Friday, 11 December 2015

Travelling with Wine

Earlier this year we were contacted by Lazenne. They wanted to alert us to their existence and their products, which they felt would be a good fit for us and our clients. They supply packaging and specialist luggage for transporting wine if you are a private traveller. Amazingly products like this didn't really exist in France before. Recently we met the young couple who spotted the gap in the market and set up the business. Paul was born in Poland but grew up in Canada. He came to Lyon to study, met Bénédicte and never went home. Now they live in the Champagne-Ardenne and are working hard on expanding their business. We liked them and their products a lot. Although we don't think all our clients will use them we were certainly glad to know about them and we were immediately able to refer some clients to them. Bénédicte sent us the client's order, plus a polystyrene box for ourselves, and we can tell you that the client was very happy and Lazenne's service impeccable.

 An example of Lazenne's range of practical and smart wine luggage.
Many of our clients are worried about getting through customs with wine on their return home. Lazenne have written a handy instruction leaflet on how to do it. They point out it is perfectly possible to bring home several boxes of wine for personal consumption, and often worth it if you want some great value souvenirs of your trip. If you would like us to take delivery of some wine luggage or packaging prior to your Touraine Loire Valley tour email us and let us know. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Day Tours for Groups

We specialise in customised private tours of the Touraine Loire Valley for small groups. Our typical clients for a day tour are couples, but we can take more. Our cars are licenced to take 4 passengers each and we can take a maximum group size of 7 people if we use two classic cars in convoy. The cars have plenty of head and leg room, but with 3 people in the back seat we acknowledge that at least one of them has to be reasonably slender. Two adults and a teenager are normally fine, for example, but 3 mature and amply proportioned adults are going to find that hips and shoulders touch.

 Sharon and Tom from Minnesota, with their daughters and sons-in-law, 
enjoying a day with us at the Chateau of Chenonceau.
If you are coming to the Touraine Loire Valley with a group of friends or family and would like to tour with us, email us and we will give you all the details you will need to decide if you will be comfortable for a day's touring in our iconic classic cars.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Being Vegetarian in France

France has a reputation of not being vegetarian diet friendly. We have several French vegetarian friends and they would agree that restaurants are not very creative with vegetarian food and often not interested in catering for vegetarians. Our friends say that Vietnamese or Italian is the best choice if they are dining out and don't want to eat omelette. We think it's a real shame that vegetarians don't get to experience great local cuisine when they visit France. Luckily for our clients we also know terrific chefs who are only too happy to serve something delicious, seasonal and based on traditional French cuisine for our vegetarian clients.

 This plant-based risotto style dish made with spelt is based on an old local recipe.
If you are vegetarian (or have other dietary requirements, such as gluten free) let us know. We will talk to our restaurant partners to make sure you are served a tasty lunch made from local ingredients when you book a tour with us. Email us if you would like to experience French vegetarian cuisine. Warm goats cheese salad -- yum!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

A Different Way to Tour

Now that we have two classic Citroën Traction Avant cars and the occasional service of a second driver, it is possible for us to take larger groups on tour. These will still be private tours: just you and your family or friends, but travelling in groups of up to 7 people in two cars.

The response we recive from people whenever we park the cars next to one another is amazing, and the waves and headlight flashes we recive from other drivers makes the day feel even more special. Travelling in a 1950s convoy is a rare event, and one we would love to share.

Contact us for more details at

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Live Action Heritage Conservation

Heritage conservation work is going on all the time in the Touraine Loire Valley chateaux. These days the best practice approach is to ensure the visitors can see what is happening. It's used as a way of positively enhancing the experience rather than causing disappointment that an object is missing from its usual display spot.

The Rigaud portrait of Louis XIV being restored at Chenonceau.
We always rather enjoy the opportunity to take visitors to see conservators working. Our background means that we can explain exactly what is happening and how heritage conservation is managed so that these wonderful chateau will continue to be in a condition to receive visitors for generations to come.

