Story by Prof. Barry Goldsmith and Will Denton
Photography by Prof. Barry Goldsmith
Touring the Loire Valley
I’m very lucky to have studied in Paris, lived in Paris and frequently visit Paris almost since “before I was born.” Sadly, I have but one lifetime to devote to touring Paris and France. It takes a few lifetimes to see everything. I’m also very lucky to have a terrific tour company who does it all for me – and in places where no one else goes. That company is PARIS-TRIP. A company that will take you to new places maximizing your time in Paris and France.
How often have you heard a traveler to Paris, with only a precious few days there, complain that there just wasn't enough time to get out into the countryside, perhaps to visit an ancient abbey, to tour the chateaux of the Loire Valley, to dine in little village restaurants -- in short, to get away from the hustle of a great but busy city?
Touring outside Paris is hard because of the time and trouble such a venture would take on one's own-- renting a car, checking bus-and-train schedules, finding out directions and opening times for sights, all the little annoyances which make a short excursion all but impossible for the time-constrained traveler.
PARIS-TRIP does all the work for you, featuring many great BEEN THERE, HAVEN’T DONE THAT sites -- sites missed by most tourists and even missed by many Parisians. If exclusivity – seeing sites no one else does – is a luxury then PARIS-TRIP provides a luxury service. (And they’ll literally provide all the luxury you’ll even want, from van to private-chauffeured luxury vehicles.) Whatever the conveyance, rest assured, that it’s hassle-free.
Many Paris-based tour companies offer tours to the Loire Valley seeing Chenonceaux, Chambord, Bloise, Amboise and Cheverny, only one offers day trips to a Loire area that is further from Paris and much less-well known, but equally magnificent. A new area for Francophiles to explore – those who have seen Chenonceaux and Chambord many times.
This area of the Loire Valley is the Touraine – the area near Tours – southwest of those more familiar chateaux – and even further away from Paris: Villandry, Langeais and Azay-Le-Rideau all in one sightseeing- packed (but still relaxing) day. The comfortable Paris-Trip van picked us up at our central Paris hotel and whisked us away to what seemed to be another world from the capital.
The Renaissance gardens of Villandry are world famous in their own right.
And they’re rated as the second best gardens after Versailles. Instead of the long grand vistas of Versailles’ gardens stretching out along the grand canal, Villandray has smaller gardens, like a patchwork quilt, separated by smaller canals. Less grand, but equally great. And like Versailles, they’re on different levels. In addition the gardens are divided into floral and vegetable gardens.
VIllandry’s interior offers many surprises including a gallery of Spanish painting from medieval to Goya – even more Spanish paintings than the Louvre.
Next it was on to Langeais, a step further back in time to medieval France, a true fortress built by King Louis XI and restored to its pristine glory. Langeais also has a surprise - behind this medieval castle is a formal French garden. Langeais is the centerpiece of a delightful small town. Our PARIS-TRIP driver, who spoke several languages, doubled as our well-informed guide.
He directed us to our choice of several charming restaurants just across the street from the castle itself -- we made a picnic lunch and happily munched away on fresh French bread, exotic cheeses and patisseries as we made our way to Azay le Rideau -- back in the Renaissance again. This charming castle straddles the middle of the River Indre -- reflecting its beauty in its mirror image in the river. Azay le Ridau shows the refinements of life in that period of troubadours and merchants of trade. Azay is also completely furnished with many unusual architectural details found nowhere else in the world such as stone banisters, which look like they were carved right out from the wall.
There was even time for a surprise photo-stop at Chateau d’Usse with its many crenellated and coned towers, looking like a confection from a fairytale. In fact, after visiting d’Usse, Charles Perrault was inspired to write the “Sleeping Beauty”. And the chateau’s architecture inspired Walt Disney to create Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland. Another revelation awaited us at this surprise stop. When we got close to the chateau, we could see yet another formal parterre garden with a fountain.
By early evening we were back in Paris and had plenty of time to rest, change and get ready for Parisian nightlife. If all of these arrangements had been made individually, without the aid of Paris-Trip, the journey would have taken much longer and we would have become lost many times on those numerous country roads which our Paris-Trip driver took in his stride.
But the Loire excursion is only one of many day outings offered by Paris-Trip. One can spend a day at Chambord, the royal castle of Chenonceau, its stone bridge seeming to float over a river, and Amboise (home to several Renaissance French kings – and Leonardo daVinci). Or one may choose to go further afield, say to the pearl medieval city of Flanders, Bruges, with its jewel-like architecture, including a cruise there which reveals why this ancient city is sometimes called the Venice of the North -- yet all done in a single day from Paris.
Or perhaps the traveler wants to learn something of wine, how it is grown, developed and, most importantly, tasted! That taste can be accommodated with the day trip to the Champagne region where one visits the premier vineyards of Moët & Chandon, followed by the village of Hautvillers where the now almost-legendary Dom Perignon once stayed.
For lovers of more recent history, go with Paris-Trip to the famous sites of World War II, the beaches of Normandy and "D"-Day. This visit can be the most emotionally inspiring of any offered and includes the American Cemetery, Omaha Beach and the Caen Peace Memorial. And coming up for the Centennial of World War I in 1914, tour those famous battlefields, too.
Travel with PARIS-TRIP to compare, for yourself, the gardens you saw in the Loire with the granddad of all French gardens, Versailles with its fountains and magnificent château. Don’t miss its Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon (each with its own garden) nearby -- sometimes the smaller and more intimate palaces can be the most delightful. For impressionist art do not just see the Paris museums (as fine and renowned as they are) but go to the artist's residence no one should miss, Monet's Giverny. Both Versailles and Giverny can be visited on one all-day trip. There are numerous other adventures which PARIS-TRIP is waiting to give the discerning traveler, more castles, gardens, battlefields -- and even Paris city trips themselves (with dinner cruises on the Seine, exploring the Eiffel Tower) and more and more.
In keeping with their BEEN THERE, HAVEN’T DONE THAT tradition of offering tours no one else does, PARIS-TRIP added a new tour just this year to Burgundy and the Abbey of La Madeleine in Vezelay – one of the world’s greatest Romanesque churches famous for originally housing the relics of perhaps religion's most famous penitent, Mary Magdalene; it was also visited by the great Crusader kings in the 12th century including England's Richard the Lion-Heart. This is the tour I’m looking forward to taking this year.
To access PARIS-TRIP, one need only contact his or her hotel concierge or go on-line to www.paris-trip.com. This is one travel company, which takes care of its travelers at reasonable cost, both in time and money – and above all, offers tours that no other company does. Next time in Paris, think PARIS-TRIP.
© April 2013 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.