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Does this driving route make sense to explore Loire Valley?

FLL
Florida
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Does this driving route make sense to explore Loire Valley?

We will drive up from Bordeaux, visit Loire Valley, Chartres and may be Fontainebleu (if we have enough time) or leave Fontainebleu for a day trip from Paris.

We have 5 days out of a 9 days driving trip allotted to the above, starting from Bordeaux.

The original plan was to drive up directly to Tours then branch out left and right to see the Loire Valley before leaving for Chartres.

Now I am looking at an excellent leaflet by a Bike Tour company, that it seems starting from Nantes going East make a lot of sense, given it only added small distance for us as we start from Bordeaux.

Or it is still better to drive straight up to Tours, then do the branching left and right?

The castles / villages on the tentative list are:

Saumur, Montsoreau, Candes-St-Martin, Chinon, Azay-le-Rideau, Villandry, Tours, Amboise, Chenonceaux, Chaumont-sur-Loire, Cheverny, Chambord.

I am 100% sure some of them would be a simply drive by and a look see from afar.

Please pick the "must see" from the above list as well as which town/village to stay (less touristy preferred).

We do not mind to move every night as we travel light.

Does the West to East route make more sense given we start from Bordeaux? Or the branching left and right from Tours make more sense as the "must sees" are not too far from Tours? (But it would mean backtracking at least for the sites on the West of Tours, making the total distance not much less than we start from Nantes and no backtracking.)

Any suggestions are much welcome.

This would be the last part I need to tie up the loose end of the upcoming trip. After that it will be 5 or 6 days in Paris, a city we have been at so many times I dont need any planning.

We just returned from a trip to Big Island, (Hawaii) and my mind is not fully focused yet so forgive me for any illogical thoughts or typo or spelling errors.

Chateau de Villandry
Castles, Gardens, Historic Sites
Chateau de Chambord
Historic Sites, Castles, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Chateau d'Amboise
Castles, Historic Sites, History Museums, Gardens
FLL
Florida
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1. Re: Does this driving route make sense to explore Loire Valley?

On second look, it seems Bordeaux to Saumur makes more sense and we can use Saumur as our first overnight stop.

Ohio, USA
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2. Re: Does this driving route make sense to explore Loire Valley?

It is not at all clear to me at least how many days you have for the Loire valley part of your trip. Is it 5 days? Fewer? More? And does that include the day you are driving from Bordeaux? If so do you plan to visit any of the places along the way between Bordeaux and Saumur (or wherever) or are you just getting on the Autoroute and heading for the Loire?

It's hard to make recommendations when the timeline is unclear.

CA
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3. Re: Does this driving route make sense to explore Loire Valley?

If you want to see a furnished chateau, visit Valencay.

FLL
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4. Re: Does this driving route make sense to explore Loire Valley?

4 days including driving from Bordeaux. Do not plan on spending time enroute between Bordeaux and Loire Valley. After Loire we go to Chartres.

According to ViaMichelin the driving hours without getting on toll road, between Bordeaux and Saumur is under 5 hours which is piece of cake in our standard.

Husband isn't sure if 4 days would be too much time. He is not keen to go inside castles - using his words, Could any of those be any better than Versailles? So...

However, driving in French countryside itself is a reward by itself, so he is fine with that.

Oh, I have booked a cancelable night at Chinon as our first night.

Edited: 21 March 2011, 07:01
FLL
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5. Re: Does this driving route make sense to explore Loire Valley?

I forgot to mention that we are more interested in the villages in the area and the vistas of the valley than going inside the castles. We would certainly go see those famous ones, but by and large, I think we would do a "drive by" type of viewing - actually some of those not mentioned / not in tours, look quite interesting on the brochures I got. May be these are hard to go unless you are driving. But they may offer more enjoyment because a lot less tourists.

Though I realize our timing isn't good - it seems to be a week the French take their holidays. (5/01 to 5/07).based on what happened to our Paris hotel booking. I left 5/07 night in Paris open before we left for our Hawaii trip, pending our finalizing the Loire / Chartres / Fontainebleu. Big mistake as now the HI Notre Dame is not available for reward night. So now we would need to move hotel - first night at HI St Germain des Pres and then move to HI Notre Dame for the following 3 nights. I should have booked the 5/07 night at HI Notre Dame independently in a different account (to prevent hotel combined reservations) before leaving for Hawaii. Then if we want to use the day elsewhere we can simply cancel it. Now I have "lost" that option. At least St. Germain des Pres location is very close to Place Sant Sulpice where we will return our Avis rental. A small condolence.

Loire Valley
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6. Re: Does this driving route make sense to explore Loire Valley?

Treat any driving times given with a pinch of salt - remember that is time calculated on driving at the speed limit, and makes no allowance for traffic, filling with fuel (people and car) roadworks, traffic jams (of which I am sure you will encounter the first week in July). Once you're off the autoroutes and on small roads your average speed will be about 50kmh (30mph). This applies especially when you're looking at small villages.

MD
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7. Re: Does this driving route make sense to explore Loire Valley?

Do you have a good map? Michelin maps in the 300 series will show you the scenic roads in green. If you won't get those maps till you go to France, in the meantime you can use the viamichelin website to zoom in on an area and the green roads will show up.

You can walk along the Cher across from Chenonceau and see the part of that beautiful chateau that spans the river. You won't see much of the main part, or the gardens, but it's pretty neat, and free. Maybe the little tour boat will putt up and down the river while you're walking. You park near a bridge upstream on the opposite side of the river from Chenonceau.

I admit to being a drive-by tourist some days. You can see Usse and Montpoupon from your car. Azay le Rideau is small and a charmer, so it may be a good one for your husband to visit.

FLL
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8. Re: Does this driving route make sense to explore Loire Valley?

Thanks for suggestion.

I am expecting to receive the 2011 Michelin Atlas sometimes this week - Amazon shows it is already in FedEx SmartShipping so it should be handed to USPS soon enough for this week's mailing. USPS shows it has received electronic notification but not yet the package. Finger crossed.

I will see if we need the green maps once we are in Toulouse - the starting point of our 9 days driving portion in France.

Edited: 21 March 2011, 14:57
FLL
Florida
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9. Re: Does this driving route make sense to explore Loire Valley?

No, we are not going in first week of July. End of April to First week of May.

Sorry for the calendar form - 5/01 in US means May 1st. It would be 01/05 in French format I assume. US format normally doesn't put 2 digits for month if it does not have 2 digits.

I hope the road conditions are not as congested during that time of the year - after Easter - but of course we would have May Day holiday to encounter.

Edited: 21 March 2011, 15:02
FLL
Florida
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10. Re: Does this driving route make sense to explore Loire Valley?

Also, I picked the Sightseeing option with ViaMichelin. It gave me 5 hrs without toll. I assume it meanders through 2ndary roads.

If I picked autoroute, the time is just over 3 hours.

Once I get the 2011 Michelin Atlas I can use more precise information to get better estimates. Meanwhile the required pit stops look manageable, unless we come upon unmanned stations - then all bets are off! However if we are driving through towns and villages, chances are, the stations are still manned unless it is a holiday. We would make sure we start with full tank ...

Meanwhile the toll booths of autoroute can often be unmanned and I dont know what would happen when it only accepts PIN and CHIP cards!

Edited: 21 March 2011, 15:08