Have you ever wanted to time travel? If you were thinking of the 1950’s France, keep reading. Your time machine is a classic 1953 Citroën Traction Avant. Driver and guide at your service. Start with classic Loire Valley Chateau Loches and a drive through parts of the Loire Valley that many never see. Follow with an elegant lunch and a walk through the gardens before visiting Chenonceau, the “must see” chateau of the region. On your way back to Tours you’ll visit the 1000-year-old wine caves of a Vouvray winemaker for a tour and tasting. Only an hour from Paris by train, this is the perfect way to tour the rolling French countryside in classic style.
You are met at Saint Pierre de Corps Station (Tours), just one hour from Paris, by your driver and escort and we follow the river Indré to the Royal Town of Loches. Loches is one of our favorites, with its impressively tall ruined castle and the royal apartments where Joan of Arc met the Dauphin Charles. On our walk down through the picturesque town we stop off to view some recently discovered Caravaggio paintings.
Lunch is taken at a stylish restaurant in this lovely town before departing to travel along the back roads to Chenonceau, stopping along the way to admire the views. Chenonceau is the “must see” chateau of the Loire Valley and once home to Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers. We then walk through the gardens to visit the old farm buildings and cut flower gardens. On our way back to Tours we visit the 1000-year-old wine caves of a Vouvray winemaker for a tour and tasting.
The tour typically starts at 9 am and finishes between 6 pm and 7 pm.
*Trips may be customized to your preferences. Select any two chateaux and ask a price.
This is the third most visited historic tourist site in France outside of Paris. Don’t be put off by the thought of crowds though – while Versaille gets about 5 million visitors a year, Chenonceau gets about 1 million. Chenonceau owes a large part of its charm to women: it was built in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet, then made even more attractive by Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici, and saved from the worst of the French Revolution by Madame Dupin. Chenonceau is not only remarkable for its architecture and history but also for the fine quality of its collections as can be seen from visiting the interior: Renaissance furniture, a considerable collection of XVI th and XVII th century tapestries and a great number of masterpieces.
Until recently Loches was a very important town. It has a chateau started in the 10th century and expanded until it incorporated the whole of the rocky outcrop on which it stands. It was here that Joan of Arc first approached the Dauphin of France to convince him to start the war on the English, and visitors can still stand on the actual floor where the French heroine walked. The town itself still has many of its medieval and renaissance buildings and it is the place in the Touraine Loire Valley that most looks like a quaint historical town.
The Chateau of Cheverny is still occupied by the family who built it in 1624. Many of the interiors date from the time it was built, and the furniture has been collected over the past almost 400 years. It is set in magnificent grounds, and the Orangerie is where the Mona Lisa was hidden during the Second World War. The family are avid hunters and keep a large pack of hounds. These are a real treat for any dog lover in the party.
The village of Montresor is officially one of the “plus beaux villages de France”, and really lives up to its reputation. Set in a river valley it is always worth walking along the “back” of the village by the river. The chateau was originally built 1000 years ago, but it was mainly derelict until the Branicki family arrived from Poland in 1849. The chateau has the air of a place where the owner just popped out for a minute – in about 1850!
The real attraction of Villandry are the parterre gardens. Some of these are an intricate series of renaissance influenced vegetable gardens surrounded by hedges, the other gardens are purely decorative. It is difficult to put into words the finished effect.
Although this beautifully situated small chateau is late medieval/early renaissance in origin, it is its more recent history which intrigues. Once owned by the 5th richest man in America (who was French…) it was the venue for the most notorious marriage of the 20th century. Despite this it is hardly known outside the local area and receives very few visitors.
Chateaux visits: Susan provides a personalized guided commentary to each of the chateaux we visit. Although the focus is on the historical characters and the main period of history associated with the chateaux other periods of history will be mentioned (eg WWII, prehistory) where they are relevant. The professional management of historic sites and their care and maintenance is usually discussed. Entry fees are included in the price of your tour.
Lunch: Lunch is included in the price of your tour. We use two slightly different types of restaurants, depending on our itinerary The first is frequented by local tradesmen and factory workers, while the second is somewhat more up market in terms of presentation and is frequented by office workers and locals out shopping. In both cases, we will take the daily changing limited choice set menu of between two and four courses. We normally dine with our clients so we can translate the menu if necessary and negotiate any changes required, but please tell us before your tour if you have any particular dietary requirements. Meals are served with local wine.
Wine and Cheese Tasting: We only visit small, locally owned wineries. At most wineries, the winemaker or his assistant will lead the visit at the winery to see the winemaking facility, and at all wineries, one of them will take the tasting. Similarly, at the cheese producer’s, either he or his assistant will take the tasting. Tasting fees are included in the price of your tour.
Drinking Water: Bring a bottle of water or a few euros to purchase water during the day.
Toilets: The toilets at chateaux and restaurants are clean. We suggest you use the toilet on the train rather than the one at the station on your arrival. The station toilets can’t be relied upon to be open, and it will be a 40-minute car journey to the next available toilets.
Spending Money: Many of our clients find they don’t need to spend any money at all on a tour with us. You may want to bring some cash if we are visiting the market in Loches as most market traders prefer cash. Some of the winemakers we visit only take cash, but most take cards.
Buying Wine: You will be able to ship wine you purchase from one of ‘our’ wineries to the US, but otherwise the small winemakers we use do not have any facility for shipping small private purchases overseas. If the reason for your visit to the Loire Valley is to buy wine, let us know and we will send you the details of how to take your wine home
About the Cars
The cars used for this tour are 1950s Citroën Traction Avants. We have named them “Célestine” and “Claudette. They have become something of celebrities in their own right. These cars were designed in 1934 and remained virtually unchanged until 1957. They have long been regarded as a classic, and many French people are excited to see one on the road. It is not uncommon to have other drivers wave or flash their headlights, and we often have people asking if they can take a photo. We can take two people in complete comfort, or three to four people if they are of moderate build. Unfortunately, the trunk (boot) is not large, so we have to restrict the amount of luggage to small hand luggage.
Getting to the Tour
The tour begins at your accommodation in or near Tours or at the rail station if you’re making the day trip from Paris. Assuming you are making a day trip to the Touraine Loire Valley from Paris, the tour starts in the Touraine Loire Valley at either St Pierre des Corps (Tours) train station or the city of Tours (Central).
Booking Loire Valley Chateaux by Classic Car
Please book by our email form. We require a $250 US non-refundable deposit to hold your date. This is to be paid within 10 days of making the booking. The balance of the fee is due 21 days before the start of the tour. If the deposit is not paid within 10 days the date will be made available to other clients.
Your travel provider for this tour: Loire Valley Time Travel.
Originally from Australia, Susan Walter and Simon Brand toured the world before settling in France and deciding to share our love of the Loire Valley with visitors. Simon drives the classic cars, while Susan shares her wealth of knowledge about the Loire’s history, way of life and natural environment. They are passionate about where we live; the gently rolling countryside, the history, little hamlets tucked away in hidden hollows, the wine and food, and we are proud to show these to our visitors.
If for any reason you cancel up to 21 days before the tour you will receive a refund of any payment made, less the non-refundable deposit. If the tour is canceled within 21 days of the tour or you fail to meet Loire Valley Time Travel at the arranged time, you will forfeit all fees paid. If you are delayed en-route Loire Valley Time Travel will do thier best to re-arrange you tour, as long as you notify them as soon as possible of the delay (we will provide a mobile/cell phone number for them to text (SMS) or ring us in the event of delays on the day). We must adhere to our cancellation policy to protect our ability to run tours and to maintain our price structure.