Playground of the Kings: Châteaux of the Loire Valley
September 4-12, 2016
Enchanting scenery, fairytale châteaux, and royal Renaissance luxury in the Loire Valley. Experience “la douceur de vivre” – the sweet life – in the Playground of the Kings.
Journey two hours south of Paris into the lush Loire River Valley, where sunflower fields and rolling vineyards serve as the backdrop to an inspired tour. We explore the legacy left by France’s great Renaissance kings and queens. This ancient and storied region, also known as the “Playground of Kings” boasts dozens of magnificent châteaux, immaculate gardens, and a history weaved with colorful characters. Get to know the Loire Valley through intimate tales of kings, queens, mistresses, and artists. Visit castles associated with Richard the Lionheart, Joan of Arc, and Leonardo Da Vinci; walk where history-changing battles unfolded; and see the sites where plenty of royal scandal went down. It’s no coincidence the Renaissance royals chose their former hunting lodges in the agriculturally rich Vallée de la Loire to build their over-the-top pleasure palaces.
As an alternate nickname suggests, the ”Garden of France is a cheese and wine lovers paradise, so our meals capitalize on the bounty of the Loire with special wine tastings and sampling of seasonal, local regional cuisine. Spend a week in royal resplendence as your docent – Wanderlust Tours owner, architectural historian, and travel writer- Shawnie Kelley brings to life the pageantry of the past in the Playground of the Kings Legacy Tour.
Features & Attractions
- Musée Carnavalet & Renaissance gardens
- Private tour of Louvre’s Renaissance masterpieces
- Château Blois
- Château Chambord Château
- Château Chenonceau Château
- Château Chinon
- Château Chaumont-sur-Loire
- Château Amboise
- Château Azay-le-Rideau
- Wine Tasting in Loire Valley vineyard
- Tour of Leonardo da Vinci’s Museum and Château Clos Lucé in Amboise
- Tour of Château Villandry Gardens
- Tour of Chartres Cathedral
- Private tour of Tours’ old town
- Pre-travel consulting services with one of our Travel Consultants
- Full-time services of two travel guides
- First-class accommodations of cultural or historical interest
- All meals noted in itinerary
- Limited wine with meals
- Food or drink tastings
- Tour guide book and reading list
- Itinerary with an emphasis on history, culture, and regional cuisine
- Luggage transfer between destinations
- All ground transportation as noted in itinerary (taxis, private vans, trains, etc.)
- All taxes and gratuities at hotels and restaurants
Settle into the City of Light with a welcome cocktail and hors d’oeuvres and a guided walking orientation through our neighborhood. After an early bistro dinner, get a royal rest to begin our exploration of Renaissance Paris.
Explore Renaissance Paris in depth with an architectural historian who helps to put this sumptuous period into context. The walking tour begins in le Marais at the Musée Carnavalet, a museum dedicated to the history of Paris. After lunch we take a guided tour of Renaissance masterpieces at the Louvre, where you have free time to explore. We end the day with dinner together at lovely little bistro.
We travel south from Paris through what was once the royal forests and hunting grounds of the kings into the lush river valley. Along the way, we enjoy lunch, a tasting at a local winery, and a special stop to shop at les caves (wine caves). Pick up a bottle to enjoy while settling into our château for two nights. Spend a leisurely afternoon relaxing amidst the pristine castle grounds and gardens before sharing dinner together in the château. Withdraw for a nightcap in the salon or go for an evening stroll around the property.
Today is spent visiting two of France’s greatest pleasure palaces, beginning at Francis I’s architectural masterpiece, Chambord. Our private tour leads through just a handful of the château’s 440 rooms, the royal apartments, and onto the roof where you have beautiful vistas over the property. The highlight of our visit is the double-helix staircase designed by Leonardo Da Vinci. After lunch, it’s off to Chenonceau, nicknamed the “Château of Women” for it’s string of seven female owners- but famous for its’ elegant arches spanning the Cher River. We make a final stop at the fairytale Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire towering above the Loire River. For dinner, we feast on regional specialties back at our château.
We are privately transported to our hotel in the historic city of Tours, nicknamed the “Garden of France” where we spend three nights. A guided walking tour covers the two distinctly different Gallo-Roman and Medieval Old Town districts, including the cathedral. After lunch on your own, use your free time to shop, wander, visit museums, and explore at your own pace. We take dinner together at a fabulous historic restaurant featuring local specialties.
See French castle building at it’s medieval best with a train ride to the fortified town of Chinon. We trek through the sprawling royal ruins where Joan of Arc convinced the future King Charles VII (“The Well-Served”) he should be king while his mistress, Agnes Sorrell, spawned intrigue. Take in views from the mighty tower and see sumptuous costumes in the museum. After lunch, we have ample free time to shop, church hop, or wander the timber-framed streets. Reconvene for a tour and tasting at the Wine and Cooperage Museum, and return to Tours for dinner on your own.
Today’s regal theme takes us to several châteaux with deep links to monarchs (and mistresses), beginning with a tour of Château de Blois, one of the area’s earliest royal Renaissance palaces. After lunch, we hop a quick train across the river to Amboise to spend time at one of the most storied châteaux in the region. Here, we visit the home of Leonardo Da Vinci where he lived out his days, see reproduction models at a museum of his works, and visit his final resting place. After dinner in Amboise, we return via train to Tours, where the evening is yours.
We return by private driver to Paris via Chartres. The morning is spent soaking in the divine light cast by Chartres Cathedral’s distinct blue stained glass windows and learning about its architectural legacy. After lunch and some time to wander the picturesque village of Chartres, we return to Paris where we unwind on our own for the afternoon and share our final dinner together in the City of Light.
Join an optional walking tour of Paris’ oldest food market or strike off on your own as our tour concludes at noon. We are happy to help you make arrangements from the hotel to your next destination or airport.