Category Archives: Podcast Episodes

Dealing with food allergies in France, Episode 170

Dealing with food allergies in France

People who live with food allergies are often more stressed than others whenever they travel away from home. The reality is that any time any of us travel abroad, we are going to be exposed to new potential allergens in what we breathe, touch or eat. For most of us, that is not a problem at all. But for some of us, it can become a major worry. Erin Zebelman comes on the show today to share with us what she did to prepare, and what she did to deal with her son’s nut allergies while in France. 

Extra Content for Email Subscribers this Week: 10 Great Photo Locations in Paris

If you’re interested in this Episode, you should also check out BRITTANY WITH KIDS TRIP REPORT, EPISODE 166

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

Dealing with Food Allergies in France: bread, eggs, shellfish, peanuts

Episode Highlights with time stamps

[03:50] On today’s episode we will be talking about traveling to France with food allergies. Erin lives in New York State and has two children. They love to travel and visited France in the fall of 2016.

The Difficulties of Dealing with Food Allergies

[05:25] Having allergies can make every-day situations nerve wracking. There aren’t enough resources on the internet about traveling with food allergies. Erin wanted to share her experience to help others who are experiencing food allergies.

[07:55] The number of food allergies is growing in the world. There are as many as 15 million in the USA and as many as 3 million in France. Food allergies are not as common in France as they are in the USA.

[09:15] There is a big difference between being a picky eater and a person will allergy. Persons with allergy can suffer from anaphylactic shock. Benadryl can help, but the protocols in emergency procedures have evolved to where people use epinephrine more often because it’s the only drug that can reverse the symptoms.

Practical Pre-Trip Advice

[12:00] If you have an EpiPen or Auvi-Q with you at all times, it’s like you have a super power. You can now enjoy your travels without worrying as much. Bring enough so you cannot run out because if you have a reaction over the ocean you may need enough for a show every 20 minutes.

[13:30] You go into a pharmacy in France with shock symptoms, they will help you immediately, they are trained to recognize this sort of thing.

How to Find Out About Foods in France

[13:50] Dealing with the food issue was difficult. Erin’s mother-in-law who speaks French made some calls in advance, but that didn’t yield much information, so they came prepared with a few food items that they know wouldn’t be a problem. In Erin’s family they are worried about peanut, tree-nut, chick pea, and ground sesame allergies.

Peanut Allergy

[15:00] When you think about France. you don’t think about peanuts, but we eat peanuts all the time. But they worried about finding bread would be free of contamination from peanuts in France.

Egg Allergy

[15:48] When Matt came on the show (the man whose daughter is allergic to eggs), he mentioned that they always rent apartments and they make everything from scratch, only rarely going out to eat.  If you control the cooking, you can have a higher level of control. Number 1 priority for Erin was also to cook at home, so they rented apartments.

Rent an Apartment and Cook from Scratch

[17:30] They rented an apartment in Paris near the Luxembourg Garden on rue Gay-Lussac. They had a Franc Prix store next to them, also the lovely outdoor market on rue Moufftard. They also had a boulangerie under their apartment and the bread was safe for them there because they didn’t make any pastries on the premises, so no nuts.

Ingredient Contamination?

[18:20] Some boulangeries only make bread  (boulangerie artisanale where they make the bread from scratch on the premises). Others make pastries on the premises and resell bread from another baker (pâtisserie artisanale). Some do both. Most sell both bread and pastries but only make one of them on the premises.

[20:00] Erin trusted people in France more than in America because she could tell that they were concerned about the allergy. In America they say “you should be fine” and almost blow it off. People in France joke about allergies, but they take it very seriously.

[22:35] The recipe for baguette is mandated by law in France. It’s yeast, flour, salt and water. If they are a bread-only bakery, they don’t use any other ingredients, they don’t stock any other ingredients. They do sell pastries, but those come in from another provider and there should not be any cross contamination. Where you need to be careful is when you go to a pâtisserie artisanale because they use all sorts of ingredients to make pastries. Often the person up-front does not know the details of what goes into making the pastries because it’s a complicated process. Pâtisserie artisanale and ice cream shops  have a lot of cross-contamination.

