Destination: Vallée de la Loire (Loire Valley), France
Local attractions: castles, wineries, history, gastronomy
Accommodation: Château de Vallagon, Bourré
Transport: car (rented)
Dates: June 22-24, 2019
Back in June, Alex and I left for our 2 week honeymoon to France, Andorra and Spain, after getting married in May. The first stop on our trip was the beautiful Loire Valley, full of castles, culture, wines and delicious French food. It was actually my favorite part of the trip and I was definitely sad to leave. Being a big lover of French royal history and castles, I’ve been wanting to visit this part of France since I was a teenager and it definitely did not disappoint! We landed at Orly airport (Paris), rented a car and slowly made our way down to the Loire Valley. There, we were based at Château de Vallagon in Bourré (east of Tours and South of Blois), an old castle turned into a bed and breakfast type hotel. I definitely recommend having a car, otherwise it’ll be very difficult to get around in this part of France. Keep reading for a more details on what we did, what we visited and what we ate!
Day 1: Versailles, Chartres, Châteaudun, Château de Vallagon, Restaurant Le Bistrot de la Place
I’m the kind of person who plans everything: weddings, events, my trips, my day-to-day life, etc. So when Alex said he wanted to go to Versailles first, I was a bit thrown off as I hadn’t planned on going to Versailles at all (I’d been 11 years ago when I first came to France). But, Alex had never been and I knew we wouldn’t have any time for it when we’d be in Paris at the end of our trip, so yolo, we went. We found a nice bakery when we got there for lunch and enjoyed some yummy delicacies like quiche lorraine, fagotin aux lardons and pastries.
We didn’t actually visit Versailles, as the line-up was immense (there were at least 300 people in line). But, Versailles is one of those places where you can at least see the castle from the outside – both in the front and in the back – and you can even enter its grounds to a certain extent. So, that’s what we did and then quickly jetted off to our next destination: Chartres.
Chartres was just a very cute and old French town on our way down to the Loire Valley, that we decided to stop at for a short break. They have a lot of bridges and old beautiful houses, as well as a stunning cathedral at its top.
Our next step along the way was Châteaudun, which has an immense castle at its core. You wouldn’t think it, as the town is very normal and plain, but then all of a sudden, there’s a huge castle looming ahead.
We finally made it to our accommodation, Château de Vallagon in Bourré, which I highly recommend as an affordable castle stay. The château is great and has kept its ancient charm, both on the inside and the outside and the owner is very kind. The only thing missing is air conditioning but it gets quite cool at night so it wasn’t so bad!
For dinner, we headed straight for the nearest town with restaurants, which is Montrichard. There used to be a castle here too, but it now stands in ruins at the top of a mountain. Montrichard is a tiny town, but its main square has about half a dozen restaurants you can choose from. Two were recommended to us, so we chose one for the first night, Le Bistrot de la Place, which was very good. We enjoyed a very nice meal of: moules marinières, foie gras, double-stack burger and côtelettes d’agneau.
Day 2: Blois, Le Baroque Bar & Brasserie, Château de Chambord, Restaurant Les Tuffeaux
Day 2 saw us get off to a very late start, at around noon. Considering we’d been up about 19 hours the previous day and had only slept about 4 hours, we needed it. We got ready and headed straight for the city of Blois, about half an hour North of Bourré. We walked around for a bit first, checking out the Blois Cathedral and then finding a cute little French brasserie for lunch: Le Baroque Bar & Brasserie. We opted for two simple meals: croque monsieur and a salade Lorraine. Both were very good and the salad especially refreshing on a hot summer day, even though its a bit of a greasy and fatty kind of salad because of all the meat in it. After lunch, we continued to explore Blois and made our way up to the Château Royal de Blois and its magnificent square.
After Blois, we made our way to Château de Chambord which is probably one of the bigger castles in the Loire Valley and definitely one of the more popular ones. Part of the reason is probably because you can enter the château grounds for free (mind you there’s a 6 euro parking fee) and wander about and see it all from the outside, which is what we did. They even have this cute little set-up with cafés, restaurants, wine tastings and local products.
We kept driving around for the rest of the afternoon but pretty much everything closes by 6pm or so. So we headed back to our château for a quick swim and then back out to Montrichard for dinner at Les Tuffeaux. There, we ordered the côte de boeuf for 2 which was delicious (once we sent it back to be cooked longer; turns out rare steak in France is basically blue steak lol). We also got to watch the women’s French soccer team beat Brazil with some locals which was cool.
Day 3: Château de Chenonceau, L’Orangerie, restaurant du Château de Chenonceau, Amboise, Chaumont-sur-le-Loire, Château de Fougère-sur-Bièvre, Restaurant Les Tuffeaux
We got up nice and early on Day 3, to be the first (or in the first) at Château de Chenonceau. Château de Chenonceau was my favorite and a château I’d be dreaming of visiting for years. Its very unique, because of the way it was made. Part of the château begins on the edge of a river and then extends out all the way to the other side of the river, thanks to a beautiful bridge-like pavilion that sits atop the river. After visiting Château de Chenonceau, we chose to have lunch on-site at the l’Orangerie restaurant (named after the building and the purpose it used to serve: house orange trees). Its a very beautiful restaurant and we enjoyed a lovely meal of: amuse-bouche, French cheeses plate, white fish over risotto and a quinoa bowl.
After lunch, we headed towards the city of Amboise and its château, le Château Royal d’Amboise. The town itself is tiny but very cute. We opted to just walk around a bit and to skip the château visit (it was a bit costly too). Afterwards, we kept driving around and visiting more castles like Chaumont-sur-le-Loire and le Château de Fougère-sur-Bièvre. This last one we did visit, as it was pretty cheap and different from the other castles. Château de Fougère-sur-Bièvre looks much older in style than Chambord and Chenonceau; more like Middle Ages.
For dinner, we opted for a picnic style dinner back at Château de Vallagon, with some cheeses, charcuteries and a nice bottle of rosé from the château’s cellars. We then headed back to les Tuffeaux to see Team Canada play but lose to Sweden, accompanied by some Les Tuffeaux style profiteroles.