A Memorable 7 Days In The Loire Valley

A picnic on the way to Chenonceau, Loire Valley
A picnic on the way to Chenonceau
Last June we ran a large group in the Loire Valley, a lovely mix of returning Chain Gangers and future returning Chain Gangers (does that make sense?).

June is a great time to visit the Loire Valley, because the season hasn’t really started yet. So you get the lovely combination of great summer weather, and enough space to visit the Chateaux! Perfect. Also, the flora in June is still verdant and lively, which makes places like the gardens at Chateau Villandry particularly memorable.

Among our company last year were Hung and Leah, and they took a load of photographs, which I’m delighted to be able to share with you. I’ve followed my usual pattern of putting a large selection of photos in a Loire Valley Album on Flickr, and choosing a handful of those photos that particularly tickled me. So let’s dive in… And do please click the photos, they ain’t meant to be viewed as thumbnails.

Chateau and Abbey of Montreuil Bellay, Loire Valley
Chateau and Abbey of Montreuil Bellay

1. My first choice is a photo from the first hotel, the Relay du Bellay in Montreuil Bellay. This little town boasts both a Chateau and an Abbey, in a compound right in the centre of town. They’re visible from miles away, and they’re a familiar landmark to me when I’m driving to Montreuil Bellay – seeing those distinctive turrets and spires means I’m nearly ‘home’.

I never get given a room overlooking the pool, the garden and the Chateau – so this is a novel view for me, of a well-loved landmark, and I think it’s beautiful – click on the image to enlarge it, and I think you’ll see what I mean (Chateau on the left, Abbey on the right).



Chateau Chinon, Loire Valley
Chateau Chinon
2. The Fortress of Chinon.
I like this photo because of the unique nature of Chateau Chinon. It’s not a ‘big house’ for a rich family, like Chenonceau or Azay-le-Rideau – it’s a fortress. It’s much older than the other castles in the Loire Valley, and this is the spot where Joan of Arc first met the future King Charles VII.

Maybe you have to be French to understand the significance of Saint Joan – we met a school party in the chateau last summer, and their teacher assured me that every child in France will know this story before they turn 10. Joan saw a vision that told her the Dauphin (that’s French for the Prince of Wales) would give her an army, which she would lead to relieve the siege of Orléans, where the English had besieged the French army.

Charles sent her away to Poitiers, where her visions were ‘examined’ (!), then she returned to Chinon and was sent to join the army in Orleans. Her victory was a key turning point in The Hundred Years War between France and England. She was 17 years old!

Chinon Castle is where it happened, in 1429.

The gardens of Chateau Villandry
The gardens of Chateau Villandry
3. The Gardens of Villandry.
Over the years, I might have posted more photos of the gardens of Villandry than anywhere else on Chain Gang tours – what are the other contenders? Beynac castle, maybe, or Chateau Chambord. But Villandry is in the mix.

Last year we visited in June, which is a bit earlier than we normally tour the Loire Valley. And that makes a difference in the gardens. It was fantastic – greener, a bit less manicured. Hung and Leah took a bunch of photos in Villandry, but I chose this one because this corner is so untypical of the manicured beds that we see in most of the gardens, especially in July and August.


 Go on Wally, one more glass
Go on Wally, one more glass
4. Wally, hitting the bubbles.
You should have a bit respect for the person who took this photo – it’s hard to catch Wally without a smile on his face. But here he is looking decidedly unimpressed, contemplating 8 glasses of fizz! Hard to resist choosing this photo.






On the roof of Chateau Chambord
On the roof of Chateau Chambord
5. Up on the roof!
This is Vicki, Lynn, and Sophia, on the roof of Chateau Chambord. The largest and grandest of all the Loire Valley chateau, and I think it always looks spectacular.

But the reason I chose this photo, which visitors to Chambord will recognise, is that the three ladies are up on the roof!

Chambord boasts a huge, double-helix staircase that leads up onto an enormous roof. And once on the roof, as well as spectacular views on all sides, you can explore the 365 chimneys at close-quarters. It’s a wonderful bonus, and I can’t think of another roof we get to explore – certainly not as spectacular as this one.

See More On Flickr

If you want to see more photos from our Loire Valley tour, you’ll find the whole album on our Flickr PhotoStream here.

And if you want more Loire Valley photos, here’s a delightful album of Loire Valley photos from a decade ago. There are only about 20 photos, but this is a lovely collection of photos.

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