Organic Stores that Carry Allergies-Friendly Foods in France

[28:00] There are also organic stores in Paris (and other large French cities) that carry allergy-friendly foods: Naturalia, Biocoop, La Vie Claire. Organic stores have a lot of organic gluten-free foods, so does Monoprix. You can count on finding allergy-friendly foods at organic stores in France. Leclerc labels well too. There are more and more brands that will label carefully. The term “peut contenir” mean “may contain”.  They ended up finding a lot of options that were fine for their particular food allergies.

Food Labeling in France

[32:00] Food labeling in Europe is multi-lingual on a lot of packaging, but products made for the French market at not usually labeled in English. At open-air markets you don’t have to read any labels, you can see it all, it’s all appealing and gorgeous. The rotisserie chicken is also delicious. Watch out, sometimes you see the chickens being roasted but they’re all spoken for.

[37:00] They brought 10 EpiPens and didn’t have to use any of them the whole time in France. So, it is entirely possible to ace this test!

French Allergy Vocabulary You Will Need

[39:30] Erin had things on her phone that said:

  • “je suis très allergique à…” (I am very allergic to…)
  • “pouvez-vous me dire ce que je peux prendre comme menu sans arachides…” (can you tell me what I can order on the menu that doesn’t have any peanuts)
  • in French we don’t have a generic term for “tree nuts” that everyone will recognize
  • “aucune noix” (no nuts in general)

Not Enough Food Choices on the Champs Elysées

[43:00] When you get hungry on the Champs Elysées you don’t have a lot of choices. They tried to talk to many of them, but none could guarantee. The more expensive restaurants can give you better guarantees, they are better trained, more patient. They ate at Breizh Café, a crêperie where they were very confident they could handle the nut allergies. Erin says “When in France, go fancy!” You’ll get better service and more assurance. Be prepared

[48:00] Champs Elysées is not a place to go eat. There are a few more choices at the very top, but it’s not a great place to feel hungry.

Rest-Stops on French Toll-Roads Are Great

[49:30] What Erin loved about driving in France is the “aire de repos”. They drove the A10 to Amboise, and found that the rest stops were really nice and they could always find something to eat.

Gluten Allergies in France

[52:20] If you have a gluten allergy in France you are hating life. There are some gluten-free products at various stores, and they are getting more common. Severe food allergies are not common in France, Annie doesn’t know any French person who is severely allergic to anything. She knows several Americans who are severely allergic to things. It doesn’t seem to be as common in France. But, the lady they rented the apartment from was worried about this allergy business so she gave them the phone number of a doctor they could call even at his home! The emergency number in France and all of Europe is 112. If you speak English, they’ll switch you to a person who can speak English and will dispatch to the correct services.

Problems? Go to a Pharmacy!

[55:30] If you run into any medical trouble, go into a pharmacy. There are pharmacies all over France and they are really well prepared for emergency situations.

Lunch-Break French on the Knight Templars

[58:30] On Monday I published the latest instalment of Lunch-Break French, the bilingual mini episode for Patreon supporters. This month Lunch-Break French is about the Knight Templars in Le Marais in Paris. How the Knight Templars came about, how they gained and lost power, and where you can go in Paris to see the place where Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knight Templars was burned alive and pronounced his famous curse on French Kings. It was a lot of fun to write, I hope you enjoy it.

Lunch-Break French is perfect for advanced French language learners, with themes all having to do with places in France or French History. And for those of you whose French is not that advanced yet, you can read the translation I provide, and listening to native French at a normal rate of speech is good training for your French comprehension! This time I also recorded the translation of the French text in the audio so you can do everything with your ears without reading anything, which is really the best way to do this when you’re trying to get better at comprehension.

A Rant about Bad Advice from Tone-Deaf Bloggers

[60:00] Personal update: Annie goes on a rant about terrible travel advice that only tries to get one thing: clicks.

Dealing with Food Allergies in France Pinterest Sacré Coeur Mission Statement
The Sacré Coeur vow in French as displayed within the Basilica.

