Thursday 30 December 2010

Over the Rooftops

Many towns and villages in the Loire are built on the banks of the big river itself, or its tributaries. It means that you can often get high enough to look down on the town below, giving you a glimpse of otherwise unseen architectural detail and traditional building techniques.

If you enjoy seeing lovely old buildings from a different perspective, why not contact us and book a tour now?

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Preserving Your Memories

At Loire Valley Time Travel we really enjoy our photography, which means that we are always happy to stop and take photos wherever possible. Quite often our photos are snapshots, taken to act as reminders of places we have been and people we have met.

At other times we like to get a little artistic and take photos for their own sake. We can suggest unusual or little known views and if you let us know you are a keen photographer we will do our best to ensure you capture some special memories. Don't worry about getting home with photos you can't put a place name to - just email the photo to us and we will remind you of the name and the story. Remember, in a vehicle like ours, we can go where the coach trips can't, so why not contact us now to book your tour?

Wednesday 22 December 2010

A Local Delicacy

When you book a whole day tour with Loire Valley Time Travel you will be treated to lunch in one of a selection of local restaurants, which we have chosen very carefully.

The restaurants are almost invariably the kind of places that locals use eveyday, so they have to maintain a certain standard of food, and because people are proud of their local produce this forms the basis of many of the dishes. Luckily the produce in the Loire Valley is second to none for quality.

An example of this is the Sainte Maure de Touraine chèvre. Ste Maure de Touraine is an AOP (AOC - Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) cheese from an area which roughly follows the boundaries of the old Province of Touraine. It has to be made by traditional methods - this just about means that all the cheese is made by hand from fresh ingredients, either on farms or in dairy co-operatives.

The cheese is made in the shape of a log about 17cm (7") long and has a rye straw running through it to help roll the cheese as it is being formed. The straw is stamped with the name of the maker and the tradition is to use a knife that isn't too sharp to cut around the straw so it is left in the cheese.

We think Ste Maure de Touraine is the finest goat's cheese you can buy. If you email us and book a tour, you can make your own decision.

Monday 20 December 2010

More than Just Châteaux

If you tell your friends that you are visiting the Loire Valley while you are on holiday they will immediately think of chateaux. That is understandable, because it is what the area has become most famous for.

However, there are a million and one other reasons for visiting the Loire Valley. There are many prehistoric sites in the area: stone circles, burial sites and standing stones, and the museum at Grand Pressigny holds the national collection of prehistory. The Romans were here and left traces which are still visible, and some of these became the foundations for what are now the medieval and renaissance monuments your friends first thought of.

Once you look past the monuments, you will notice that the local towns and villages are just as old. The streets of Tours still show the influence of the Roman town, and many of the villages still have their medieval street patterns and buildings.

Book a tour with us, and we will make sure you have time to appreciate more than just the big chateaux. We plan our trips to allow time for unscheduled stops, and are always willing to stop for "just one more" photo.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Our Most Popular Destination

Of all the chateaux in the Loire Valley (and there are claimed to be 3000) the one that tops the list for most people is Chenonceau.

Built on the site of a water mill in the 1500's the chateau has a long and varied history, much of it connected to women of power and influence: Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Medici, Louise de Lorraine and Gabrielle d'Estrées.

You can see Chenonceau as part of a custom tour designed specifically to visit the places you want to see, or take our most popular set tour which visits the chateaux of Chenonceau and Montpoupon.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Why Not Visit Loches?

Loches has a lot to offer the visitor, but because it doesn't have major transport links many visitors give it a miss. This is a shame. We think it easily rivals Chinon for the dramatic beauty of its medieval citadel and historic importance. Added to this, it has one of the best markets in the district, twice a week and packed with colourful stalls of local fruit and vegetables, meat, cheese, mushrooms and bread, intermingled with handmade soaps, jewellery and baskets.

The Logis Royal sits high above historic Loches.
Because it is not quite so well known, we have to sell Loches a little bit harder to our clients. They tell us that they weren't too sure about spending time here because when we suggested it they looked the town up and found very little information. Once they've been here though, they are totally convinced, and wonder like we do, why more people don't make it to these lovely winding old streets lined with charming creamy stone houses.

If you want to see for yourself what people love about Loches, email us and ask about a day trip. You may already know Joan of Arc, and how she convinced the heir to the throne to save France, but we'll introduce you to the other woman in his life, his tragic soulmate Agnes Sorel.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

France Still Number One

74.2 million. That's the number of tourists who visited France in 2009. According to the World Tourism Organisation, France has stayed number one, and by a considerable margin. The United States, Spain and China are second, third and fourth respectively, all with between 50 and 55 million visitors.

Many of the visitors to France aren't setting foot outside of Paris, so beautiful places like the Loire Valley are remarkably untouristy. It's really easy to catch a train down from Paris to Tours and enjoy a day trip in the land of 3000 chateaux. Why not email us and ask us to create your dream day?

