Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Taste a New Wine

One of our favourite wineries, Chateau Gaudrelle, has announced they will be offering a new wine from the end of the year. Alexandre, the owner and winemaker, tells us it is 100% chenin blanc, light, elegant and drinkable.

If you want to be one of the first to taste le Petit Chenin No11, email us and we will design a tour that includes a visit to Chateau Gaudrelle. You will get to see the winemakers at work as well as taste the remarkable range of Vouvray wines made here.And don't forget -- all tours booked and paid for before the end of March 2013 are at 2012 prices.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Getting to the Loire is Easy

The Loire Valley makes an easy day trip from Paris. The TGV (high speed train) delivers a reliable and well priced service. It only takes an hour from Paris Montparnasse to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (Tours). We meet about half of our clients at the station in Tours, and the train trip becomes part of the holiday adventure. We make sure our clients have full instructions for buying tickets and it all works very smoothly. They comment on how comfortable the train is and admire the way Europeans travel domestically by train as a matter of course. It's all part of having an authentic experience.

If you want a guided tour of the Loire Valley, but don't want to sit on a coach for hours before you even get here, email us and we will design the visit of your dreams. And don't forget -- all tours booked and paid for before the end of March 2013 are at 2012 prices.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Green Rules OK

Spring weather can be unpredictable, with a mixture of warm sun and cool overcast days. The cooler spring weather gives plants a chance to show what green can do. Flowers are slow coming, but in a well designed garden it doesn't matter.

Later in the year this planting scheme will be blood
red and electric blue, but in early May, green rules.
At La Chatonniere in May 2012 Mme Azéroual, wife of the head gardener, who meets and greets visitors at the gate, apologised that not much was in flower because the spring had been unusually cool. Rather than being disappointing though, what strikes you is how good the planting scheme really is. All those different greens and different leaf shapes and textures form eye pleasing patterns quite as effectively as multicoloured flowers do.

If you would like to get ideas for planting schemes from some great Loire Valley gardens, email us and we will create a plant and garden filled tour just for you.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Price Freeze

Good news! Even as the price of fuel skyrockets we have decided to hold our prices at their 2012 level until the end of March 2013.

This means that if you book and pay in full for your tour before 31 March, you will pay 2012 prices, no matter what dates in 2013 your tour is scheduled.Of course, the earlier you book, the better your chance of getting the dates you really want.  It also helps us to plan our year and we think it only fair to reward the early birds.

If you are coming to France in 2013 and want a chance to see the famous chateaux, eat in restaurants with the locals and visit boutique wineries where you will be greeted by the winemaker him/herself, email us and book a tour soon.

Friday, 12 October 2012

See the Wine Being Made

At Loire Valley Time Travel we visit wineries all year round. We choose small producers who really care about the quality of their product and we work with them to create a great visitor experience. Because we know them well, we can be sure of a welcome even during really busy times like the harvest. Clients Debbie and Bret, from Miami, Florida, were fascinated to encounter a winery in full harvest processing mode with us. They said they had been to lots of wineries but had never been to one where you were allowed to get up close to the real work of winemaking.

In the photo they are talking to Charles from the winery about how the grapes are pressed. The big trailer is full of grapes ready to be sorted and lifted up into the pneumatic press behind. The vineyard needs to do this as quickly as possible to maintain the purity of the juice, so it was all hands on deck the day we visited. Later on in the visit we tasted the delicious juice from grapes that were harvested and crushed the day before and would made into sparkling wine. A real seasonal treat!

If you are interested in behind the scenes at a winery, email us and we will design a tour that includes some of our favourite wineries and winemakers.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Relax and Enjoy

We thought this was such a lovely photo of Sara and PJ, who live in Nashville, that we wanted to share it on the blog. They both have high pressure responsible jobs, but really enjoyed relaxing with us in the Loire Valley.

Would you like to stay in a charming and comfortable chateau hotel and be picked up in the morning for a day or two of being chauffeured through the picturesque and historic Loire countryside? We will take you visiting chateaux both famous and little known, with a winery to round off the day in the evening. Email us if this sounds like your sort of break.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

French Potagers

The French potager style of garden is famous all over the world. In many of the big chateaux gardens it is not a humble vegetable garden at all, but an intricate piece of living design that just happens to be created out of edible plants.