Feedback Voicemail

[65:17] If you’d like to share a quick tip or review for everyone to hear, call 1-801-806-1015. It’s a US number and since most of the listeners of this show live in the US, it’ll be free for you to call. The best way to connect with me is to email me, or search for the Join Us in France Closed Group on Facebook.

A Bite of French History: Élistabeth Louis Vigée-Le Brun

[68:30] The story of a painting of Marie-Antoinette and her children by Élistabeth Louis Vigée-Le Brun. “Room “en enfilade”.

Food allergies in France
Marie-Antoinette and her children painting by Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun

Thank you for listening to the show, as you can see, dealing with food allergies in France is not as complicated as you might fear. With some preparation, some French language skills, and the many tips that Erin shared, you can have a great time in France no matter what your food allergy might be!

Support the show on Patreon.

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Good Reasons to Take a Tour, Episode 169

Good Reasons to Take a Tour

Trying to decide if you should tour Paris with a group or DIY? We give you lots of things to think about so you can get to the right conclusion for you! We make a lot of promises to our customers and we deliver too! Please take a moment to read our reviews on Trip Advisor and consider joining us in France!

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.
 Episode Highlights with Time Stamps

When Is It Best to take a Tour?

[00:45] In today’s show, Elyse and Annie discuss the advantages of taking a tour vs. DIY. Normally, Join Us in France is all about helping you DIY your trip to France, but today, let’s talk about why DIY isn’t for everybody.

New Segment: A Bite of French History and Culture

[01:02] Introducing a new segment to the show today called A Bite of French History and Culture

The Extra: Scam in Progress

[01:12] The Extra content for email subscribers this week is called Scam in Progress. While leading the October 2017 Paris Tour I ran into a swarm of petition scammers. I had my camera in hand ready for street photography, so I pushed the shutter and got lucky. One of the scammer got in my face about the photo, I invited her to call the police, which of course she wasn’t going to do, and we ended up having a good laugh about it. But to the folks on the tour with me, they didn’t know what was happening at first.  You need to learn to recognize a scam when you see it because they’re all about the same and once you know you’ll never fall prey. I’ll be sending out this extra, complete with the photos, next Sat to email subscribers. If you’re interested in getting the extras, you can sign up right from your phone, read the words that are displayed by your podcast App, or go to Join Us in and look for the Subscribe button.

We’re a Cool Tour Company!

[03:00] You’ve heard me say that Join Us in France is sponsored Patreon and Addicted to France, the tour company that specializes in small group tours in France. Well, right now let us brag about the tour company because it’s pretty cool!

Organizing a Visit to Paris Is NOT Easy

Even if you listen to every episode of the podcast, organizing a visit to Paris isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time to plan, you’ll be unsure about a lot of details and you’ll end up making silly mistakes that we won’t make. Not because we’re geniuses, but because we’ve made those same mistakes before!!!

Elyse and Annie Bring Different Strengths

[03:52} Elyse and I have different strengths. She’s amazing when it comes to art, she’ll show you things you’ve never ever thought of because it takes 30 years of teaching this stuff and incessant curiosity about art history to know this much.

Annie is great at telling the stories, sometimes literary, sometimes long-forgotten anecdotes that were immortalized in paintings and novels. So much has happened in Paris that it doesn’t take a lot of digging to find incredible stories.

Some of the stories are high-brow, some rather lurid, all are entertaining. And French politics, especially when talking about the French RevolutionSSS—yes, there were really 4 of them!—once you start reading, that stuff will keep you up at night. And if you think American politics are crazy, wait until you hear about French politics!

  1. 1789-1799 French Revolution
  2. July Revolution
  3. 1948 Revolution
  4. La Commune (Montmartre, Les Misérables)

You’ll Enjoy It More if You’re Not Exhausted All the Time!

[06:14] Visiting a city and being on our feet for 12 hours a day is not something most of us are used to, and when it’s a city you don’t know, you might walk around in circles and miss all the best stuff just because you can’t take it anymore. What if there is someone telling you, it’s just around the corner, I’ll take you right to it! Then you won’t miss it.