Sunday 12 December 2010

Choice of Accommodation in the Loire Valley

No matter what your tastes (or budget) the Loire Valley is a great place to spend time, whether a weekend chilling out, or a week exploring little travelled roads.

One of your options is to stay at a family run hotel in a small town. These represent great value, and have the added bonus of bringing you into close contact with the locals as they go about their business. If you're staying for a week and would like to try cooking some authentic French recipes, you could book a fully equipped gite (self catering cottage). These are usually just outside towns and so are a really quiet place to while away the hours.

Some of our accommodation partners
For those times when you're feeling like a luxury weekend away a chateau is ideal. Many of these historic buildings have been turned into quality hotels and make the perfect place for a romantic break from everyday life.

If you book a holiday with us we will make recommendations based on your preferred budget and location. We know the owners of the places we recommend and are confident in the comfort, cleanliness and warmth of welcome you will receive.

Friday 10 December 2010

Why it is best to book early

To make you day with us more special, all the tours at Loire Valley Time Travel are done in our 1953 Citroën Traction Avant. Due to the age of the car we limit the number of times we take her out on a tour and the distance we travel each week. This approach and our meticulous maintenance programme explains why we have never missed a booking due to the car being unavailable. All of which means that if you want take a private tour of some of the Loire chateaux, it is best to contact us before you leave home to be sure we have not reached capacity for the week you wish to travel.

Greasing the car. This has
to be done every 600 miles
Classic cars need regular and careful maintenance if they are to be kept in top condition. Oil changes, greasing and tuning has to be done about once a month when the car is travelling long distances, and we also wash and polish the car before every booking. Being an old car, if anything needs replacing, parts need to be ordered in. Any major work is done at a specialist garage, but this is rarely needed: regular planned maintenance keeps most problems at bay.

We may be available at short notice, but why take the risk? You can make a booking by emailing us, or using the phone numbers shown in the panel on the right of this page.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

How to Avoid the Crowds

The Loire Valley is a big place and comfortably absorbs the visitors it gets. It's rare to have to queue for entry or struggle to find a restaurant or accommodation for the date you want. Even inside the popular sites like Chenonceau, the most visited chateau in the Loire, you may encounter a few bottlenecks in narrow doorways, but nothing that a little give and take doesn't resolve. We visit Chenonceau at least once a month between April and October and have never encountered crowding to the extent it made you sorry you visited.

Chenonceau at the end of June - a bit of a jostle for the
balconies, but nothing to ruin the visitor experience.
According to the Conseil général of Indre-et-Loire (the equivalent of the state government) the real beginning of the peak tourist season is getting later and later. This is because the majority of French people take their summer holiday in August, and the high season is concentrated into the 6 weeks from mid-July to the end of August. This year the busiest time didn't arrive until about 20 July, but by the beginning of September, French children have to be back at school, and the crush ends abruptly on the last day of August.

So if you want to avoid any possiblity being caught up in a heaving crowd, we would be very happy to see you in May and June or September and October. We can recommend a number of outstanding but lesser known sites which only have a few visitors at a time in these months, providing a wonderfully intimate and special experience.

Sunday 5 December 2010

The Chinon Effect

L'effet Chinon - that's what the local tourist office has dubbed the upsurge of interest in this most historic of sites. The chateau at Chinon reopened this year after the biggest heritage conservation project in France was completed. Visitor numbers were up by 30% and during the summer the site welcomed an average of 1300 people per day. This is testiment to the great success of the restoration and improved interpretation facilities at this magnificent royal stronghold.

Apart from stabilising and repairing the evocative but crumbling chateau walls looming over the town and river, the project has introduced videos and sound tracks to help visitors enter the world of rivalry and intrigue at the courts of Richard the Lionheart and Phillipe-Auguste. Remember all those scenes of a bickering royal family at Christmas time in The Lion in Winter? Well, this is where they really took place. It's one of the places where Joan of Arc came to plead with Charles VII to take up the crown and defend France too.

We took self-professed 'history nut' Bill, from Atlanta, Georgia, there in October and he loved it. He said he was sorry we couldn't spend more time there, as it was the most interesting place he had visited. Sadly, he had to catch his train back to Paris, but we managed to prise him away in time to drop him off at Chinon Station and he was back at his apartment in Paris in under 2 hours.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Arriving in Style

At Loire Valley Time Travel we like our visitors to feel special, no matter how much time they spend with us.

The Loire Valley is a great place to spend a couple of days unwinding, and what makes this even more relaxing is the number of ways you can arrive here without having to drive. During summer there are regular flights to Tours airport from London Stansted, Dublin, Porto and Marsailles, and there is a frequent and very fast train service from Paris.

Why not book a weekend with one of our accommodation partners and be collected at the airport or station by us? We can't guarantee that other passengers on your train or plane will be jealous, but we know they will watch and wish it was them travelling in such style.