If you are interested in this sort of behind the scenes aspect of presenting a chateau to the public email us and we will be sure to include opportunities to learn more in your Touraine Loire Valley tour with us.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Meet the Locals and Hear Their Stories in the Loire Valley

Because we know the area intimately we can take you to all sorts of places that you might not otherwise see. Along the way we will often talk to locals who know the story of what we have come to see.

For example, not many people outside the Touraine Loire Valley realise that the great American sculptor Alexander Calder lived for many years just outside a small village here. His house is now run by a foundation that provides a residency for young artists, and in the market square there is one of his standing mobiles.

Clients talking to a local in Saché.
If we are going in that direction we usually stop to admire the mobile, and our clients are amazed that, like many works of art in France, you can get right up close to it, with no barrier. Calder was a well known figure in the village and well within living memory. Sometimes a friendly local will approach us to tell us about the statue, which they are very proud of, and if we are lucky they will be someone who knew Calder personally. Then there are tales of drinking with the great man in the bar across the street.

If you like the idea of not just visiting the famous chateaux, but are open to serendipidous encounters, email us and book a tour. If nothing else, the iconic cars we use will ensure a conversation starts up somewhere we stop.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Where are the Loire Chateaux?

The Loire River is very long and many of the administrative districts along its length make reference to it. Several French départements (counties) have the word 'Loire' in their name, for example, the one where we are based, which is Indre et Loire. The départements are grouped together into Regions. You would think that the Region in which the UNESCO World Heritage area is situated along with the most famous of the Loire Valley chateau would have been called something sensible which gave international visitors some clue when they were researching their holiday.

Curiously though, the Region was called Centre until the beginning of this year -- an anonymous name that was completely unhelpful to visitors who were not familiar with French geography. Happily, after considerable argument in administrative circles, we are now part of the Centre-Val de Loire Region. So if you are wanting to visit the chateaux of the Loire, search for them in Centre-Val de Loire. (Insider tip: also use the name of the old province in this area, Touraine, which is what many local people still use for this area.)

And if you really want to get the best from visiting the chateaux, email us and ask us to custom design a tour of your favourite Loire Valley chateaux.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Visiting Goat Cheese Producers in the Touraine Loire Valley

If your dream holiday is to get dressed up in silly hats, coats and overshoes, get to taste lots of goats cheese and talk to French cheesemakers, then we can help you!

Amie and Marc, goat farmers and cheese producers 
from Michigan at Fromagerie Moreau Pontlevoy.
If you are interested in French goat cheeses we can include a visit to a producer in your customised tour. It can be as simple as popping into a farm shop on our way to a chateau and sampling some local cheese, or it can be a full farm visit where we see the goats, dairy and aging rooms (and you have to wear the silly outfit...). If your interest extends to French cheeses in general, we can visit a specialist cheese refiner who takes cheese from all over and ages them until they are at their peak of perfection. Or we could visit a winery that is co-owned by a cheese merchant and have him make a selection of local specialities that we pair with his wine.

Email us and tell us you love cheese. We'll make sure to include some in your tour.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Ready to Go!!

We are just about to start tours for 2015, a sure sign that spring has arrived.

Both cars have had attention over winter: Claudette now has new shock absorbers and engine mounts (and is ultra smooth), whilst Célestine has just had some minor maintenance: a tune up and oil change.

This means that we are all ready to go exploring, and revisiting some of our favorite spots as well.

If you would like to come exploring with us send an email and you may be surprised by what we suggest including beyond the romantic chateaux.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Something Special that Our Clients Never See

Why would we not show you something special? Well of course we would if we could, but this is an event that happens too early in the year for us to be taking clients. It's something we get really excited about though, because it heralds the arrival of Spring and a new season of meeting new clients that we can introduce to the Touraine Loire Valley that we love.

