castles to visit in the loire valley

“TREASURES OF NORTHWEST FRANCE” private tour itinerary

TREASURES OF NORTHWEST FRANCE
(Paris, Normandy, Brittany, Loire Valley)

“Il n’y a que deux endroits au monde où l’on puisse vivre heureux: chez soi et à Paris.”
There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris. ~ Hemingway

As all the tours I design are customized, this is a TOUR Itinerary IDEA presented as one of the many ways you can experience France on your PRIVATE TOUR with Audrey.

Your arrival and departure airport is:
Airport in Paris, Charles de Gaulle (CDG)

 OVERVIEW
Enjoy a journey through some of Northern France’s most iconic regions

Visit the Normandy Beaches to see first hand where events of WWII unfolded and meander along narrow cobbled lanes in medieval towns. A visit to the unspoiled area of Brittany should be on everyone’s bucket list. The countryside is breathtaking and the area is known for its seafood and wonderful dishes, from the famous’ galette’ buckwheat pancake to ciders, local cheeses and to its towns like Saint-Malo. Then onto discover the Loire Valley, renowned for its magnificent chateaux, historic villages, wonderful food and local wine.

I invite you to come along with me to experience great cuisine, wonderful people and authentic France. Do not miss the chance to discover these treasures both famous and beyond the beaten path. Come experience France like never before!

HIGHLIGHTS of YOUR PRIVATE TOUR TO FRANCE

  • Personalized itinerary…custom designed tour for your family, friends or colleagues
  • One-on-one expert planning
  • Private 14 day tour + 24/7 support
  • Expert local guides with skip the line private touring and entrance fees
  • Dedicated local tour leader, driver-guide
  • Insider access to the French way of life
  • Accommodations that blend a mix of French hospitality, comfort and local character (Breakfast included)
  • Hand-picked Insider Experiences from wine tastings to culinary delights
  • Private transportation during tour
  • Visit one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Paris
  • Move beyond France’s signature cities and travel to the picturesque countryside regions
  • Travel at a leisurely pace along some of the back roads of Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley
  • Visit soul stirring D Day beaches and important WWII sites
  • Visit the magical island of Mont-Saint-Michel
  • Discover charming historical towns like Dinan, Chinon, Bayeux, Cancale, Montsoreau, Candes-Ssint-Martin
  • Visit some of the most beautiful historical Châteaux France, Azay-le-Rideau, Villandry, Chenonceau
  • Exploring the models of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions at the Château du Clos Lucé

About our included dinners: As Europeans, for us dinner is a celebration of good food and wine, a celebration of culture, a celebration of family and friendship. Hosting this celebration is one of the joys of being a tour manager.  We guide you to your favorite dish … or help you choose something you’ve never tried before. We choose the perfect wines and throw in some local delicacies to broaden your palate and surprise you a bit. When we are at a cooking lesson or a wine tasting, be sure to know you’ll go home with new knowledge that will draw you under its spell and increase your hunger for more.

NOTE: On every tour, we have included dinners as a group as well as nights on your own. Of course you are always invited to join me at my favorite places or as I explore new and interesting restaurant finds. I also have a lot of recommendations and would be happy to make reservations for you.

ITINERARY 

Day 1: PARIS (Private tour starts on a Thursday)

CUSTOM TOUR OF PARIS“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Ernest Hemingway

Welcome to Paris, the city of Lights! Situated on the River Seine, capital of France and one of the most popular destinations in the world, Paris has a lifetime of experiences to discover. It really is a city that does not need any introduction, whether you are here to see the famous landmarks or seek out the secret corners, Paris fulfills all your expectations, and still leaves you wanting more.

Enjoy a private transfer to your hotel and shake off your jet-lag by joining your tour manager on an orientation walk around your hotel and take some time to begin exploring this stunning city.

Your Travels with Audrey private tour starts at 15:00 in the hotel lobby for a walk around the hotel area with your dedicated tour manager: Your hotel lobby is where the tour begins and where we all meet for an included Orientation walk around the hotel area. Optional Eiffel Tower tickets for a before dinner visit.