As a newbie, you might also go on all sorts of wild goose chases that won’t enhance the experience much. Travel bloggers have a strange habit of making a big deal out of things that don’t matter that much. Let Elyse and I curate the best for you. We can see what visitors get the most kick out of, we know the right time to go places so the lines are the smallest possible, we will get you to skip the line wherever possible.

But, sadly, there’s always the security lines and we can’t get you to skip those. We’re both a little bit lazy, we look for the easiest and shortest way to everywhere we take you too. You’ll still get lots of steps in no matter what, but we’ll stop before it stops being fun!  Venturing out with a local guide is so much easier and safer than venturing out on your own!

Paris Is Full of New Stimulations

[09:18] Daily life puts us in a rut. Not matter how much we love our lives, after a few months of doing all the same things, we get bored with it. Going to Paris, even for us who live in France but not in Paris, is such a joy! Paris is special. It’s beautiful, it’s relaxing, there are new adventures everywhere you look.

When You Tour of Addicted to France You Get a Photographer

[10:33] I can guarantee that you’ll go home with your head full of memories of wonderful new experiences and you’ll be ready to take on the world again. And, a little plus, and this is something the folks on the last tour asked me to insist on because they enjoyed it so much, when you’re touring with Annie, you’re touring with a photographer who carries around great equipment and can get a good photo in most environments.

I will document every step and send you the pictures. I am a shutter bug no matter what, and by now I know most of the best photo spots in Paris. So, there’s the photography plus too. At the end you’ll have a book of photos that will document the entire tour.

Tour France with Friends!

12:20 I’m pretty sure you like France, even if you’ve never been, otherwise you wouldn’t be listening to this podcast right now. Maybe be love France and you’ve been here already. If you’re a long-time listener, you like our style or you wouldn’t be here. We haven’t met you yet, but we’re pretty sure if you like us, we’re going to like you too. So why don’t you come to France and tour with friends?

We’re pretty good at taking care of our friends and we’d love to meet you. We didn’t mention the great food and wine yet, we’re keeping the big guns for the end. And you know what? We know a lot of good restaurants in Paris. We’re always looking for great value for money because it’s probably what you like to find too.

Good Reasons to Take a Tour, Opera Garnier seen from the top of the Galleries Lafayettes
Opéra Garnier seen from the top of the Galleries Lafayettes

We Know Great Restaurants and Superb Shopping Opportunities

[13:17] We haven’t kept the names of our favorite restaurants a secret, as a matter of fact if you follow the podcast on Facebook, we’ve often recommended our favorite restaurants. But we’ll make the reservations and take you there.

Want some lovely scarves? We’ve got a place. Clothes shopping? Elyse knows the great spots. I dare say we’ll help you feel like you belong with us and you instantly belong in France.

SMALL Is the Name of the Game with Us!

When you go on a tour with Addicted to France you will not say: I am so glad I went on a bus tour with my closest 50 friends and a guide that carries an umbrella! Look, what makes people happy is experiences and human rapport.

And with Annie and Elyse you’re experiencing Paris with friends. Sure, together we’ll see the art, the architecture, you’ll see all the famous sites, but we’ll also share stories, we’ll get to know each other and probably make life-long connections.

Great food, great wine, great company. We think you need this!

How to Reserve Your Spot on Our Tours

Did we convince you that there are good reasons to take a tour? Now check out the details!

[17:00] And to see the details of these marvelous tours we’ve been bragging about visit Addicted to, you can reserve your spot on the May 27th thru June 3rd Paris Tour with a 250€ deposit, refundable at any time for any reason up until a month before it is set to begin.

For this particular tour we’re also offering 3 add-ons:

  1. A 1 day excursion to Giverny that we talked about in episode 167
  2. Another day trip to Versailles to tour the King’s Private Apartments, and I just did that, it is SOOOO worth it!,
  3. And 3 days in Normandy which will include time on June 6th to see the commemorations on D-Day. The details for that excursion are not on the site yet, but I have several people asking about that and they will be made public by next week, please check back.

Thank You

[18:00] Thank you Karen White for tipping your guide by clicking on the Tip Your Guide button on the left side of this site.  Your donation lets me know that I bring valuable information to you and that you want to give back.

