Wednesday, 23 February 2011

There's Scaffolding on My Chateau!

Every now and then we hear visitors complaining that they visited somewhere and it was swathed in scaffolding or even completely closed to the public because of building work.

We sympathise with how disappointing it can be when a dream doesn't live up to expectations. Chateaux are supposed to be the fairytale homes of knights and ladies, shining in the sun and always photogenic. The truth is that they are centuries old buildings requiring careful and constant attention from stone masons, plasterers, carpenters and roofers. Most chateaux and cathedrals will have some scaffolding erected somewhere all the time, but because the management is well aware that visitors have not come to see ugly modern metal staging, they are careful to minimise the impact.

The front of Chenonceau was hidden by
scaffolding for several months last year.
Really well run sites include the visitor in the experience, by explaining the conservation work that they are undertaking. Where this is not possible, they do the most intrusive work during the winter, or if it is a really long term project, all sorts of creative strategems are used to lessen its visual impact. One of the favourite techniques is to print the scaffolding screen with a lifesize photo of the building it is hiding (as was done at Chenonceau).

Your visit provides important revenue for many of the chateaux that you love best, so please don't be discouraged if 'your' chateau is being repaired or maintained on the day you visit. We will do our best to let you know what stage any building work is at prior to your visit, and because of our background in heritage conservation are able to provide fascinating insigts into many conservation issues. If you are interested in how these very old buildings remain in such good condition despite the large numbers of visitors, email us and book a day trip. We will design a tour which includes some heritage conservation and archaeology.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Montpoupon Wins an Award

One of our favourite destinations has been awarded the Qualité Tourisme stamp by the Tourism Minister. This designation is only awarded to venues which can demostrate to an independent committee that they are thoroughly professional in all aspects of presenting their site to the public. After two years of work, Montpoupon has succeeded in gaining their reward from the committee.

The chateau is privately owned by Comte Amaury de Louvencourt, who has instigated considerable improvments focusing on the hunting life. Today the Musée du Veneur (Hunting Museum) has 25 rooms bringing together a multitude of objects that give an insight into the daily lives of 19th and early 20th century professional and sporting hunters. It is a fascinating glimpse of rural and sporting social history, covering not just hunting, but country house life in general as well as wildlife photography and natural history.

The back of the chateau, showing the entrace
to the recently enlarged kitchen exhibition
Added to that, the chateau is one of the most charmingly located of any you will encounter, with beautiful views and dozens of photo opportunities.

Our heartiest congratulations to Matthieu, the Visitor Services Manager, who always gives us a friendly welcome and we know has worked very hard to present Montpoupon at its best. If you would like to see the chateau and its museum, please email us.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Classic Car French for Beginners

One of the advantages in having a classic car is all the doors that open for us. The Citroën Traction Avant is an iconic car in France, and many people we meet when out and about have stories to tell or questions about the car.

We often attract a crowd
Just in case you are the person standing nearest the car when questions are asked, we have prepared some information to help you sound multilingual:

There is one question that is always asked, and that is:

"how old is it" : quelle âge a-t-elle - (kellarj-atell

"what year is it" : quelle année est-elle? - (kellannay etell

The easiest answer to both is
She is a 53 : elle est de 53 - (ellay desankon twa

We can't promise to make you perfectly bi-lingual but one or two well chosen phrases can help you feel more comfortable. As long as you remember to say "hello" to people and wish them a good day before saying "goodbye" you are well on the way to being seen as polite.

Grab a French phrasebook, then email us so that you can practice on some real French people

Friday, 11 February 2011

One of our favorites

We wrote a while ago about how Chenonceau is the number one requested place to visit by our clients. We can totally understand that: Chenonceau is the most iconic of the Loire châteaux, and is near the top of many people's list of places to see.

When we visit Chenonceau it gives us a chance to visit one of our favorite restaurants in the Loire Valley, and then after lunch to visit a château that many tours miss.

Montpoupon is one of the smaller châteaux, still family owned, and is furnished as if the family have just stepped out. Apart from the château there are the kitchens, and a hunting museum. It is one of the more easily photographed château (we have plenty of photos to prove that!) and many of our visitors have asked to have their photo taken outside the château with Célestine.

If you would like the opportunity to have your photo taken at Montpoupon, email us, and we will arrange a very special day for you.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Why we don't collect you in Paris

There are some tours which will collect you from your hotel in Paris, take you to the chateaux of the Loire Valley, and return you to Paris. We are not one of them.

It takes at least 2½ hours to drive from Paris to Tours by motorway. Using Célestine it might take three, or even four hours, depending on traffic. Usually our clients are with us for ten or eleven hours, which allows time for visiting a couple of chateau (and having time to explore), a decent lunch break, and a visit to a winery. Adding at least six hours to that would make a very long (and tiring) day.

We recommend to our visitors that they come to us using the French train system, more particularly the very fast train (TGV). This train travels from Paris Montparnasse to St Pierre des Corps (the main station for Tours) at 300km/h (186mph) and takes about an hour to do the trip. We can't book your rail tickets for you, but we will give you a handy guide to make the process easy. If you book early enough, the tickets can cost less than €20 per person each way.

If you would like to mix a 1950's car travel with a futuristic train trip, contact us.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Hounds at Cheverny

If you are a dog lover, one of the not to be missed châteaux in the Loire Valley is Cheverny.

This privately owned estate is home to a pack of magnificent anglo-french hounds with bloodlines going back many generations. Visitors can see them any time that the château is open, either at the kennels, or if they are lucky, out being exercised, when they swarm around their handlers, cheerfully lolloping through the grounds.

The dogs live communally in a large kennel. Mostly they just lounge around, like hounds anywhere, relaxing, taking a drink from the water trough, settling the odd dispute about hierachy and standing about looking noble for the tourists.

In the late afternoon the atmosphere in the kennels becomes restless, as feeding time approaches. Eventually a line of meat and kibble is laid out. Not a dog moves, but they all watch expectantly for the signal that they may start eating. The tension is almost unbearable! The signal is given and whoosh! Everything is gobbled down in less than a minute!

The visitors breath out, and head off to look at the fabulous interior of the château itself, the picturesque canalside gardens or the museum dedicated to the Tintin cartoons.

If you are a dog lover and would like to meet the hounds, why not get in touch with us? One of our standard day trips includes Cheverny, or we can design a tour especially for you.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Why we are called Loire Valley Time Travel

When you only have limited time to take a holiday it can be tempting to rush everything and see as much as possible. We understand that because we have done it ourselves: once you have paid for an air fare you want to get as much value from it as you can. This can mean rushing from tourist icon to tourist icon without stopping to look at what is in between and only finding out what you have missed when you get home.

At Loire Valley Time Travel we believe that even when you have limited time you need a day where you just relax and take in the view. After a couple of hectic days let someone else take the strain of organising a day and go with the flow. Our days are never rushed, because we plan so we aren't travelling great distances. We plan to visit one or two chateaux, depending on your interests, have a long, relaxed (i.e. typically French) lunch, visit a winery or food producer, and stop along the way to take in some of the history and countryside views that you could easily rush straight past.

We like to think that this is how our parents travelled when they took their vacations, so to add to the sense of travelling in the style of a previous era we use a car of the appropriate age. If you want to sample the way that a previous generation took their holidays, email us.