The potager at La Chatonniere.
The really famous one is at Villandry, and it is a master class in horticulture and garden design. Nearby is La Chatonniere, created by Ahmed Azéroual after he left Villandry 20 years ago. Here the resources are not so great, and the gardening style somewhat more relaxed. Nevertheless, the potager at La Chatonniere is gorgeous. The planting is simpler, with fewer varieties of bedding being used, but the effect is magnificent all the same. It also makes you realise that you could achieve the look in your own home garden.

If you want to garner ideas for your own garden, email us and we will take you to the sorts of places that inspire us.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

More Than Just Winetasting

When you visit a winery with us you get to meet the winemaker and other winery staff who are totally committed to making the best wine they can. They are passionate about their craft and love to have visitors who are interested in all aspects of the winemaking business.

Christophe talking about cabernet franc.
For example, if you want a quick lesson on how to tell different grape varieties apart in the field, Christophe, one of the winemakers we visit regularly is very happy to oblige. Along the winery wall he has planted examples of the grape varieties he uses. As someone who is the 6th generation of his family to be winemaking, he is an expert in ampelography, as the science of classifying grape varieties is known, but he has the knack of teaching you a few simple principles to help you name the grapevines.

If you are interested in learning more about winemaking in the Loire Valley, email us and we will arrange to visit a small family run winery as part of your tour. Don't forget, any booking made for the first two weeks of September 2012 is 5% off.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Back to School Special

July and August have been busy busy busy, with the Loire Valley being the focus of many peoples' summer holiday. The new school year starts at the beginning of September, so from then all of the sights will be quieter and less crowded. This means that if you visit in September you will get a better view of some of the iconic attractions of France, the roads will be quieter, and the locals even more relaxed than usual.

This is good news for us, and also good news for anyone travelling with us - but it gets better!

Visit in late September and the
sunflowers may still be showing off.
To celebrate we are offering a 5% discount on all tours taken in the first two weeks of September 2012. Email us now to take advantage of this offer.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Garden Tours

If you are a gardener, Loire Valley Time Travel can design a tour that will satisfy your urge to spend time in gardens, with gardeners. Your guide/escort is a botanist and keen gardener who can point out unusual planting schemes or tell you the name of unfamiliar plants that take your eye.

Even after a hard winter the gardens at La Chatonniere
bounce back in the spring.
We like to speak with the owners or gardeners at the chateau so we can pass on their tips for how they approach working in the formal French style. At places like La Chatonniere, where the head gardener has 40 years experience of gardening in the Loire Valley, and made his name first at Villandry, there are many ideas for the private garden.

Whatever the season, the best Loire gardens have something to offer. If you are a gardener and would like to see the best of the gardens in 'the Garden of France', email us and we will design a tour that takes in gardens large and small, famous and off the beaten track.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Our First Proposal of Marriage

Recently a young man contacted us, saying he wanted to create a special day in order to propose to his girlfriend. He said that she would be expecting a proposal, but wanted to find a beautiful and romantic setting to pop the question. Needless to say, we thought this was a lovely idea and offered an itinerary that included the wonderful but little visited Chateau de Candé, where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were married, and the fabulous gardens of Villandry, full of private little nooks and crannies ideal for a romantic tryst.

At Candé we had fun with the clients, recreating this
picture of Edward and Mrs Simpson in the exact
spot the original was taken.
The clients adored Villandry, and after strolling through the potager, asked to be left on their own for a while. We were delighted to make ourselves scarce and half an hour later the happy couple emerged - engaged! The next stop was our favourite Vouvray winery, where they received a complimentary bottle of bubbly after their tasting session.

If you want to plan a special day in the Loire Valley, email us and tell us what you would like. We will be delighted to help you create a day to remember.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Sunflower Season

Lots of clients tell us that one of their hopes for their day in the Loire Valley is to see fields of golden sunflowers. They've usually been told that July is the season for the glorious sunflower fields stretching to the horizon. This is true, but not for the first week of July, and occasionally we get someone who has booked just that little bit early, only to be disappointed. It's sad.

Célestine by a field of sunflowers.
But anyone who books for the last 3 weeks of July or the first week of August is guaranteed a treat. The sunflowers will be out and proud!

If you want to see the sunflowers in all their glory, email us and let us design a tour that meanders from chateau to chateau through sunlit yellow fields.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Put Yourself in This Picture

So far 2012 has been an excellent year for us: we have met many interesting people from all over the world, some of them being kind enough to write about their experiences on TripAdvisor.

Unfortunately, being busy means we have had to disappoint some of the people who have contacted us as we already had bookings for the dates they were looking at. We have a policy at Loire Valley Time Travel of not accepting bookings for every day of the week: this keeps both of us and Célestine fresh and in good condition to make your day with us special for everyone involved.

