Loire Valley 2019 Day by Day Itinerary

The beautiful town of Honfleur on the Normandy Coast.  Click here to open a larger panoramic photo.

The reason there are so many incredible castles and chateaus in the Loire Valley region is because the nobility have long recognized how wonderful a region it is to visit and live in.

The good news is you don’t need to be royalty to enjoy the experience yourself, these days.  This page tells you more about what we will do and see each day on our 2019 Loire Valley Land Cruise, and how the main itinerary (with the green border) fits together with the optional pre and post extensions (with the blue borders).

For more information on this tour, and of course, to join, please go to our 2019 Loire Valley Land Cruise main page.

As a quick reminder, you can join these “land cruise” tours on any day, and leave on any day.  We generally recommend you should enjoy the entire one week main cruises, but it is your time, your money, and so, totally your choice.  Just let us know what works for you, and we’ll make the arrangements accordingly.

Please also keep in mind that immediately before the Loire Valley Land Cruise we have our Scotland’s Highland Highlights tour, allowing you to conveniently combine both tours.

 

Optional Chantilly Pre-Cruise Itinerary
Please now continue reading the main itinerary (green border) for our Loire Valley Land Cruise, which is immediately below, and starting from the same Tuesday 24 September date.
The magnificent Chateau de Chantilly, with part of the Hippodrome in the background.
Possibly Friday 20 September (or earlier/later)
If you would like three nights in Chantilly, we suggest you leave the US today (or earlier if you want to do more things on your vacation too).

Alternatively, of course, if you only wish two or one night(s) in Chantilly prior to the main tour, leave home on Saturday or Sunday instead.

You are free to choose your own preferred airline and travel dates for your flights to and from Europe.
The date you leave the US will of course on how many nights you'll choose to spend in Chantilly area.

It is usually an overnight flight from the US to Europe, so you should probably leave the US on this day (ie Friday) if you wanted the recommended three night stay in Chantilly. This would have you arriving into France the next day (Saturday).

Let us know if we can help you choose airlines, flights, and airports to use when flying to Europe, France, and Paris, or for travel within Europe to get from other places to Chantilly.

We're happy to advise and assist any which way.
Saturday 21 September : Arrive into Paris/Chantilly Perhaps Today
If you are flying to somewhere else in Britain or Europe, you can of course also take a train from there to Paris and Chantilly.


A view of the small town of Chantilly
Most flights from the US get to Paris some time the next morning or early afternoon, so if you left home yesterday, you'd arrive into Paris (CDG airport) some time today.

Note : If you also are doing our Scotland's Highland Highlights tour, you will probably fly over to Paris today, tomorrow or the next day.

From the airport it is about 18 miles to Chantilly.

It is easiest to take a taxi (or Uber); buses and trains would first take you south to Paris, then back north again to Chantilly, rather than travel directly.

This will leave you some of the day free to relax and unwind.
Sunday 22 September : A Full Day in Chantilly
Another view of the Chateau de Chantilly


Take it easy, stroll around the town, treat yourself to some good food, and maybe a libation to go with it.
Our recommended three night option has you with two full days to enjoy the town and region of Chantilly.

If you have any interest in equestrian things, you might wish to visit the Museum of the Living Horse and the adjacent Hippodrome.

If you prefer castles and chateaus, the Château de Chantilly will surely be on your must do list.

And if you'd prefer just to stroll around and take in the ambience of this charming small town, well, why not do that as well.

Monday 23 September : A Second Full Day in Chantilly
The Great Stables at the Museum of the Living Horse, Chantilly
Today you have a chance to see more of the Chantilly region.

Depending on what you did yesterday, and what you discovered which looks interesting, you'll fill in today as you wish.

Perhaps take a tour into the forest, or maybe do a bit of shopping in the town center.
Tuesday 24 September : To Paris, Main Tour Starts This Morning
The Gare du Nord train station in Paris where we meet the main tour on Tuesday morning.
This morning you should take the train from Chantilly down to the Gare du Nord in Paris. This is an easy 25 minute journey with no changes of train on the way, and trains leave every 30 minutes.

We'll meet up with anyone who didn't do the pre-tour, and then continue on to Chartres, Chambord, and Tours.
Itinerary for the Main Tour
Please now continue reading the Post Tour itinerary (blue border) for the optional extension on down to Cognac and Bordeaux. This is immediately below.
A lovely square with plenty of places to eat and drink in the heart of the old district in Tours.
(Sunday 22 September or earlier) : Leave the US
You can fly on any of the many different airlines that go to France or elsewhere in Europe or even the UK. There are of course good connections from most airports on to Paris.
If you are not joining us for the optional pre-tour (see above) you should leave the US today or earlier. It is usually an overnight flight from the US to Europe, so leaving today (Sunday) or earlier will get you to France tomorrow (Monday), overnighting probably in Paris or Chantilly prior to joining the main tour on Tuesday morning, 24 Sept.