Day 2: HALF-DAY GUIDED TOUR PARIS

After breakfast, enjoy a half-day private walking tour with your local expert guide of Paris, to discover the Louvre;  one of the largest palace in the world, now one of its largest art museums, it is home to the Mona Lisa, the armless Venus de Milo, and some 400.000 works of art, 35.000 of which are on permanent display. We will also visit inside Cathédrale Notre-Dame, “a symphony in stone” according to Victor Hugo. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame is the historic, spiritual and geographic heart of Paris. Its foundation having been laid in 1163 by Pope Alexander III, its construction completed nearly two centuries later.

We also include a Metro Pass so you can easily explore Paris on your free time.

Afternoon at leisure to explore the many museums and wonderful sights that Paris has to offer or just sit at a ‘café’ and watch the world go by!

Note: The sightseeing tour in Paris is predominantly done on foot. You’ll also take the Paris metro to get from one side of the city to another on this day.

Day 3: FREE DAY

Paris is considered by many to be the most beautiful city in the world.  It is certainly one of the most romantic and historic as well.  Today is your day to spend it as you choose. From the incredible art galleries and imposing monuments, to the world-renowned shopping, quaint cafes and hidden treasure, Paris is a wonderful city to explore. There’s so much to see! Your tour manager will be on hand to offer plenty of suggestions.

  • Pick up delicious “macarons”, check out the many specialty food shops, shop in some of the most prestigious shopping areas of Paris, or simply sit at a café and partake in the “Joie de Vivre”.
  • There are the Musee D’Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, and a host of other wonderful attractions here, but simply walking through the pretty little lanes of the Latin Quarter, lazing in the elegant shop-lined streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, wandering down the opulent Champs-Elysee and meandering through the winding bohemian streets of Montmatre will also give you a wonderful overview of the city. (Montmartre is a district full of bohemian character and activity. Particularly during the Belle Époque period, many notable artists lived and worked in Montmartre, from Dali to Picasso to Monet to Van Gogh. Head up at to the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city, where on a clear day you’ll get wonderful views across the city. It’s at the top you’ll find the iconic white-domed Sacré-Cœur Basilica).
  • Sitting with a baguette and cheese in the Luxembourg gardens, one of Hemingway’s favorite retreats, watching the French go about their daily life is the perfect way to while away the hours.
  • Visit Père Lachaise cemetery, the world’s most visited cemetery due to its ornate tombs and moving memorials to the rich and famous such as Frédéric Chopin, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. Walk over to Parc de Belleville, the highest park in Paris which has views rivaling those from the hill of the Basilica at Sacre Coeur but without the mass of other tourists.
  • Learn about the life and times of cabaret singer, songwriter and actress, Edith Piaf, widely regarded as one of France’s greatest international stars, at a small museum based in her former apartment.

DAY 4: BAYEUX, BEAUTIFUL NORMANDY

NormandyToday after breakfast, you will be taken by private transfer to the train station for your ride to Bayeux. Once checked in to your hotel and lunch, your tour manager will take your on an orientation walk around town with a visit to the Cathedral, as big as the Notre-Dame in Paris.

NOTE: On this day, instead of traveling by train to Bayeux, you could choose to visit Giverny with Monet’s Garden with your private driver, followed by a visit and overnight in the city of Rouen or Honfleur.

Giverny: Monet’s Garden in the small village of Giverny, home of the French impressionist, Claude Monet, famously the inspiration and subject matter of many of painter Claude Monet’s master pieces. This tiny country village is a place of pilgrimage for devotees of Impressionism. Monet lived here from 1883 until his death in 1926 surrounded by flower filled gardens at his home.  Maybe enjoy a painting lesson in the very impressionist region. Visit his house and gardens, of which there are two: Clos Normand, a flower garden in front of the house and a water garden complete with Japanese bridge. A place for quiet reflection and stopping to smell the roses.

DAY 5: WWII DISCOVERY

This day is dedicated to the discovery of the Landing Beaches where the Allied Troops set foot on France on June 6, 1944.  This WWII tour is very moving, you’ll see the sites that are very important the success of the Operation Overlord, including Arromanches, Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery (museum), Pointe du Hoc and Sainte-Mere-Eglise. For Canadian groups, we would be visiting the Juno Beach Center, Normandy’s only museum dedicated to Canadian WWII history, see German bunkers and Canadian artillery equipment on Juno Beach, visit the Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery where thousands of Canadian soldiers are buried and learn about the dark history of the Ardenne Abbey.