Put yourself in this picture
We have also encountered the situation where people have contacted us regarding tours for two days, then not been able to find accommodation in the area. This was most noticeable with enquiries made for May and August.

The solution to both these issues is to book early. As a reward for helping us plan our year, all 2013 tours booked and paid for before the end of March 2013 are available at 2012 prices.

You don't need to wait until 2013, though: we do still have dates available for the rest of 2012, so please do not hesitate to contact us via our email or the telephone: you can call us on our US number +1 (860) 484-7744, UK +44 (020) 3286 7743 or our Australian number +61 (02) 6100 7744.

Friday, 8 June 2012

By Train to the Loire Valley

At Loire Valley Time Travel we believe that most people would prefer to spend their day touring chateaux in beautiful countryside than sitting in a car on a freeway style motorway where there is very little scenery. That is one of the reasons we do not collect people from Paris, but rather provide instructions on how to book tickets for travel to Tours by the TGV.

This means that instead of sitting in a car for 4 hours at 50 miles an hour, you are in the train for 1 hour - at up to 186 miles an hour. From there, we meet you at the station and your day relaxing in the Loire Valley starts.

If you would like a day which combines modern high speed trains, classic cars, and renaissance chateaux, email us for more details.

Friday, 1 June 2012

So Much More to See

When you book a day tour with Loire Valley Time Travel we take every opportunity to show you something you may never have considered as part of a Loire Valley tour.

When the tour outline says "Chenonceau and Montpoupon" they are the main attractions, but along the way you will see a prehistoric burial chamber, and hear stories of derring-do by the French Resistance during World War II. On other tours we might pop in to a church over 1200 years old, visit a cheese maker, or stroll along a row of almost forgotten troglodyte caves. Last month some of our clients got to see wild orchids growing by the roadside, as well.

Prehistory in the middle a field
in the Loire Valley, May 2012
Add to this our well researched choice of restaurants and you will start to feel the benefit of touring the area with people who live here and have daily contact with the local people and their stories.

If you would like to see more in the Loire Valley than just "chateaux and wines" email us for more information.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

10% Off offer ends soon

We currently are offering 10% off all 2012 tours booked and paid for before the end of May. This means you only have five days left to book and pay for your tour of the Loire Valley and take advantage of this offer.

So far this year we have been busy, but we still have some availability left for most weeks over summer. To book and take advantage of the 10% offer, email us before the end of this month.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

A Bulb Lawn

For those of you who visit in the early spring there is a treat at La Chatonniere. The lawn which stretches down the valley from the front of the house is planted with bulbs. They reveal an intricate design laid out amongst the grass.

The bulb lawn in May.
Gardeners who visit slightly later in the year, when the daffodils and jonquils have finished flowering but the leaves are still there gathering sunlight to create next year's flowers, will appreciate the clever way the garden is presented. The lawn is mowed, but the daffodil leaves are left to form a pattern reminiscent of cut velvet. The high terrace on the slope above the house becomes the perfect viewing platform.

If you would like to see this and other clever design ideas in Loire Valley gardens, email us and we will create a tour full of vegetation!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

A Good Reason to Visit in the Low Season

A lot of important conservation work at chateaux takes place between the end of September and the beginning of April. Far from spoiling your visit, this can often enhance it. You can see close up the detailed work of repairing and maintaining these priceless buildings and their contents. Sometimes the conservator is even happy to talk about his or her work and can provide fascinating behind the scenes facts about how a decorative element was made or the particular problems of caring for certain objects.

Refreshing the 17th century painted panels at Cheverny.
October and March are ideal times to visit if you are interested in how the chateaux are cared for. Visitor numbers are low, but the weather is often mild - just the sort of time delicate conservation work will be scheduled. After all you can't do precision work with frozen hands, and many old fashioned materials cannot be used when it is too cold.

If you are interested in the behind the scenes management of historic monuments email us and ask about tours in the spring or autumn. We can't guarantee you will get to talk to a conservator, but we will do our best to give you an idea of what goes in to the care of the wonderful Loire chateaux.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Chenonceau Revealed

After a marathon 3 year project to clean and stabilise the exterior of the chateau, Chenonceau is at last completely free of scaffolding. We will be delighted to introduce you to this magnificent building with its equally magnificent interior and fabulous history. Open every day of the year it is deservedly the most popular of the Loire chateaux.

