Countries France Amboise Cultural Tours

Nantes and the Loire Valley Chateaux

Thomas Abbott
Thomas Abbott is an independent art and architectural historian. He graduated in Psychology and Art History at Carleton College, Minnesota, and studied his Masters at the Louvre School of Art History in Paris. He is a specialist in architectural history from the Baroque to the 20th century. He has a been a resident of Berlin since 1987 and has successfully led cultural tours for many years across Europe.
What's included...
  • Return flights from Southampton to Rennes
  • 1 night at the 4-star Okko Nantes Chateau Hotel
  • 6 nights at the 4-star Hotel Le Choiseul in Amboise
  • A wine and local delicacy tasting at Chateau de Miniere
  • Dinner on the first night
  • Luxury coach transport throughout
  • The services of your tour lecturer, Tom Abbott, throughout
Le Choiseul
Getting about
Participants should be reasonably fit. There is a significant amount of
walking, standing and use of stairs.
Many famous names from history have lived in Amboise. It was home to Mary, Queen of Scots for much of her early life. Many people are surprised to discover that  Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his life in Amboise. Rumour has is that Leonardo died in the arms of King Francis I and he was buried in a crypt near the Chateau d'Amboise.
The majestic Royal Chateau at Blois has had a colourful history. In 1429, Joan of Arc made Blois her base of operations for the relief of Orléans. Joan of Arc rode the thirty-five miles on Wednesday 29 April to Blois to relieve Orléans. After his captivity in England, Charles of Orléans in 1440 took up his residence in the château, where in 1462 his son, afterwards Louis XII, was born. In the 16th century, Blois was often the country retreat of the French court. The Treaty of Blois, which temporarily halted the Italian Wars, was signed there in 1504–1505.
Richard I of England, the Lionheart, was born in England, where he spent his childhood; before becoming king. However, he lived most of his adult life in the Duchy of Aquitaine, in the southwest of France. Following his accession, he spent very little time, perhaps as little as six months, in England. Most of his life as king was spent on Crusade. He is buried in the Abbaye de Font, part of him at least. Richard's heart was buried at Rouen in Normandy, his entrails in Châlus (where he died), and the rest of his body at the feet of his father at Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou!
The Machines of the Isle of Nantes (Les Machines de l'île) is an artistic, touristic and cultural project based in Nantes, France. The mechanical elephant (2007) is 12 meters high and 8 meters wide, made from 45 tons of wood and steel. It can take up to 49 passengers for a 45-minute walk. It is a non-exact replica of The Sultan's Elephant from Royal de Luxe. The Marine Worlds Carrousel is a huge carousel, rising nearly 25m high and measuring 20m in diameter. It features 35 moving underwater creatures on three levels: the ocean floor, the depths, and sea and boats. Visitors can move about amidst a ballet of aquatic animals and sea carriages, as well as climb aboard and guide the movements of the Machines. That's not all ....

The following chateaux are included in the itinerary, providing a real taste of the breadth of styles of architecture, interior furnishings and landscaping that they feature:

 • Château d’Amboise  • Château du Clos Luce, Amboise • Château de Blois • Château de Chenonceau • Château de Chambord • Château de Chaumont • Château de Chinon r • Château de Miniere  • Château de Villandry • Château d’Usse • 
Nantes, on the River Loire, has been a port as far back as the Roman era and there are remains of the Roman walls visible today. In 1964, it was twinned with Cardiff, along with a number of twin-cities since. Nantes then became the primary residence of the 15th-century dukes of Brittany, who left their imprint on the city through their patronage of art and architecture. Today, the cathedral in which Francis II and his wife are buried, and the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, enclose the pretty medieval centre of the city with its half-timbered houses. Within the Fine Arts Museum there are works by famous painters; Tintoretto, Brueghel, Rubens, Georges de La Tour, Ingres, Monet, Picasso, Kandinsky and Anish Kapoor.

Lying further along the Loire Valley, we find the world-famous chateaux. Many of these chateaux were built on top of, or developed out of, much earlier castles from the 11th century. Even when Francis I moved the centre of French power back to Paris, royalty continued to spend the bulk of their time in the Loire valley where they renovated or built these outstanding examples of French Renaissance architecture. Their gardens incorporate designs of the French, English and Italian, which we will enjoy on our visits. Inside, they are a veritable treasure chest of outstanding Belgian tapestries, paintings by Old Masters and furniture from Louis XV. These chateaux tell the story of the rise and fall of the French aristocracy, of the jealousies of Catherine de’Medici, of royal mistresses such as Diane of Poitiers and of the kings of France themselves.  We also take time to visit a one-thousand-year-old abbey, where we can see the tomb of Richard the Lionheart.

