Countries France Tours Cultural Tours

The Loire Valley Chateaux

with
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 Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord
  • 6 nights at the 4-star Oceania Univers Hotel
  • 5 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 3 dinners (lunch and dinner with wine, water and coffee)
  • Luxury coach transport throughout
  • The services of your tour lecturer, Tom Abbott, throughout
  • All chateaux, church and gallery entry fees
  • All tips and taxes
  • A tour headset to better hear the lecturer
Hotel
Oceania L'Univers Tours
Getting about
Participants should be reasonably fit. There is a significant amount of walking, standing and use of stairs.
Highlights
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.
Chateau Clos du Luce, 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.
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 • Château de Blois • Château de Chenonceau • Château de Chambord • Château de Chaumont  • Château de Villandry • Château d’Usse  
Chateau d'Usse
Tours became the capital of the county of Tours or Touraine, territory bitterly disputed between the counts of Blois and Anjou – the latter were victorious in the 11th century. It was the capital of France at the time of Louis XI, who had settled in the castle of Montils. Tours and Touraine remained, until the 16th century, a permanent residence of the Kings of France and their court.
Lying 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 the kings of France themselves. 

The hotel is in Tours sits on the lower reaches of the River Loire. Tours became the capital of the county of Tours or Touraine, territory bitterly disputed between the counts of Blois and Anjou – the latter were victorious in the 11th century. It was the capital of France at the time of Louis XI, who had settled in the castle of Montils. Tours and Touraine remained, until the 16th century, a permanent residence of the Kings of France and their court.

The city is famous for its original medieval district, called le Vieux Tours. Unique to the Old City are its preserved half-timbered buildings and la Place Plumereau, a square with busy pubs and restaurants, whose open-air tables fill the centre of the square. The Boulevard Beranger crosses the Rue Nationale at the Place Jean-Jaures and is the location of weekly markets and fairs. The inhabitants of Tours (Les Tourangeaux) were renowned for speaking the "purest" form of French in the entire country. As their accent was that of the court, the pronunciation of Touraine was traditionally regarded as the most standard pronunciation of the French language, until the 19th century when the standard pronunciation of French shifted to that of Parisian bourgeoisie. 

This Sapienza Travel tour will delight and thrill you as you learn about the people and places who shaped much of France’s history.
Depart London at 7.55am by Eurostar to Paris, onwards to Château de Chambord, the largest in the Loire Valley and a prime example of French Renaissance architecture, its style becoming the definition of a ‘Loire Château’. 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. Then to Tours, to check-in to the hotel Oceania Univers and enjoy dinner together.
In the morning, we spend time 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. 
This morning we spend time at Chateau 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.
Today is spent in the majestic city of Tours, first visiting the Fine Arts Museum to see its outstanding collection of works by Andrea Mantegna, Antonio Vivarini, Giovanni Battista Moroni, Mattia Preti, François Boucher,  Ingres, Eugène Delacroix, Edgar Degas and Claude Monet. The collection of Flemish and Dutch painting presents works by artists such as Rubens (Virgin and Child), Rembrandt, Frans II Francken, Gerard ter Borch, Bartholomeus van der Helst and David Teniers the Younger. There are sculptures by Jean-Antoine Houdon, Auguste Rodin, Antoine Bourdelle and Alberto Giacometti.

Tours cathedral dates from as early as 1170. The chancel was rebuilt from 1236 to 1279 by Étienne de Mortagne but the nave took much longer to build. The nave was only finished during the 15th century by architects Jean de Dammartin, Jean Papin and Jean Durand, thanks to the generosity of Charles VII and the Duke of Brittany Jean V.?The organ, donated by Martin de Beaune, was built by Barnabé Delanoue in the 16th century. The cathedral also contains the tomb of the children of Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany, who died as infants. The rest of the day is at leisure.
 
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.

Afterwards,  we drive to Chateau de Villandry which is especially known for its beautiful gardens, before returning to Tours, where you dine together on the last evening.
An early check-out of the hotel before driving to Blois to visit its royal Château. Blois was home to many French kings and was also where Joan of Arc was blessed by the Bishop of Reims. The château has over 550 rooms, all of them have a fireplace. The château houses a fine art museum containing works by famous names such as Ingres, Rubens and Boucher. Then to Paris for the Eurostar which arrives at London St Pancras c6.30pm.
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. www.fco.gov.uk 

Eurostar s - The Eurostar train departs from London St Pancras at 7.55am.The return Eurostar arrives at London St Pancras at c.6.30pm. Travel is in Standard Premier class.

Accommodation near London St Pancras can be arranged on request. Please, contact us.

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 £1,995 per person.   Single occupancy at £2,250.

 
with
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.
with
Charles Barber
Having graduated with a Bachelors of Law from the University of Edinburgh, Charles Barber embarked on what became a twenty-year career in business at the Reed Travel Group, LexisNexis and The Economist. Charles received his MA in Renaissance Studies from the University of London. He has a Master of Arts in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, where he specialised in Early Netherlandish art and its impact on the art of Renaissance Florence. Shortly, Charles will commence doctoral studies at King’s College London researching politics, power and diplomacy at Northern Italian courts in the 15th & 16th centuries. 
Oceania L'Univers Tours
Opposite the town hall, this 4-star hotel is ready to welcome you following the creation of a spa and the complete renovation of its common areas and 91 rooms, which perfectly blend tradition, design and modernity: high ceilings, warm colours, some with hydrotherapy baths. The restaurant has also been fully refurbished. Everything has been done with the goal of conserving and showcasing the authenticity and charm of the building, with the addition of deft touches of colour, chic and elegance. The spa and well-being area boast a superb stainless steel swimming pool that places the accent firmly on modernity. The Jacuzzi, hammam and fitness room are perfect for a break that blends relaxation and well-being. The Oceania L'Univers**** Tours hotel and restaurant is one those historic hotels that are deeply marked by the illustrious figures who have stayed here, to whom the hotel pays homage with an impressive gallery of portraits overhanging the immense lobby. Thanks to the new colours, materials, furniture and facilities, our hotel will offer you a truly remarkable level of comfort during your stay in Tour
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