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Loire Valley with children

Australia
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Loire Valley with children

Hi,

My family and I (2 adults, 3 children aged 3.5, 7.5 and 10 years old) will have 5 nights in the Loire Valley in the middle of next month. We will arrive on a Tuesday afternoon and stay west of Blois for 2 nights at a cabin/caravan type park. We then move to an apartment in Amboise for the remaining 3 nights. I have put together the following basic list of attractions and I was hoping to get some feedback and suggestions of other activities to add in.

Wednesday- Chateau de Chambord in the morning. I think we would just tour the gardens at Chambord which I believe are free (I read this on a review so am happy to be corrected), from my research the interior is not well furnished and I mainly just want to see this grand Chateau in real life. We had 1 night in Blois last year and enjoyed wandering around the town and I was on cloud nine when we came across the delightful Saturday market the next morning. Are there any local markets held on Wednesday that people recommend that we could add either before/after Chambord or other suggestions in the area?

Thursday- we move to Amboise and will probably spend the day here exploring the town.

Friday- Chateau de Chenonceau followed by?

Saturday Sept 20th Heritage day- thanks to some posts on this forum I have discovered Chateau de Langeais which I think the kids would love to see and explore especially the treehouse. Also in the area is Chateau de Villandry. Both these chateau's have special Heritage events happening, kids dress ups at Langeais and what sounds like a market/craftsman displays at Villandry so I have saved this for Saturday as we will depart Sunday morning after visiting the Amboise market.

As you can see it's a fairly open itinerary, I'm trying to find places that will keep both parents and kids happy. Not really interested in the zoo at Beauval as it seems very expensive and ultimately animals are animals wherever you are in the world. We spent time in France last year and really enjoyed just wandering around old towns and villages as they are so different to what we are used to in Australia. As long as we can give the kids a treat like an ice cream/sweet crepe they will indulge us with some patience for ambling around an old town. I would really appreciate any suggestions or comments regarding my itinerary. Thanks.

Wethersfield...
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1. Re: Loire Valley with children

Usse Chateau is known as the Sleeping Beauty's castle... that might be semi-interesting if you have girls.

Villandry I suppose I might turn the gardens into a hide-and-seek sort of thing.

There is also a mini-chateau village in Amboise: www.decouvrez-levaldeloire.com/#accueil

Also, Maison de la Magie near Blois: http://www.maisondelamagie.fr

I have not visited either the mini-chateau or the Maison de la Magie. I did visit all the chateaus you mentioned with friends, but not with my son(5) lol. I'm not sure I could entertain him in the chateaus, quite frankly, but dressing up might help temporarily and ice cream is also a draw anywhere. I think they sell fake swords at some of the gift shops, my son might like that haha.

I am also not sure how close these are in proximity to where you're staying but here are a couple of other things I feel would appeal to my son:

Jules Verne carousel: At the western fringe near the Atlantic is Nantes, home to the Machines de l'Ile (00 33 2 51 17 49 89; www.lesmachines-nantes.fr), an artistic project which has transformed the city's river island docks (until 31 August). Fittingly in the birthplace of Jules Verne, a huge mechanical elephant and a Victoria-style carousel of giant sea creatures captivate visitors.

Caves: Tucked in among the vineyards (from Nantes to Blois) are strangely beautiful troglodyte caves carved into limestone cliffs. After the quarrymen of centuries past had excavated the tufa stone to make the Loire's distinctive creamy white houses, they moved into the empty caves. They now make quirky homes and guesthouses, as well as a handy place to cultivate mushrooms or store wine.

Boats: One of the most pleasant ways to explore the river is on the traditional flat-bottomed wooden boats called toues, left, once used to transport goods along the Loire and its tributaries.

Trips can be anything from an hour's jaunt to a two-hour picnic cruise or an overnight stay. River outings run by Millière Raboton, Homme de Loire (00 33 6 88 765 714; milliere- raboton.net), start at 90-minute cruises for €16, setting off at either Chaumont-sur-Loire or Amboise.

And maybe performances: The ancient university city of Tours celebrates summer with a riverside festival called Tours sur Loire (tours.fr). Until 22 September, music, theatre and dance acts perform on the river banks near Pont Wilson.

Have fun!

