Rather than take a bus tour from Paris, we decided to hop on the high-speed train to Tours and join a tour there. We took the 7:16am train from Gare Montparnasse. We got into downtown Tours at around 8:30 and walked across the square from the train station to the tourist office.
Pascal arrived promptly at 9am to pick us and two other couples up in his minivan. As we drove to the first chateau, he told us about the area and pointed out some other castles as we passed them. Our first stop was the royal castle at Amboise. The smallest of the 4 we would see but very charming with great views of the city. After spending an hour there, we departed for Chenonceau. This chateau was more crowded, but we had a couple of hours to spend touring the castle and grounds and then having lunch. After lunch we spent an hour at Cheverny and then around 90 minutes at the giant palace of Chambord. It was a long day but totally worth it to see these amazing palaces.
We returned to Tours at around 6pm. There was a 6:30-something train back to Paris, but we stayed in Tours for an early dinner. The train back to Paris is a bit confusing. You have to take a shuttle train from the downtown Tours train station to St Pierre Des Corps station about 5 minutes out of town. Our high-speed train back to Paris left St Pierre Des Corps at 8:15pm so we hopped on the shuttle that left at around 8:05. It was on track 1 and looked like a shuttle train. On the monitor, it said that the last stop on the train was St Pierre Des Corps, so we were optimistic that we were in the right place. When we arrived at St Pierre Des Corps, the confusion began. There was a train directly across the platform waiting. But the monitor showed where it was arriving from -- not where it was going. We literally had 2 minutes to figure it out. But eventually I noticed that next to the doors on the ends of each car it said Paris-Montparnasse so we jumped on just before the doors closed. It was smooth sailing from there.
All in all, I would highly recommend taking the train and joining a tour in Tours. Sitting on a bus for 4-5 hours in traffic would have been a real waste of precious time. Be aware that this excursion is not a tour of the chateaux themselves. Pascal collected money from each couple at each chateau and bought discounted tickets for us. We then toured the chateaux on our own. But, he did talk about each one before we went inside and he gave some good advice about how to best spend our time. This was totally fine for us, but I can see how people might be disappointed that this is not a tour of the chateaux. I believe Acco Dispo does private tours -- maybe they take people into the chateaux on those.
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