Invite yourself to the Touraine, at the very heart of the Loire Valley. Glide past shimmering white châteaux with equally alluring names: Chenonceau, Chambord, Chinon, Villandry, Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau. Then each night wrap yourself in elegance, staying in manoir houses, country estates and privately-owned châteaux. This is the stuff of fairy tales, and self-guided cycling takes you there.
Length: 8 days, 7 nights, with 6 days cycling. Also 5 days, 4 nights tour available.
Day 1 … Arrival in Berthenay.
Day 2 … Your first full day of cycling takes you past three spectacular châteaux. From Berthenay pedal to Savonnières then the Château de Villandry, the best example in France of formal Renaissance gardens. Follow the Cher River to the château at Ussé. This is the castle which inspired the Sleeping Beauty legend. Pass villages built of white limestone called tuffeau, on your way to Langeais and the last castle of the day. You final destination is the village of Hommes.
Day 3 … Head south today through chestnut forests, passing minor castles and delightful towns such as Restigné and Bourgueil, built with white stone with blue roofs and set among vineyards. The highlight is Chinon, with a rich history including Henry II of England and Joan of Arc’s famous plea to King Charles VII. Cycle on to your B&B in Cravant les Côteaux.
Day 4 … Leave the valley of the Vienne River and cross overland to the gentle banks of the Indre River. Explore Crissay, rated one of the most beautiful villages in France. Detour to visit the château at Azay-le-Rideau, a beautiful and delicate castle seeming to float in the river. Return to Cravant les Côteaux.
Day 5 … Begin the day following the Indre valley. Loches provides a fascinating visit. It is a bustling town, with a château crowning the hill. On your way up to Francueil, you can see several lesser known castles including the elegant Montpoupon.
Day 6 … Today you return to the Loire Valley. Begin the morning with a visit to Chenonceau, a dazzling jewel in a region rich in castles. Pedal on to Montrichard with its keep or donjon dating from 1010, before the pleasure palaces were constructed. On a longer route, continue to Chaumont, before arriving at your B&B, both a château and a winery.
Day 7 … Take time today to explore Amboise, famous not only for its castle, but especially as the final home of Leonardo da Vinci. Cycle through vineyards producing the white wine of Vouvray to arrive at your final château in Rochecorbon. A longer ride takes you past the Meslay Tithe Barn, a good example of 13th century secular architecture.
Day 8 … Having completed your circle around Tours, you are now just to the east of the city, and train connections are easy.
The shorter tour is designed depending upon availability of the accommodation. Typically the eastern section of the tour is omitted, and you would finish your tour in Cravant les Crôteaux. (leaving the tour area on Day 5 of the regular tour).
Dates: Start any day between May 1 and October 31, 2005.
Level: Daily distance 50 to 60 km or 40 miles average. Some hills every day of moderate difficulty. Extra km possible. This is not rated an easy tour, due to the longer distances, the daily hills and the lack of rest days once on the tour.
The price includes:
seven or four nights accommodation in luxury level Bed & Breakfasts in manoir homes and small châteaux
during the tour, all breakfasts and five dinners on the eight day tour; four dinners on the five day tour
use of a hybrid bike (21 speeds) with rear pannier, pump and puncture repair kit. Please note that helmets are not included and we urge you to bring your own
detailed route guide and maps
suggestions on where to eat and interesting side trips to take
emergency support just a phone call away .
Getting There: You start in Berthenay, just west of Tours and about 240 km southwest of Paris. Berthenay is a tiny village at the confluence of the Loire and Cher Rivers, close to the château and gardens of Villandry. The traffic levels are low, making it a great start location. Tours is easily reached from Paris on the TGV or high speed train. The journey takes about 1.5 hours. From Tours, a short taxi journey takes you to Berthenay (about 200F and not included in the tour price). Your confirmation package will provide detailed information about getting to the tour start.
Accommodations: Your accommodations are one of the highlights of the tour! Visit with French families in three and four-star Bed & Breakfasts. Some of the châteaux and manoir homes have been in the same family for several generations. Many are decorated with antiques, which evoke the style and luxury of a former era. Dinner is sometimes served privately or with the family and other European guest. All rooms have private facilities. A knowledge of French is an asset, but not a requirement!