Chenonceau photographed in late March 2012.
If you yearn to see this most romantic of chateau at its best, email us and enquire about a day trip that includes a visit here.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Cheverny, Moulinsart and Marlinspike Hall

What is the connection between these three places? Well if you are a Tintin fan, I am sure you will know that they are all the same place. The Belgian cartoonist Hergé, who created the Tintin stories, based Captain Haddock's chateau of Moulinsart (Marlinspike Hall in the English translations) on the central block of the chateau of Cheverny.

The beautiful 17th century chateau of Cheverny is one of our favourites. Not only are we big Tintin fans - the cartoons are a really fun way to improve your French language comprehension - but the chateau has all sorts of other delights for the visitor. There's the famous pack of hunting hounds, who lap up all the attention they get from dog loving visitors. Then there is the fact that the chateau is one of the very few which retains its authentic and original interior - a lavish extravaganza of gold and decorative detail. On top of all that, the grounds and gardens are absolutely lovely and immaculately maintained. We think there is something for everyone here.

We love Cheverny, and if you think you would too, why not email us and ask about a tour that includes a visit to the chateau?

Monday, 12 March 2012

A Fine Place to Be

We have often said that sitting in the back of Célestine is like sitting on a comfortable sofa. In a world full of coincidence, this isn't just marketing speak: Célestine's back seat is the same dimensions as an Ikea 2 seater sofa.

If you would like to see the Loire Valley from the comfort of a sofa, contact us. Don't forget, any 2012 booking fully paid for before 31st May qualifies for a 10% discount.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Preparing for Spring

The gardens at Chenonceau are magnificent, with meticulously maintained formal gardens dedicated to Diane de Poitiers on one side and Catherine de Medici on the other. In mid autumn the gardeners thoughts turn to the next spring. Bulbs are ordered and bedding plants planned. The summer planting is pulled out and the planting for spring begun. By April these beds will be full of colour.

Making sure the edges are just so.
Every year 130 000 bedding plants are used in Catherine de Medici's garden alone, and the planting scheme changed twice yearly around the structural planting of standard pink roses and clipped lavender and box. All of the plants used are raised on in the chateau grounds, and we can visit the working gardens which supply seedlings for the flower beds, vegetables for the restaurant and flowers for the fabulous arrangements in each room of the chateau, as well as the gorgeous ornamental gardens and landscaped grounds.

If you love gardens and would like to combine gardens, history and art in a tour, email us and we will arrange a tour that will delight you. Don't forget, if you book and pay for your 2012 tour before the end of May you receive a 10% discount.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Essential Maintenance

Maintaining a chateau like Chenonceau is an endless task. The limestone used to construct it is soft enough to cut with a hand saw and the rain and frost eventually takes its toll. Last year the western (downstream) side of the chateau was cleaned and repaired. The windows were checked for soundness and stones were replaced where necessary. This was part of a huge undertaking that has been going on for more than two years, but the end result - a beautiful chateau that will outlast its thousands of visitors and still be there for their grandchildren to enjoy - is definitely worth it, even if you see some scaffolding temporarily.

Luckily the work will be finished this year and the scaffolding will come down. If you would like to see Chenonceau in all its pristine glory, email us and let us design a tour for you. Don't forget, if you book and pay for your 2012 tour before the end of May you receive a 10% discount.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Start with a Buffet

Some of the restaurants we use on our tours offer a self-service buffet. You can help yourself to a range of charcuterie (cured meats), salads and condiments. It is very common to encounter the buffet in relais (French truckstop restaurants) but it is becoming less and less common for the buffet selection to be made in house or by local artisans. Sadly even in France, restaurants are resorting to bulk packed centrally sourced dishes.

Naturally, we choose restaurants that offer tasty, well presented and freshly prepared buffet dishes. The buffets are so generous and delicious it's easy to pile too much on your plate and you hardly need the equally generous main course, the cheese and the little touch of sweetness in a creme caramel or an ile flottante to finish.

If you want to experience good quality local restaurants, email us and we will take you somewhere friendly and comfortable that you might not find on your own. Don't forget, if you book and pay for your 2012 tour before the end of May you receive a 10% discount.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Book Early for 10% Off!

A reminder that we are offering a 10% discount for all 2012 tours booked and paid for by the end of May.

Booking before you leave home means that you won't be disappointed when you phone and find we are already busy on the day you wish to have a tour. We have a few dates left in April and May but they are filling fast.

Remember: the 10% discount applies no matter when your 2012 tour is - as long as you book and pay before the end of May. Email us now to take advantage of this offer.