Thank you also to the all the patrons who support the show month after month, I want you to know how much I appreciate your continued support. To support the show, go to Patreon. Lunch-Break French is going to go out late this month of October 2017, but it’s coming!

There are other ways you can support the show, to see them neatly listed, visit this area of the site.

And as we approach the holiday season and you will be making Christmas purchases, I appreciate all of you who go to Amazon through Join Us in France. If you don’t know how to do that, look for the Amazon logo on the left. Click on that, it will take you to your Amazon store, and the show gets a small commission for any purchase you make. Lots of people intend to do that, but then they forget, so I’m reminding you and thank you!

Annie’s Personal Update

[19:00] I am going to do NaNoWriMo in November because I need to get serious with writing. I’ve learned so much doing the podcast the last 3 and a half years, I need to complete a book that will summarize the best of Join Us in France. I’ve started many times, I have had a hard time completing the book. So, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo too, reach out to me and we’ll encourage one another!

[20:32] T-Shirt designs

[21:08] Use the phone number 1-801-806-1015 hotel or AirB&B or restaurant that you enjoyed in France.

A Bite of French History

The first-time large numbers of French people were called to the polls to elect their President was in 1848. Not everybody voted, only males for a start, not military, not clergy, not French people who lived abroad, but you know, it was more a more inclusive vote than we had ever had.

On that glorious day of December 1848 where French people got to vote in large number for the first time, who did they elect??? This is not something I was aware of myself until I started to read about the French Revolution in the last few months. But when I realized it, it took my breath away, and I decided that I really need to start sharing some of these golden nuggets of French history with you in its own regular segment each week.

So, let’s review: France went through hell during the French Revolution 1789-1799. The whole idea was to give power to the people, and this first “general” election takes place 50 years AFTER the Revolution.  So, again, I ask you. Who did they elect? Take a wild guess.

Well, a man called Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte won. And not just a little. He won by a lot. He is also known as Napoleon III, one of the many nephews of the original Napoleon I, a man of great ambition who as soon as he was elected made sure he’d be President for life, which means he had to usher in another Empire, now called the Third Empire.

So, give men the vote and they’ll pick charismatic royalty instead of a regular guy. Was it really worth fighting the awful Revolution to get to that result? I think not, but that could just be me.  In the defense of Parisians, it was country folks who voted for Napoleon III in the greatest numbers. They didn’t know the others and he felt like a known quantity.

So, if you’re in the mood to despair about politics in your own country, remember this, the French actually voted in Napoleon III of their own free will in 1848. Popular vote can equal stupid choices.

Support the show on Patreon.

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Good Reasons to Take a Tour, Visitors in Versailles





Loire Valley Castles You Shouldn’t Skip, Episode 168

What Are Loire Valley Castles You Shouldn’t Skip?

Loire Valley Castles You Shouldn't Skip, Janice and castle

In this episode of the podcast, we answer one big question: What are a few Loire Valley castles you shouldn’t skip? The answer, of course, depends on what you like and who you are with. Janice Chung spent 6 days there in the spring of 2017 and she visited 12 of them on that occasion. But, as a true francophile, this was also her 5th visit to the area, so she’s more qualified than most to give us a unbiased primer on the area and point out gems that are truly worth your time.

Janice recommends staying at various castles instead of going to hotels. This can be surprisingly affordable, and a definite plus for honeymooners. She gives pointers for those visiting the area with children (as a former school principal she knows what works and doesn’t work with kids!) We also talk about her long-time desire to take a hot-air balloon ride over the Loire Valley, and her adventure tasting Loire Valley wines.

Janice is the editor of a wonderful blog about travel to France called France Travel Tips, you should check it out, it’s great.

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

Related Episodes

Episode 82 (first time in the Loire Valley with kids), Episode 28 (Loire Valley Wines), Episode 166 (how you can visit both the Loire Valley and Normandy) and more, please use the search button!

