Sailing on the river Loire on a traditional boat
The Loire being a must in the Loire Valley - as its name indicates - you can't miss it. What about getting a different perspective and sailing on the river for a couple of hours? What is more, on a traditional boat, like the ones used up to the 19th century by watermen who used to transport goods on the river.
Millière Raboton is a company based in Chaumont-sur-Loire and Amboise. They offer guided tours on the Loire all year long. The opportunity for you to discover the history of the river, the animals and the plants encountered in this preserved environment... and to enjoy wonderful river landscapes.
Different types of tours are offered, at dawn, during the day or at dusk. They are open to both grown-ups and children. Reservation required.
Hiking with a donkey at 'Les Anes de Balaam' in Chambourg-sur-Indre (near Loches)
A few kilometers from the forest of Loches, Cathia welcomes you at her own house, located by the river Indre. She is passionate about donkeys and she now owns about 10 of them, that she nickmanes her 'doudous'. She shares her passion by offering self-guided walks in the surrounding area, in the company of one of her friends.
If you enjoy being in contact with animals and discovering countryside areas at your own pace, this activity is made for you! Whether you travel on your own or with family or friends,Cathia will be happy to give you loads of information about donkeys - their origin, behavior, the food they like or shouldn't eat...
And if you wish to stay longer in this slice of heaven, Cathia also has a couple of rooms for rent.
Bania Babouchka - Russian sauna in Tours
After a day visiting chateaux or touring vineyards and wine cellars, why not enjoy a relaxing moment at Nadia's Russian sauna? It is called 'bania', and unlike Swedish sauna, it uses moist heat to thoroughly cleanse the skin. This body care is complemented with a massage made with oak or birch tree branches, to detoxify and tone the body. Nadia's bania is located in Tours, just a stone's throw from the city center. A unique place in the Loire Valley and in France !
The troglodyte 'Vallée des Goupillières' in Azay-le-Rideau
If you get to come on a tour in the vineyard with Myriam, you will get to see rock-hewn cellars as well as former dwellings dug in the limestone. These are part of the traditional habitat in the Touraine region. Until the beginning of the 20th century, farmers, vinegrowers, craftsmen, fishermen... generally did not have enough money to build themselves a house. The cheapest - but not the easiest - way to make oneself a home was to dig rooms in the limestone.
In Azay-le-Rideau, la vallée des Goupillières allows you to discover 3 farms and their rock-hewn dwellings. Even though anyone will enjoy a visit to this unique place, this is a perfect visit for families as children will appreciate the numerous animals living on the site, some of which are local and old species.
Sound and Light Show on the cathedral of Tours
The cathedral of Tours is dedicated to Saint Gatien, who was the first bishop of the city. It was built between 1170 and 1547, to replace a former Romanesque religious building. The use of limestone allowed a true precision work and the stained-glass windows are considered as an real masterpiece. The view of the cathedral I prefer is that of the two towers soaring towards the sky that you get to see when coming from Amboise on the southern bank of River Loire.
Since 2016, from June to September, the city of Tours has been organising a Sound and Light show on the cathedral that enhances the architecture and the reliefs of the religious building. In the evening, after nightfall and for about 20 minutes, the western facade is illuminated with animated pictures and optical illusions. An amazing show not to be missed, to discover this century-old building in a different and original way. The video below will give you a hint of what to expect.
Château Gaillard in Amboise
I visited this château twice in August 2016. And I loved it!
Château Gaillard is a place filled with history, a peaceful paradise at the heart of the town of Amboise - even though you can't see the chateau from anywhere in town - and a wonderful place which awakens all your senses!
In the Loire Valley, the first Renaissance gardens were designed and created at Château Gaillard. Charles VIII had it built in 1496. He surrounded himself with Italian artists and a gardener, Dom Pacello de Mercoliano, who remains famous for introducing the first orange trees in France - at Château Gaillard of course!
The current owners bought the place in 2011 and launched an impressive restoration campaign, hiring dozens of local craftsmen. Impressive!
Château de l'Islette in Azay-le-Rideau
This is the chateau that witnessed the passionate love between the French sculptors Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel.
The guided tour focuses on the two artists, who came to l'Islette to spend time together and to find some inspiration.
You will understand why when discovering the bucolic setting of this private chateau, that the owners leave in springtime - they live in a house at the back of the park - to open it to visitors.
You are allowed to bring your picnic and to enjoy it in the park.
Some deck chairs are available for you to enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
Château du Rivau in Léméré (between Chinon and Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine)
Another chateau I visited for the first time in 2016.
It is lost between wheat fields and vineyards, a few miles away from the medieval town of Chinon. A limestone fortress, of which only a few rooms are open to visitors. But above all, a magnificent park planted with century-old trees, and 14 contemporary gardens, that host works of art that will take you back to childhood, as they evoke fairy tales.
I love strolling in the streets of this beautiful Loire Valley town steeped in history and located only 15 minutes from our winery.
I am always amazed at the view on the chateau from the northern bank of the Loire river, when coming from the city of Tours. At night, the colorful illuminations enhance the beauty of this Renaissance building.
If tourists come to Amboise to visit the chateau (said to be 'royal', as 4 French kings lived there - Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XII and Francis I) and the Clos Lucé (Leonardo da Vinci's last residence), I recommend that you take time to wander the streets of the medieval town to discover the wooden houses, the churches and the private mansions... And for those who enjoy shopping, Amboise offers lots of cute little shops, where you'll certainly find nice souvenirs to bring back home!
Built in the 1510s by one of Louis XII's councellors, this chateau perfectly embodies the classical style of the
Renaissance architecture. It is located on an island in the middle of river Indre, which allows the reflection of its symmetrical façades and windows in the
From 2015 to 2017 major renovations were made, to repair the framework and the roof and to enhance the beauty of the chateau.
The attic has been opened to visitors, who can now have a glimpse at the timber work.
In one of his novels, French writer Honoré de Balzac described it as a diamond - and that's what it is : a pure jewel !
If there is only one to recommend, it is this one! It is my favourite of all the chateaux of the Loire Valley... probably because I worked there when I was a student. Also because it offers a very complete visit: there is everything you want to see in a Renaissance chateau in Chenonceau - beautiful architecture, stunning site, flowery gardens, lots of furniture and tapestries... and a lot of history as well.
Chenonceau is built astride the Cher river, which makes it a unique work of art in the world. It is a ladies' chateau, as
most owners throughout history have been women, and also because of its elegance and refinement.