This is going to be a long and rewarding day.  Of course there will a lunch break!

DAY 6:  FREE MORNING IN BAYEUX and GASTRONOMIC DISCOVERIES

Bayeux is a wonderful city to hang out in. This medieval town with cobbled streets was spared during the war, thanks to the fact that it was quickly taken by the Allied during Overlord Operation. In Bayeux, you have the option to visit the Tapestry Museum or maybe the Bayeux Museum about the Battle of Normandy during WWII.

The Tapestry of Bayeux is without a doubt the world’s most celebrated piece of embroidery. Over 58 panels it recounts the invasion of England in 1066 by William I (William the Conqueror).

This afternoon after lunch, you can choose to wander in town for some shopping or indulge in a great treat: Calvados, a specialty brandy made from apples from Normandy, Cider tasting with a visit to a local cheese farm.

Normandy is a cheese producing region and it has its great cows to thank for the abundance of rich milk that they produce. Well known specialty cheeses in Normandy include Camembert, Pav d’Auge, Livarot, Pont l’Eveque, Neufchatel, Boursin, Brillat-Savarain and Brin de Paille.

DAY 7: MONT-SAINT-MICHEL, SAINT-MALO

Mont Saint-MichelToday, travel a short distance to the magnificent Mont-Saint-Michel, a UNESCO world Heritage site, for a guided visit. Perched on a rocky islet, this 11th century Gothic style abbey is one of France’s most recognizable sights. The fortified island village ranks among the wonders of the Western World. It is a long climb to the top, involving walking up fairly steep paths and steps to arrive at the imposing abbey on top, but it is worth every step for the views. You’ll have about 3 hours here, so you can take your time to make your way up to explore the abbey with your guide.

Arrive in Saint-Malo: once renowned for being a haven for pirates and adventurers, the ancient walled city is considered to be the most attractive channel port in France with its cobbled streets and interesting history will feel like you have stepped back in time.  Long sandy beaches, small islands you can walk to at low tide, and a Canadian connection: in the district of Rotheneuf, you will find the former house of one of Saint-Malo’s most famous sons, Jacques Cartier, a French explorer known for exploring the St Lawrence river and giving Canada its name.

DAY 8: CANCALE, FREE AFTERNOON

This morning, discover Cancale, the oyster capital of Brittany, and taste the famous oysters of the area for lunch. Mention Cancale to a Frenchman or a foodie and the instant response will be oysters. Cancale oysters have been famous for at least 2000 years, since the days when they were eaten by the soldiers of Julius Caesar and later when they were delivered daily to Louis XIV. Cancale oysters are thought to be some of the best available. In 1994, the town was classified as “Site remarquable du gout”, a town remarkable for the taste of its oysters.

After lunch, return to Saint-Malo where you can enjoy the rest of your day wandering around town taking one of the several walking paths or you can choose to attend a crepe cooking class as an option.

DAY 9: COINTREAU, LOIRE VALLEY

This morning, driving south towards the Loire Valley, also known as the Valley of the Kings where you will spend the last nights of your vacation, you will have a chance to explore Dinan, an attractive medieval town, for a nice walk around town. Sitting high above the River Rance the old town is like something straight out of the middle Ages, with narrow cobblestoned streets and squares lined with crooked half-timbered houses.

Onto the small town of Saint Barthelemy d’Anjou, after a lunch in the town of Angers, to visit the historical plant of the Cointreau family, the very same people that created the world famous Cointreau drink. Cointreau was created more than 165 years ago!

DAY 10: LOIRE VALLEY GASTRONOMY DAY

Today starts off with a walk around the town of Chinon with your tour manager followed by explorations in the region around Chinon, with wine tasting; enjoy a special lunch together, discover some of the beautiful towns along the river (Montsoreau, Candes Saint Martin). This will also be a unique opportunity to see the troglodyte lodgings excavated in the cliffs overlooking the Loire River, caves, wine cellars, castles, and taste some of France’s finest food and wine. Chinon, a town which lies between its medieval fortress and the Vienne River, is forever etched in France’s collective memory as the place where Joan of Arc first met future King Charles VII in 1429.