Let us know if we can help you choose airlines, flights, and airports to use.
Monday 23 September : Perhaps arrive France today, overnight somewhere prior to joining tour tomorrow morning
No prizes for instantly identifying this as Paris, one of the most distinctive cities in the world.
If you flew from the US on Sunday, you'll probably arrive into Paris some time this morning or early afternoon.

This allows you to spend a night relaxing and refreshing after the flight, and to be ready to join the tour when it starts tomorrow morning. Maybe you spend the night in Paris, or maybe you go to Chantilly for at least a brief "taste" of this charming town.
Tuesday 24 September : Tour starts, transfer from Paris via Normandy/Honfleur to Saint Malo in Brittany
One of the "tricks" when touring is to look away from the main sites and sights and find lovely quiet little back passages such as this in Honfleur.


An old clock in the medieval center of Rouen.



A small section of the enormous 230 ft long Bayeux Tapestry, dating to 1070.
The main tour starts today.

We'll meet up in Paris, or if you prefer, you can join up with the tour anywhere on our day's travels or at the hotel in Saint Malo this evening.

If you were on the Pre-Tour, then you'll simply take a 25 minute train from Chantilly in to Paris (see the pre-tour option, immediately above).

Our itinerary for today is somewhat dependent on weather. If the weather is good, we'll make our main feature of the day the beautiful port town of Honfleur, depicted in many paintings by Monet and others. Honfleur is on the south side of the Seine river at its mouth where it opens into the English Channel. On the north side is the town of Le Havre, a key strategic focus of the Normandy landings in WW2.

Honfleur, a tiny town of 8500 people, is the third most popular place for people to visit in all of France. Come with us and see why this is so.

If the weather doesn't show the town to advantage, we'll instead make the ancient cathedral city of Rouen our focus. Rouen is the capital of the Normandy region, full of lovely medieval buildings, and also commonly featured in Monet paintings, and is where Joan of Arc was burned on the stake.

Depending on time, weather, and the general wishes of the group as a whole, we might also visit Bayeux, home of the famous Bayeux Tapestry, dating back to the 1070s.

Our destination for this evening and the next two nights is the coastal town of Saint Malo in Brittany.

We'll have a welcome drink this evening to help everyone get to know each other more.
An aerial view of the historic center of St Malo, our home for the next three nights.

Wednesday 25 September : Exploring Saint Malo, Mont Saint Michel, and some Oysters
One of the famous Vauban forts, this one at St Malo.


Mont Saint Michel, one of the iconic images of France, showing also its new bridge.
St Malo is the most popular destination in Brittany, and in the peak of summer, its population of 45,000 swells to over 200,000. Mid/late September will see it much more pleasant and enjoyable.

We'll enjoy the town center this morning and depending on time and tides, at some point will go to the nearby iconic World Heritage Site of Mont Saint Michel - a location that has been both a monastery and a jail in its past.

Our schedule for the day is dependent on tides and access to Mt St Michel. We'll fit in a nice stop somewhere for lunch, and if timings allow, in the afternoon we'll visit an oyster farm where after seeing the working farm, we'll then have a chance to sample their very fresh oysters.

This evening we have our Welcome Dinner at a nice restaurant in St Malo.
Thursday 26 September : A Special Optional Experience - Another "country" : The Channel Islands
The high speed "wave piercing" catamaran that takes us from St Malo to Jersey.


The small town of Gorey and Mt Orgueil Castle on Jersey.


A Victorian market in the town of St Helier on Jersey.
You've a choice today (as indeed you do every day).

You can either have an easy relaxing day strolling around St Malo, doing some shopping, and generally enjoying the views out over the English Channel from the beach promenade, or if you prefer, as an optional extra you can add another country to your list of countries visited.

This optional extension has us taking an 85 minute ferry from St Malo to the Bailiwick of Jersey, one of the Channel Islands off the Brittany Coast, and an anomalous semi-independent nation that is considered a "Crown dependency" and sort of part of the UK, while also semi-independent, and a hangover from the days of the Duchy of Normandy, dating back 1100 years.

Jersey gives you a chance to experience a destination of very unusual character - not entirely English but definitely not French either - something inbetween. It has a beautiful harbor, some fascinating WW2 artifacts and tunnels, and a nice main town.

We've plenty of time for a full and relaxing day on Jersey before returning back to St Malo in the early evening.
Friday 27 September : Touring to Tours with a Special Treat
The city hall in Tours is literally just around the corner, five minutes walk, from our hotel.
It is a bit confusing to have a city named "Tours", but we'll make the best of that.

Today we travel from St Malo to Tours, where we'll spend four nights.

We have a special treat we're trying to arrange on our travel to Tours, and whether we manage to secure this "Travel Insider exclusive" experience or simply include some lovely villages and general sightseeing on the way, it will be a pleasant day's outing.

If we can't feature our exclusive experience on the way, we'll instead include a stop at one of the lovely Vouvray wineries in the region on the way. Vouvray is a sparkling wine, but can't be called Champagne, that being a name reserved only for wines in the Champagne region.