What is the event we look forward to so much? It's the arrival of the cranes, migrating up from their wintering grounds in Spain to their breeding grounds in northern Europe. Every year in late February, early March they fly right across our house in the southern Touraine and every year, without fail, we rush outside to take photos. Our hearts lift to hear the cranes honking and yodelling to one another as they pass, huge graceful birds that enrich our lives.

We may not be able to share the flight of the cranes with you, but there are many more wonderful things that we would be delighted to include in your itinerary. Email us and see what we suggest.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Visiting the Chateau of Chenonceau

900 000 visitors a year can't be wrong -- Chenonceau is the most popular of all the Touraine Loire Valley Chateau. That sounds like a lot of visitors, but compare it to the Palace of Versailles, which gets between 6 and 7 million visitors a year, and you will quickly realise that Chenonceau is rarely so crowded as to be unpleasant. The picture below was taken on a lovely July day this year, and you can see that there is hardly anyone in the garden at all (and we promise we didn't photoshop the image!)

If you would like to visit this most iconic of Touraine Loire Valley chateaux, email us and we will include it in your itinerary.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Snow in the Touraine Loire Valley

We are often asked if it snows here in the Touraine Loire Valley. The answer is yes, it does, usually in February. Some years it's just a light powdering on a couple of days, other years we get 15cm coverage for two weeks and the temperature doesn't go above 0°C. When it does that it is beautiful, but picturesque as it is, we can't show it to you except in photos on the blog.

The river in our village in the southern Touraine, iced over in February.
Our tour vehicles are old enough to need a little pampering. They stay tucked up in their garage over winter and don't get exposed to the salt and ice. It's safer that way and they can be kept in working order for many years to come.

But don't be downhearted! The Touraine Loire Valley is beautiful at any time of year and we are here to create an itinerary for you that will delight you with the best the area can offer throughout the warmer months. Email us and you may be surprised by what we suggest including beyond the romantic chateaux.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Beauty and the Beast

One of the wineries we regularly visit has a collection of vintage cars, so we fit in really well. One day we visited and the winemaker was struggling to start his delivery van, a classic Citroen H model (below with Claudette, one of our tour vehicles). We were delighted to be able to pass on a tip that works on our tour vehicles, which are classic Citroen Traction Avants. Believe it or not, our tour vehicles and the delivery van have the same motor, even if the exteriors vary somewhat (!)

If you are interested in French classic or vintage cars email us and let us chaffeur you around in one of the most iconic of them all. We can organise to visit other classic car enthusiasts too, who just happen to be winemakers, chefs or run chateaux open to the public.

Friday, 16 January 2015

1000 Years Old and Shaped the Modern World

Historian and author Ian Mortimer has a new book out. It's called 'Centuries of Change' and to publicise it he wrote an article for the Guardian newspaper entitled 'The 10 Greatest Changes of the Past 1000 Years'. We were thrilled to see that the very first item on the list was 'Castles' and illustrated by a Lansyer painting of Loches.

The castle keep at Loches (above) was built in the early 11th century, and is the first of its kind in France. We love Loches, and although it's not so well known to visitors as the Renaissance chateaux in the Touraine Loire Valley, we encourage our clients to see it. Whilst you are there, take advantage of the buzzing twice weekly market in the town and don't miss the medieval royal apartments. You even can pop in to Lansyer's former home and see the originals of his beautifully rendered views of the town and citadel. Loches is one of the best preserved late medieval and renaissance towns you will find, with not a modern building within sight in the old centre of town.

If you would like to visit this secret gem of a town, email us and we will include it in your customised itinerary.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Meet Bernard, Who Drives For Us

This is Bernard. He's a retired chef who grew up in the Touraine Loire Valley. We are delighted to have him join us as part of the team at Loire Valley Time Travel, and we are impressed by his obvious rapport with our clients, despite the fact that he doesn't speak English. If for some reason Simon is unable to drive you, Bernard will be your chauffeur. It's the perfect job for him, as he loves Traction Avant cars, history and good food. Working for us he gets all three things in one day. He's in heaven, and you will be too if you take a tour with us. Email us and book your tour now.