Welcome to Loire – the land of the royale!
Loire is prominently known for the many well preserved Châteaux present in this region. It is located just a short drive away, about 2 hours south from Paris or you could take a fast train (35 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on your destination) from Montparnasse station, but you’ll still need to hire a car once you’re in the region in order to visit the individual castles.
The Centre – Val de Loire region is also popularly called the ‘garden of France’; its landscapes include natural parks, beautiful villages and quaint medieval towns as well as sophisticated cities.
A holiday in this region can seem like a fairy tale dream come true.
The Loire valley is a major tourist destination in France. Hence it is imperative to plan ahead for your trip to this extraordinary region of Vallée de la Loire. Besides making all the necessary bookings of stay and travel to and through the valley, you will be spoilt for choice in deciding the locations you’d wish to visit.
Our long weekend in this region
One of the best parts I’ve come to like about our vacations, is the places we stay at; having a whole house to yourself with a functional kitchen, washing machine and other facilities just as convenient as would be in your own home, makes it all so comfortable and most importantly for me, the kids feel happy and relaxed as well.
This time we stayed in the beautiful village of Ardon, in one of the row house cottages. We chose this place because of it’s central location. Almost equidistant from Chambord on its south and Orléans to its north, Ardon made a perfect base for us.
Explore Loire – You could plan your trip, to include castle hopping, visiting the cathedrals and abbeys or simply exploring the flower fields and dense forests around this vast region.
Here’s a list of a few popular castles you could choose to visit – Amboise, Angers, Blois, Chaumont, Chambord, Cheverny, Chenonceau, Montresor and lastly Villandry and it’s splendid gardens.
We however went on to spend an entire day exploring just one château and another day at a park with the kids.
Château de Chambord
The Chambord château is the largest in the Loire valley. It was built in the 16th century as a hunting lodge for King François I and was never a permanent residence.
Apparently the architect of the château remains unknown, however Leonardo da Vinci’s name is attributed to the design of the same, especially the double staircase inside.
When you enter the Chambord estates you will surely appreciate the enormity of the woodlands that surround the château. So much green!
We proceeded to the parking areas which are widely spread out and luckily got a space closer to the château and then set out on foot, absorbing the beautiful landscape of this property. One can choose to take a boat ride on the moat here to take in a panoramic scenic view of the place.
A smart thing to do is to buy your entry ticket online to visit the inside of the château. We gained so much time by doing this as we easily skipped the long line at the information centre on site and went straight to the entrance of the château. Yay! and there were just four people ahead of us there. It was a happy start.
After we were done exploring the interiors (read – the kids had had enough of wandering in a closed space), we darted out , caught some fresh air and just laid on the green grass outside, joining many other tourists who had done the same. The kids had fun simply running about on the lawn.
Nearer to the information centre, there is a souvenir shop, a restaurant, an ice cream shop and a wine shop on the premises.
When we visited, there were a few temporary stalls as well set up to sell various things including food, baby clothes etc. The place around here was buzzing with people who had sat down to enjoy their quick snacks. We too picked up a few refreshments for ourselves before leaving back on a scenic drive.
Parc Floral de la Source – Orléans
This is an over 85 acres natural park, situated in the town of Orléans, cradled between the wooded region of Sologne and the plains of the Loire valley. It is just over half an hour’s drive from Ardon, so we decided to make the most of the weather and our location and spend our time relaxing and exploring this park.
On entering the park, we immediately felt this calm aura ; nature was working its magic.
First we had our picnic, had a quick look at the butterfly garden, continued to the children’s play area, a walk along the river and it was already time to head back. There is also a mini train ride available inside the park for those interested.