My wife & I will be in the Loire valley for 13 days in May 2013.
From Paris, we'll take the TGV to Tours & pick up a rental car. We have never driven in France or Europe before.
Is driving in the Loire easy or difficult? Are the roads flat? Any winding roads? Any tips on how not to get lost?
We prefer not to unpack & pack every night. Our schedule can't be rushed due to age-related issues. We have reservations in Chenonceaux for 3 nights. We would like to visit the chateau or simply walk on the grounds more than once! We are ardent chateau enthusiasts.
From Chenonceaux, what would be a logical place for our next base or permanent base? Our goal is to visit 1 chateau in the morning & 1 in the afternoon (or 3, depending on the beauty & size of the place), with a nice lunch break in between.
What are the ones that require lots of stair/ steep climbing to arrive at the entrance?
How about those with beautiful exterior architecture and/ or beautiful grounds but not so nice inside?
BTW, we don't need any wine tasting activities.
Below is our wish list but will narrow it down, as needed.
Chateau Chenonceau - A Must
Chateau de Chambord - A Must
Chateau de Cheverny - A Must
Chateau of Candé - A Must
Chateau de Villandry - A Must
La Chatonniere garden - ?
Cathedrale St-Gatien - A Must
Chateau d'Usse - A Must
Chateau d' Azay-le-Rideau - A Must
Chateau de Saumur - ? (requires a lot of stairs to get to the chateau entrance)
Chateau des Ormeaux (overnight lodging - near Amboise)
Chateau d'Amboise - A Must
Chateau Clos C-Luce - Leonardi da Vinci - A Must
Chateau de Chaumont - A Must
Sainte-Croix Cathedral - A Must
Breaks from the tours:
Visits to beautiful medieval villages - (Montresor, Montrichard, others - would like to see 4, if possible)
Balloon ride - ?
Boat ride - ?
What can be eliminated? Is 13 days enough?
This is our first independent travel so we definitely need help & guidance from travel experts please. Thank you so much in advance.