Candes Saint Martin, recognized as one of France’s prettiest villages, occupies an idyllic spot at the confluence of the Vienne and the Loire rivers and is where Saint Martin of Tours died in 397. You’ll notice the villages and towns in the region shimmer with ‘tuffeau’ (chalk), which is the region’s trademark white stone on which the vineyard slopes are built.

Savor crisp whites and chewy to punchy reds. The main grapes grown in the Loire include Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne (or Muscadet), Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Grolleau.

DAY 11:  CASTLE DAY

Chenonceau Castle, Loire ValleyFrom warring medieval counts to the kings and queens of France, many powerful figures have left their mark on the Loire Valley. The result is France’s most diverse and magnificent collection of castle architecture. The lush, fertile valley created by the winding Loire River has captured traveler’s hearts and imaginations for centuries. Hundreds of chateaux line France’s Royal River, the highest concentration of castles in the world.

Today you will visit some beautiful castles in the area, Azay-le-Rideau Castle (1:00), romantic, moat-ringed and one of the purest gems of Renaissance architecture in the Loire Valley, and Villandry castle (1:30), very well known for its world class gardens.

DAY 12:  WINE AND CASTLES

Your castle visit today is of the world famous stunning romantic Château de Chenonceau, an unsurpassed Renaissance masterpiece (2:00) which sits on the Cher River. Several noteworthy women have left their mark on this beautiful and elegant castle.

A visit to the Loire Valley would not be complete without a wine tasting, so after your visit of the chateau, time for some wine tasting. The Loire Valley is a land that nurtures some of the nation’s best vineyards, producing gentle reds and fruity whites such as Chinon, Sancerre, Muscadet, Vouvray and Bourgeuil and the roses of Anjou.  It is a perfect destination for those who enjoy wine.

The afternoon will be spent in Amboise at your leisure to choose your own visits: Straddling the widest stretch of the river is the city of Amboise, an inviting town with a fine old quarter below its 15th century hilltop château. A castle has overlooked the Loire from here since Roman times. Leonardo da Vinci retired here…just one more of his many brilliant ideas. Amboise and its shopping streets have always charmed visitors. This town of character played host to Leonardo da Vinci, invited by François I to Château du Clos Lucé, the childhood home of Charles VIII and the final resting place of the great Leonardo da Vinci. Even today the genius of the famous inventor haunts this Château, where around 40 of his fabulous machines are displayed.

DAY 13: VERSAILLES

After breakfast we drive up to Versailles to spend our last night of the tour. You will spend half a day with your local expert guide for a visit to Versailles.

Versailles: Housing the most flamboyant court since ancient Rome, France’s most visited château was home to the French Monarchy at the height of its glory. Louis XIV brought his court here in 1682 from Paris. Of the palace’s 700 rooms, the most famous is the Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors). The room has witnessed everything from the marriage of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles after WWI. There is also the option to visit Marie Anoinette’s Trianon, but this would be about a 6 to 7 hour day for a visit to both.

DAY 14: DEPARTURE DAY

Transfer from Hotel to the airport in Paris, Charles de Gaulle.

PRICING…

Kindly note this is a Sample Tour Itinerary to France.  The next step is to contact me.

  • Pricing depends on the number of people in your party (minimum 2 guests), specific experiences, services and activities chosen, your dates, style of transport, choice of accommodations, meals.
  • Please contact us with your travel dates, budget, group size and wishes. If it is a good fit, I will send you a Tour Questionnaire to better understand your wishes. For more information on ‘How I work’ visit my Custom Tours page or watch our video. I plan and manage the details that will make your private tour to France memorable.

Ready for a Once-in-a-Lifetime vacation to France?

Audrey specializes in private custom tours to Europe, providing guests with delights that excite the senses that are genuine, intimate and unique experiences of France and beyond.  With a balance of culture, food, wine and stunning natural and man-made landscapes, this tour captures everything that a guest would be looking for in a French experience. Audrey warmly invites you to come along and experience “La Belle France”.

Contact me for your free consultation.