Versailles & the Loire Valley
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From the former homes of two masters, Monet and da Vinci, to the flamboyant excesses of Versailles, this holiday in northern France reveals the historical and cultural gems that stud the Loire Valley.
Meet at our dedicated St Pancras Departure Office before boarding your scheduled Eurostar service to Paris. From the Gare du Nord, you'll take a coach transfer to Vernon, a small town in Normandy. Here you'll enjoy two nights at the Hotel Normandy.
Today it's just a short drive to Giverny, home to the world famous Claude Monet gardens. Your entrance is included to both the house and gardens.
There are 2 parts to the gardens: The Clos Norman, which gently slopes down from Monet's home and is divided into flowerbeds and a range of fruit trees. Interestingly, Monet would pair flowers determined by colour and would leave them to grow freely. Iron arches cover the centre of the garden, climbing roses growing freely across it.
The second of Monet's gardens is the water garden, which was the inspiration for many of his Impressionist paintings such as his most iconic work, 'Water Lilies'. There is the famous Japanese bridge, covered in wisteria and arches over the pond below. After an insightful tour, the rest of your day is at leisure.
This morning, you are taken by coach to Versailles Palace, the opulent former seat of the French royal family until the Revolution. The palace gardens are just as impressive as Versilles itself, and are amongst some of the most recognisable in the world, featuring a web of manicured lawns, extravagant fountains, and dramatic sculptures. Take a guided tour around the sumptuous interiors, seeing the historically important Hall of Mirrors. Outside the palace grounds, there is Versaille Park which is a delight with its 'Lime Tree Walk' featuring 500 linden trees planted in uniform lines. Covering 23 hecatares, the Grand Canal is famed for its picture-perfect views. It took just 10 years to build, thanks to the hard work of Louis XIV's architect, who took great care with all the measurements to ensure for the perfect view overlooking the canal. Afterwards, continue by coach to Rambouillet, where you check into your hotel, the 3* Ibis Rambouillet.
This morning you have a little time to explore Rambouillet, a designated town of art and history, before making the journey to Chartres, famous for its Cathédrale Notre-Dame. Next continue to Tours and the Ibis Tours Centre Gare, your base for 3 nights.
Discover the largest city in the Loire Valley on Day 5, with a guided walking tour that takes in the Archbishop's Palace, Old City of Tours, and Saint Martin's Basilica. Built between 1886 and 1924 by architect Victor Laloux, the current basilica was built over the tomb of Saint Martin, which was uncovered in 1860. Today, the crypt calls pilgrims from all over the world.
Enjoy an excursion to Château de Chenonceau, which elegantly spans the River Cher. The Château dates back to the 12th century, but the only original features that have survived are the dungeons. Having undergone many renovations throughout the centuries, the current Château was built between 1513 and 1517 by Thomas Bohier. After looking around the château and its picturesque fountain gardens, travel to Amboise, former site of the French royal court, for some time at Château du Clos Lucé, the site of Leonardo da Vinci's death in 1519.
It was originally home to the Amboise family during the Middle Ages, and then under the reign of Louis XI in 1471. Later, it was used as Charles VIII's summer home. The château was saved from destruction during the French Revolution by the Amboise family.
Da Vinci's lasting legacy on the Château is very much apparent when you visit. Spending the last 3 years of his life here, he completed several projects for King Francis I under the title of 'Premier Painter, Engineer, and Architect of the King'. Displayed in the basement are 40 replica models and 3D animations which show you the extent of Leonardo da Vinci's engineering knowledge.
Leonardo's gardens at the Château are also delightful to wander around. Learn how nature inspired his work with the caves, streams and waterfalls. There are also models of his more famous engineering work, including an assault chariot, aerial screw, and paddle boat.
Transfer to Tours' station for the train to Paris. In the capital board your Eurostar service back to London St Pancras.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We will write to you around 10 weeks before your departure date with the precise meeting times for your tour group.
Enhancing your tour
Please note: This tour may be suitable for reduced mobility passengers, please call for further information.
Explore the historical and cultural gems that stud the Loire Valley