beaux Arts near the Chateau is a good gallery. Recently refurbished it is a very modern gallery set in an old building. The collection runs from medieval art through to modern though the modern collection is much weaker. It’s very light with lots of space. A good place to cool down and calm down from the bustle in the streets of the town outside.So, Angers has some things to offer if you hunt them down - but we found it a busy cosmopolitan place lacking any strong character. For us - been there, done that - can’t really think of a strong reason to go back again. Close
Written by Rachobutt on 29 Aug, 2005
For our first week off during our study abroad program in Poitiers, France, five friends and I decided to take an excursion to the Loire Valley, roughly an hour north of us by train. We stationed ourselves in Blois and made mini trips to the…Read More
For our first week off during our study abroad program in Poitiers, France, five friends and I decided to take an excursion to the Loire Valley, roughly an hour north of us by train. We stationed ourselves in Blois and made mini trips to the castles from there.
Our first piece of business when in Blois was to find the office de tourisme so that we could plan our day. The office de tourisme was very helpful and provided us with maps and prices and phone numbers for transportation. Next, we sought out our accommodation for the trip: Formule1. We thought we could walk, but discovered that it was too far out of centre-ville. So, we had to debate whether to take a taxi or a bus to the hotel, but some of us were hungry and just wanted to sit after carrying our bags all over. We sat at a café and had meal that was somewhere between petit dejeuner and lunch. We finally decided to take a bus to the Chateau Chambord, where we could leave our bags at the baggage check.
Once at the chateau, we all began taking pictures. Everything was so beautiful. It was my first chateau, so I was very excited. It was my first time in Europe, so I felt like a dream was unfolding in front of me. After taking tons of pictures of each and all of us outside of the chateau, we finally went inside. We checked our bags (finally, we got them off our backs) and went into the castle, splitting up. I stayed with three of my friends, and thank goodness, because that chateau was huge and easy to get lost in. The first thing you see upon entry to the chateau itself is the famous double-helix staircase, supposedly designed by Leonardo DaVinci. We climbed the staircase to the top and walked out onto the balcony. What a sight! Being mid-September, all the trees were bright green and the great green land spread out far into the distance. To imagine being Francois I and knowing all that land was mine.
We walked around the chateau, stopping for lots of pictures. I loved the balconies, personally. Also interesting were the arm candleholders protruding from the wall in one particular room.
After exploring the castle (and spitting from it), we explored the grounds, which were nice. Then, when we thought it was time for our bus, we went to the stop, but no one else was there besides us. Upon checking the time again, I realized I had made a 2-hour mistake in converting the 24-hour timetable. We had 2 hours to kill. I felt awful, especially since one person of our group was kind of in a bad mood that day. So we all split up in twos, setting the scene for the friendships that would last through the year (my friend and I moved into an apartment together in the winter). So, my friend and I went with two of the others to a little playground, which was nice.
Once back in Blois, we decided to take a taxi to the hotel and checked in there. The next task after settling in was finding dinner. The grocery store, LeClerc, had just closed, so our only choice was McDonald's (unless we wanted to go back to town). We settled for McDonald's and were greeted with a "good morning" by some immature French boys while we were eating. Thus ends the adventure of day one.
Written by Bobbi on 30 Oct, 2000
We have actually done two bicycle trips in the Loire Valley, in addition to one car trip. The bike trips were more fun, and we saw so much more (you take time to smell the roses, so to speak.) For those of you…Read More
We have actually done two bicycle trips in the Loire Valley, in addition to one car trip. The bike trips were more fun, and we saw so much more (you take time to smell the roses, so to speak.) For those of you (like me!) who aren't really bikers, rest assured: you too can do this! I was never on a bicycle with gears until I was 40, and had such a death grip on the handlebars that I was exhausted in a mile--but with a little practice, reached the point where I can happily bike 40 miles a day with no special effort.
We have biked the Loire in two very different ways: our first time, my husband and I and two friends did an unsupported trip (i.e., carried our worldly possessions on our bikes), stayed in inns, and designed our own itinerary. The second time, with our (13 & 15-year-old) sons, we took a Backroads biking/camping trip. This was a supported trip, meaning that the Backroads van took our belongings from campsite to campsite, and provided a 'sag wagon' for those who chose to get a lift rather than bike every inch of the route. I definitely recommend the supported approach with kids--though mine were almost old enough (and strong enough bikers) to go unsupported on this trip. In fact, my younger son celebrated his 13th birthday on the trip by doing his first 'metric century'--65 miles (100 km) in a day.
The unsupported trip was, in some ways, more fun. We got off the beaten path, and stayed in inns (read: warm and dry, at least at night). I am getting a bit old to look forward to sleeping on the ground... On this trip, we also went north of the heavily travelled Loire Valley and bike along the valley of Le Loir. It was here we saw the fabulous troglodyte caves, and here we found our two favorite accommodations. The biking was best here, with so little traffic, though there weren't the chateaux to visit around every corner.
For the details of these trips, see the other entries in this journal--accommodations and sights.
Written by Gigi on 19 Aug, 2006
This little French village is off the routine tourist route, but is worth a detour. It is known for two things - the ruins of an 8th century Benedictine abbey and macaroons (those delicious little coconut cookies). We visited here in order to eat at…Read More
This little French village is off the routine tourist route, but is worth a detour. It is known for two things - the ruins of an 8th century Benedictine abbey and macaroons (those delicious little coconut cookies). We visited here in order to eat at a little restaurant we found in a guidebook. We wished we had found it earlier in the day as most things were closed down when we arrived near dinner time. The ruins looked very interesting to explore and I would have liked to have purchased some macaroons at the bakery to take home. Fortunately, we did have a chance to sample them at dinner. (see Auberge du Mail review) Close