Budget Loire Valley Salf-Guided
Duration: 8 Days, 7 Nights
Meeting Point: Hotel in Amboise
Ending Point: Hotel in Chinon
Arrival/Departure Information: 2-3 hours by direct train from Paris. For Paris to Amboise – departure station in Paris is Austerlitz or Charles de Gaulle. Journey takes approximately 2 hours 15 minutes. Train from Chinon arrives different stations depending on train chosen. Journey time ranges from 2 1/2 hours to 4 hours.
Ask about our point to point rail tickets
Bicycle Equipment: Giant 21 Speed Bicycle with key lock, water bottle with holder, front mapholder, side bags, mud guards, and repair kit with spare tube, pump.
Bike frames range from 50-58cm. Passengers can bring their own seats and pedals. Front lights, rear lights and toe clips are available upon request.
Daily Distances: 20-32 miles.
Rating: Accommodations are in 2 or 3 star country inns.
Self Guided Dates: Daily departures April – October
Day 1 Individual arrival in the medieval town of Amboise, its ivory walls reflected in the broad river Loire. Bikes are delivered to your hotel. Take time to see the Chateau and as many as 40 scale-models and blueprints of Leonardo’s inventions, in the elegant manor-house where he lived and worked for several years until his death in 1519; a tunnel connects the house and Chateau. A renowned chocolatier in the town is also worth a visit! Dinner is included tonight. Overnight, Amboise.
Day 2 Ride out in the morning along the Loire passing the tall elegant pagoda which is all that remains of the Chateau of Chanteloup. This provides splendid views if you have the energy climb its 149 steps! Dinner is included tonight. Overnight, Amboise
Day 3 Bike on tiny roads heading South from Amboise. The highlight of the day is the beautiful Chateau of Chenonceau. We highly recommend a visit to this fabulous Chateau. Chenonceau is not only remarkable for its architecture and history but also for the fine quality of its collections as can be seen from the inside visit: Renaissance furniture, a vast ensemble of XVI th and XVII th centuries tapestries and a great number of masterpieces. Le Primatice, Rubens, Le Tintoret, Rigaud, Nattier, Van Loo are among the most famous names that can be found there. Dinner is included tonight. Overnight Chenonceau.
Day 4 Cycle along winding lanes, over undulating country, to picnic near the isolated medieval Chateau of Montpoupon, whose pepperpot roofs emerge in a clearing where 3 valleys meet. Your final destination today is the ancient town of Loches. This town is extremely interesting and attractive and merits some exploration. You should allow at least two to three hours to explore the mediaeval town and walk the ramparts of the old town. Dinner is included tonight. Overnight Loches.
Day 5 Visit the Chateau de Loches, whose 10th Century walls house dungeons and a torture chamber. The town has associations with Agnes Sorel, the Dame de Beauté, mistress of Charles VII, and her tomb and effigy can be seen in the chateau. Bike along the poplar-lined valley of the peaceful River Indre, through villages where time seems to have stood still. Dinner is included tonight. Overnight Montbazon.
Day 6 Cycle through peaceful villages with troglodytic caves in the shallow chalk cliffs. Many of these caves are still in use. Basketwork was traditionally carried out in these caves, using the supple osier twigs taken from the willows which overhang the riverbanks here. The magical Chateau of Azay-le Rideau is wonderfully reflected in the waters of the River Indre, and can be visited today. The Renaissance Chateau was built on an island by the Indre River in the early 1500s. Constructed on piers by Gilles Berthelot, mayor of the city of Tours and the son of a wealthy courtier to both King Louis XI and King Charles VIII. In 1524 Berthelot was convicted of fraud, banished and his chateau confiscated by King Francois I who gave it as a reward to one of his high-ranking soldiers. Over the centuries, it changed hands several times until the early part of the 20th century when it was purchased by the government and restored. The interior was completely refurbished with a collection of various Renaissance pieces. Arrive at the elegant little town of Chinon, overlooking the wide River Vienne. Overnight Chinon.
Day 7 Today bike via the Chateau of Montsoreau, at the confluence of the Loire and the Vienne, to the stunning Abbey of Fontevraud, which contains the tombs and sculpted effigies of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, and Richard the Lion-Heart. The medieval domed kitchens make a fascinating part of the visit. Overnight Chinon.
Day 8 Tour ends after breakfast.
7 nights accommodations with private facilities
5 dinners (beverages not included)
Daily luggage transfers
Detailed route notes and maps