This Sapienza Travel tour curated for the Victorian Society of Wales will delight and thrill you as you learn about the people and places who shaped much of France’s history.
Following the coach transfer from Cardiff to Southampton airport, we board our FlyBe flight to Rennes. We then transfer to the luxurious four-star Okko Nantes Chateau hotel in Nantes which is close to all the major attractions. We then dine together in a local restaurant a short stroll from the hotel. 
After breakfast, we spend the morning in the recently re-opened Musée d’Arts de Nantes. The museum’s foundation started with the collection of Francoise Cacault which contained over 1,000 paintings. Among the paintings on show are works by masters including Perugino, Orazio Gentileschi, Georges de la Tour and Jean-Antoine Watteau. The 19thC is represented by Courbet and Rodin, while there are works from modern painters including Monet and Kandinsky. There is then time to visit Nantes Cathedral which took nearly 460 years to complete. The afternoon is spent at the Les Machins d’île with the magnificent productions from the imaginations of François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice’s. We then drive to Amboise arriving in the evening.
Having had breakfast, we drive to Château de Meung which is one of the oldest and largest chateau in the Loire valley and was the country home of the Bishop of Orleans. In 1429 Joan of Arc liberated it from the English. We then drive to Château du Chambord, the largest in the Loire Valley and a prime example of French Renaissance architecture, its style becoming the definition of a ‘Loire chateau’. Despite its enormous size it was built as a hunting lodge for King Francis I of France. The château features 128 meters of façade, more than 800 sculpted columns and an elaborately decorated roof. We then return to Amboise for an evening at leisure.
In the morning, we spend tim me at Chateau de Cheverny, used as inspiration by the author of Tintin for his fictional Chateau de Moulinsart. The chateau is rich with paintings and tapestries. The Chambre du Roi, hung with five Paris tapestries after designs by Simon Vouet, representing the story of Ulysses. King Henri II gave Chateau de Cheverny to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. However, she preferred Chateau de Chenonceau, it is there that we arrive in time for lunch. This beautiful chateau is built over the River Cher. On Henri’s death, his wife, Catherine de’Medici, forced Diane out and into Chateau de Chaumont. Chenonceau became Catherine’s favourite residence on which she lavished large sums of money, in particular, creating a beautiful garden which can be viewed today. When then return to Amboise.
This morning we spend time at Chatea de Chaumont with its extraordinary collection of outstanding tapestries that can be viewed in the suite of historical and private apartments within the chateau. The garden is designed in the English style and during our visit there will be an international flower show. The afternoon is spent in Amboise, the burial site of Leonardo da Vinci in the Chapelle St Hubert. We visit Leonardo’s home of Le Chateau Clos Luce as well as the majestic Chateau d’Amboise.
After breakfast, we drive to Blois, to visit its royal chateau. Blois was home to many French kings and was also where Joan of Arc was blessed by the Bishop of Reims. The chateau has over 550 rooms with 1000 bedrooms, all of them have a fireplace. The chateau houses a fine art museum containing works by famous names such as Ingres, Rubens and Boucher. Later in the day, allowing time for personal exploration in Blois, we return to Tours and explore its cathedral which is a mix of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture. There is also time to visit the Musee de Beaux-Arts before returning to Amboise.
Today, we depart for Sleeping Beauty’s castle or Le Chateau d’Usse which was the inspiration for Charles Perrault’s tale. The castle also inspired Walt Disney. In the early 19thC, it was the hotbed for those plotting the Bourbon Restoration. Today, the chateau is owned by the Duke of Blacas. Inside is a beautiful collection of Louis XV furniture, of historic costumes and wonderful tapestries. The gardens were designed by the King’s Gardner, who designed those at Versailles. There is the opportunity to explore the chapel, the stables and go down into the dungeons. Then to another chateau, this time for a wine-tasting experience and to sample local specialities (bread, charcuterie and goat-cheese) at Chateau de Miniere, one of the preeminent vineyards in the Bourgeuil. Afterwards,  we drive to Chateau de Villandry which is especially known for its beautiful gardens, before returning to Amboise.
An early check-out of the hotel before we drive to the Abbaye de Fontevraid which is one the largest and oldest surviving monasteries in France, dating to 1101. In 1189, Fontevraud became a royal necropolis, housing the tombs of Henry 2nd, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart. We depart for Rennes airport, arriving in Southampton at 3.15pm, for the onward coach transfer to Cardiff.
Sapienza Travel has booked the same category of rooms for all guests. Please contact us if you would like a quote for a higher category of room.

Travel advice - Please refer the Foreign Office's website to make sure you are comfortable with the travel advice they provide for the destination(s) you are visiting. 

Activity level - Our tours involve a lot of walking, climbing stairs and standing still for periods of time. The historic centres of cities are often uneven and cobbled requiring everyone to be confident walking across them.

Prices - 2 sharing £1,395 per person   Single occupancy £1,595 

Please, contact us if you have different flight requirements.
Thomas Abbott
Thomas Abbott is an independent art and architectural historian. He graduated in Psychology and Art History at Carleton College, Minnesota, and studied his Masters at the Louvre School of Art History in Paris. He is a specialist in architectural history from the Baroque to the 20th century. He has a been a resident of Berlin since 1987 and has successfully led cultural tours for many years across Europe.
Le Choiseul
The beautiful four-star Hotel Le Choiseul in Amboise is the perfect place to stay for our Loire Valley tour.

Three 16th and 18th-century houses nestle together by the River Loire at the foot of the ramparts of Amboise Castle. Enclosed in Italian-style gardens, that skirt troglodyte caves, Le Choiseul promises an historical experience in an exceptional location. 

A blend of period architecture with bright floral décor in light and airy rooms create an atmosphere of relaxation at Le Choiseul. Sit on the sunny garden terrace and enjoy the delightful gardens with a collection of original Italian sculptures.

Stroll the grounds and explore nearby Amboise and its castle. Cruise along the River Loire, visit the vineyards of the Tours region or take a chateaux tour. However, you spend your time here, be sure to return for dinner in Le Choiseul’s restaurant where you can savour traditional cuisine overlooking the Loire River.
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