Australia
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2. Re: Loire Valley with children

Thanks Ruth, I appreciate your suggestions. We spent time in the Dordogne last year and the kids loved the caves and troglodyte villages so I'll look in to that in the Loire as I'm sure the kids will enjoy it and it will probably be different to what we have seen already. They also loved the fortified castles in the Dordogne area, so I'm hoping that the "prettiness" of the Loire chateaus interests them this time (I have 2 girls and the youngest is a boy- it's swords and knights for him).

The Maison de la Magic could be good too, sounds kid friendly which is a big plus and a trip on the river would be fun too- I hadn't thought of that. Unfortunately Nantes is probably a bit far for this trip but it sounds good otherwise.

Thanks again for your help :)

Dublin
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3. Re: Loire Valley with children

As you will be staying in Amboise just down the road from the Chateaux is Chateau du Clos Luce which has Parc Leonardo da Vinci.

All of Leonardo`s inventions are displayed in the garden as well as working models it also has a playground and picnic area. Look up www.vinci-closluce.com

Bucharest, Romania
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4. Re: Loire Valley with children

For Chambord you need to pay the parking - 4 euro if you want to tour the gardens. I am dissapointed of Chambord interior but we loved the electrical boat ride around the chateau which I recommend to you and your kids. Or you can take an electrical bycicle and tour the gardens.

Chaumont sur Loire is also a nice chateau where Diane de Poitiers lived for a short time after the death of Henry II. You can combine it with Chenonceau on Friday. In this way you will understand why Catherine de Medici forced Diane de Poitiers to move from Chenonceau to Chaumont. Chenonceau has also a nice maze suitable for kids play.

Chateau d'Usse is also a must if you like fairy tales. Do not miss to take photos from the bridge over Indre located across the street.

Miki

Sydney, Australia
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5. Re: Loire Valley with children

I don't recall Chambord having any real gardens at all. A moat/watercourse, and area with trees and cafes before the chateau proper but I recall being disappointed that the area for a parterre was not at all planted.

nickbooth.id.au/Europe11/images/Loches/350-L…

It really was pretty bare.

We loved the interior, the crazy roofline. It is huge so impossible to fill but we didn't find it empty.

Villandry is a different matter but you may be running against good times in the garden, though they do have newer places for children there now. They are open.

chateauvillandry.fr/en/…

Azay le Rideau is picture postcard pretty with its moat, and Chenonceau has gorgeous gardens, roses in particular, but you may be a bit late.

Don't neglect Loches with an actual town and two castles at the top, plus an interesting church/

Australia
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6. Re: Loire Valley with children

Thanks wrappido, Miki and Lynn for your extra suggestions, I appreciate your input.

Clos Luce is on the list for the kids, our oldest loves science and inventions so it will be right up her alley and the gardens will be good for our other children to play in.

I mistakely wrote we'd tour the gardens at Chambord when I meant we would likely just visit the outside (unless the kids are enthusiastic to enter), I had assumed that there would be some gardens to speak of but if not we might even just consider stopping by on our drive down to the Loire Valley to view the Chateau itself if we have the time. I don't want to Chateau my kids out before I get to my real wish list places.

I think I might try to add Chateau Usse and/or Azay-le-Rideau on to our day in that area as they seem to get praise, hopefully we will have the time, otherwise maybe just a quick photo stop.

Lynn do you think we could add Loches to the day we visit Chenonceau?

Thanks again for your replies, it's great to get your help.

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: Loire Valley with children

Loches is only about a half hour drive away from Chenonceau. I love it, We stayed a week and visited the town and the surrounds as well as other chateaux.

It is a really lovely town

…blogspot.com.au/2011/06/week-in-loire-1-lop…

Australia
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8. Re: Loire Valley with children

Thanks Lynn, I've just had a look at your link and I think we'll be visiting Loches after Chenonceau now- it looks like a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.

Le Bugue, France
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9. Re: Loire Valley with children

My understanding is that one of the major aims of the huge renovations that have been taking place at Chambord this summer is to recreate some of the formerly spectacular gardens, so I would research the domaine de chambord website to see what they have done with the exterior renovations before writing the place off as not having any gardens.

Bucharest, Romania
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10. Re: Loire Valley with children

I have been to Chambord last week and indeed there are no gardens around the chateau. Only a green area in front of the castle. As far as I saw the rennovations are focused more on the building itself and less on the area around.

Villandry is by far the best chateau for gardens in Loire Valley.

Miki

Edited: 24 August 2014, 16:11