Although the Champagne region sparkling wine is the best known around the world (and the most expensive) we think you'll find the local Vouvray region sparkling wine to be every bit as good, and possibly even better.
Saturday 28 September : Exploring Tours, on to Amboise and Leonardo da Vinci
Part of the historic district in Tours.


Chateau Amboise.

An easy day today. We spend the morning in Tours itself, becoming more familiar with our home for the week, and sightseeing through the older part of the lovely city.

Then we travel the short distance to the small medieval town of Amboise, where we'll stop for lunch.

After lunch, we visit the Château du Clos Lucé which was the final residence of Leonardo da Vinci until his death. We see some of his works during our visit.

Then we go almost immediately next door to the Château d’Amboise, a place so lovely that the King of France simply took it from its previous owners and made it a royal palace.
Sunday 29 September : Some local touring and a lovely outdoor picnic
Choose anything you might want and then we'll enjoy a lovely outdoor picnic today. We'll eat, we'll drink, and we'll be merry.
Hopefully the weather will allow us to have a lovely day in the countryside today.

We'll first go to a local Farmer's Market where you can not only browse through the stalls but also buy any food you might wish to supplement the outdoor picnic we'll be enjoying at lunchtime.

We'll provide a nice selection of local delicacies and national favorites, and of course, provide plenty to wash it all down with.

Depending on how the day and weather goes, we'll see about going somewhere/doing something in the afternoon as well.
Monday 30 September : The "Big Two" Chateaus
One of the bedrooms at Chenonceau.



Magnificent Chambord Castle celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2018.
We've already seen the very impressive Château du Clos Lucé and Château d’Amboise.

Today we'll push the "Amazing meter" one notch higher by visiting the two ultra-iconic chateaus (or, if you prefer, chateaux), namely Chambord Castle and the Château de Chenonceau.

The formerly royal castle of Chambord (now owned by the state) is 501 years old. Chenonceau is a relatively new entrant in the castle/chateau stakes, dating "only" back to 1515 and is featured at the top of the main tour information page.

There's one more important activity to enjoy this evening. Our farewell dinner, this being the last of the seven nights of the main itinerary of this tour experience.
Tuesday 1 October : Tour Ends, see below for Post Tour Options
Some of the local Loire Valley regional wines.
Our lovely Land Cruise comes to an end this morning. Enjoy one last breakfast at the hotel, and then you have lots of choices. Some people might stay in Tours longer, others might head straight home, some might go elsewhere in France or Europe, and some of you will continue on with us on the optional post-tour segment down to Bordeaux.

If you're continuing with us to Cognac and Bordeaux for the next several nights, please keep reading the next section with a blue border.
Optional Post-Cruise Itinerary - the Bordeaux Region
This is the end of the post-cruise option.
Because of all its wine exports, Bordeaux has historically been a very wealthy city. Although it became run-down in the middle of the 20th century, it has been beautifully restored to its former glory. This is the "Place de la Bourse" or Customs Square.
Tuesday 1 October : From Tours, via Cognac, and then to Bordeaux
Part of the Hennessy Cognac Distillery.
This morning marks the end of the main Loire Valley Land Cruise. If you're continuing on with us, we'll travel by coach in a southwesterly direction, with our lunch stop set for Cognac.

After time for lunch, we then visit one of the local distilleries that make the regional brandy known as, of course, Cognac. We'll see how it is made, and sample the final product.

Then it is a short further distance on to Bordeaux where we'll be staying for however many nights you might choose.

Keep in mind there are over 8,000 wineries in the area. Perhaps you should stay an extra night (or two).
Wednesday 2 October : The Bordeaux Region's Wineries
The region is flat with some rolling countryside, and everywhere is covered in grapes growing.
If enough people wish to do so, we'll arrange a tour that will take us first to a lovely little town for some sightseeing and lunch, and then to a series of two or three wineries, giving us a great opportunity to sample the different styles of wines grown in the region.

We can decide among ourselves what styles of wines to sample. While 85% of its wine production is red and is the style the region is best known for, Bordeaux is also home to the classic Sauternes sweet white wine as well.
Thursday 3 October : The Charming City of Bordeaux
Would it be unkind to wonder if the architect of the distinctively shaped "City of Wine" building in Bordeaux may have been generously sampling the wine while designing this building? The building is said to represent wine swirling in a glass.
Today we will be primarily in the city of Bordeaux.

The city has been wonderfully rejuvenated. It now has a very impressive downtown area, and a lovely boardwalk along the Garonne River.

In addition to another wine museum, there is a fascinating strangely shaped new building, The City of Wine, facing out onto the river with a range of exhibits and tasting opportunities.
Friday 4 October : Possibly Returning Home
Another view of downtown Bordeaux, a city that is much under-rated but which delights when visited.
Our guess - and it is just a guess at this stage - is that perhaps at this point, most of us will be ready to either move on or return home.

But if you'd like to stay longer, or continue your travels any other way, let us know and we'll be pleased to offer suggestions, advice, and assistance.

 

Our main page detailing this tour (and booking form) is here.

 

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