Ditch the tourist trail and discover the country’s untapped Loire Valley…
For lots of us France conjures ideas of family holidays, stolen weekends in Paris and cheese. Lots of cheese.
While we’re not knocking that, we’re probably all a little guilty of opting for the wide boulevards of Paris, the sandy beaches of St Tropez, the snowy peaks of the alps over the more untapped areas the country has to offer.
So why not ditch the Louvre for the Loire Valley and uncover a whole new side of France; full of beautiful landscapes, fairy tale chateaus and mouth-watering culinary treats.
Bridging the gap between northern and southern France and boasting more castles than you can shake a stick at, the Loire Valley is the ideal getaway to beat the tourist trap.
And because no-one enjoys the back and forth of having 200 tabs open on your browser as you try to book every individual part of your trip, cut out the hassle and book your flights, accommodation, car hire and activities with Expedia.
Here’s how to dodge the masses, go off the beaten track and have a truly unique, and distinctly un-touristy adventure.
Avoid high season
You don’t need soaring temperatures and inevitable sunburn to make the most of what the Loire Valley has to offer.
Instead, escape the dreary British winter and head there out of season.
Plenty of the region’s famous chateaus stay open in the winter months, and actually benefit from being visited in the cosy, log-fired months - especially those with spooky, haunted charms…
It’s the perfect opportunity to swap the coast for cosiness.
Head to the gothic architecture of Château Chaumont and enjoy the contradiction of its international garden festival, which is still in full bloom well into November.
The Loire’s many beautiful towns are tourist free in the winter months, making them a joy to explore and saving your elbows a fair amount of jousting.
Check in at Chateau d’Artigny
Nobody wants to go on holiday only to stay at the same hotel they’ve seen a thousand times before under a different name.
Luckily, the Loire Valley is full of a variety of unique places to bed down.
If you’re after a royal retreat, you could opt to stay in one of the region’s many beautifully restored chateaus, that now serve as luxury hotels.
Get a sense of what it must have been like to live in a renaissance castle and stay at the Chateau d’Artigny – just outside of Tours, or Chateau de Beauvois, which proves itself an ideal winter getaway treat.
To be in the thick of it, stay in the lovingly restored 17th century mansion, Hôtel Clos d’Amboise in the historic centre of Amboise, or enjoy some modern eccentricity in Sozo Hotel; a converted 19th century chapel in the centre of Nantes.
Think period drama settings without the drama.
Shun the classic city break
If it’s a city break you’re after, forget Paris or Nice; why not try a weekend city break with a difference, and head to the historical towns of the Loire Valley?
There’s less chance of being photobombed by numerous tourists jostling for the same Eiffel Tower picture as you and instead you can enjoy untapped cultural finds, great dining scenes and so much to see.
There is Angers with its seventeen-towered castle and medieval streets, perfect for strolling around and exploring.
Or if you’re a bit of a history buff try Orléans, France’s oldest town, for a true slice of the country’s history; from Maison de Jeanne d’Arc to its archaeological museum, plus its brilliant live music venues.
Then there is the buzzing cultural scene of Nantes, which is bursting with museums, monuments, great restaurants and even a giant mechanical elephant you can hitch a ride on (trust us.)
Make time for wine
No seasoned traveller worth their salt would visit to the Loire Valley without checking out its world-famous wine.
The region is one of the most well-known across the globe for wine production, from Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé to the Muscadet region on the Atlantic coast.
Visit Domaine de la Butte, a stunning winery set in fourteen hectares of vineyard said to produce one of the best red wines in the Loire, or the atmospheric Domaine de la Noblaie in Chinon where you can pick up one of their famous Touraine sparkling wines.
A great stop is the Famille Bourgeois in Sancerre, which offers brilliant guest experiences, including vineyard walks and tastings and a fine gourmet restaurant on site to soak up all that booze.
Better than an overpriced glass of house white at the local? You bet.
Go chateau hopping
The Loire Valley may be called the ‘Garden of France’ thanks to its many vineyards, orchards and fields, but one of its most exciting finds is nestled in amongst that lush landscape: its wealth of chateaux.
There are over three hundred in the Loire Valley, the highest concentration in all of France.
Why not channel your inner movie star and hire a car to zip through the valley, stopping by to see them all as they outdo each other in grandeur and splendour.
Try Château de Montsoreau – the only château to be built on the Loire riverbed and which now houses an impressive contemporary art museum, or Château de Chambord, one of the most recognisable examples of classic French Renaissance style.
Many have stunning landscaped gardens, fascinating histories, cultural events and, of course, some were rather famous inspirations for Disney castles…
Real life Disneyland without the crowds? Sign us up.
Book your trip to the Loire Valley with Expedia now.