Recommended in this Episode

La Rocheline in La Chevalerie in La-Croix-en-Tourraine (near Amboise), Château d’Artigny (near Tours),  Château des Tertres  (near Blois), Château de Chissay in Chissay-en-Touraine (mear Chenonceau). Winery at Château de Valmer

Extra Content for Email Subscribers this Week

Getting the best out of your smart phone while in Paris, which includes info on finding free WiFi in Paris and where you can charge your phone in Paris. Subscribe here.

French Tip of the Week

In Paris last week I didn’t run into a single person who wasn’t willing to speak English with us. So what are you to do if you want to practice your French? Try saying this: “pourrions-nous parler français s’il vous plait, j’ai besoin de m’entrainer”.

Places Mentioned in this Episode

Loire River, Cher River, Blois, Tours, Chambord, Chenonceau, Château d’Ussé, Château Villandry, Saumur, Amboise, Le Clos Lucé, Château de Cheverny, Château Beauregard, Château de Valmer.

What We Discuss in this Episode with Time-Stamps

Meet Janice, the Anglo Canadian who Loves France!

[03:26] Janice Chung is from Canada  and a repeat traveler to France. She loves the diversity she finds in France.

The Entire Loire Valley Is a World Unesco Heritage Site

[04:18] The whole Loire Valley is a World Unesco Heritage Site, which means it’s all wonderful, but it also makes it hard to choose where to you should concentrate your time. There is so much history and beauty concentrated along the Loire and Cher rivers that it can leave you puzzled. This episode is meant to help you find out which ones are the two “biggies” and possibly choose a few others depending on your taste also.

Must Go because of History, Architecture, Activities and Proximity to Paris

[05:02] History aside, the architecture of the Loire Valley castles is stunning. The châteaux are beautifully designed, the gardens are lovely, there are lots of activities you can participate in, especially in the summer, and it is really close to Paris to boot!

How to Get to the Loire Valley

[05:28] On this latest trip, Janice and her friend flew into CDG, picked up a car, and drove westward. You could also take the TGV train to Tour right from CDG as was pointed out in Episode 166.

What Towns to Use as Your Base in the Loire Valley?

[05:46] See her recommendations above. Janice chose to use two towns as her base: Blois and Tours. Saumur is also a possibility. It’s best to pick two towns that will work for you. Matt, another guest on the show from Episode 166 loves to stay near Amboise at  La Rocheline in La Chevalerie in La-Croix-en-Tourraine. What matters is that wherever you are you can take easy day trips and don’t spend too long in the car. They stayed for 6 days and visited 12 châteaux total.

Visiting in April vs the Summer

[07:00] It is a fact that some of the lesser known Loire Valley castles can be just as interesting as the super famous ones. They went in April and had spectacular weather. They didn’t have to deal with crowds, but the gardens were not in full bloom. In the summer you’ll get the gardens in full bloom, but you’ll also get the crowds. In the summer you also get more festivals, so you have to pick your poison! Remember that nothing is ever as crowded as the Château of Versailles, even in high season in the Loire Valley.

Rent Bicycles at Chambord

[09:01] Some of the estates of these châteaux are massive, it’s often worth renting bicycles to see the more of the “Domaine de Chambord”.

Loire Valley Castle Nomenclature

[09:28] Some of the names you will encounter may surprise you. Officially it’s not called Château dÁmboise but rather Château Royal d’Amboise. Same with Chinon, it is “Forteresse Royale de Chinon”. A “Résidence Royale” is better than just a château because we have a lot of plain of châteaux in France!

Top of the List Loire Valley Castles

[10:00] Loire Valley Châteaux on everybody’s list would be Château de Chenonceau. This one straddles the river Cher and it is stunningly beautiful as well as has lots of wonderful history. Diane de Poitier was the mistress of Henry II and when he died she had to give it back to Catherine de Medici, but she got another château instead, the one at Chenon sur Loire. We will do episodes specifically concentrating on the history of those castles, this episode is more of an overview.

Audio Guides and Light Shows at Loire Châteaux

[11:27] At most of these châteaux you can rent an audio guide. Sometimes the rental is included in the admission price, sometimes they cost a couple of euros extra, but they are usually worth it. Your mileage may vary, some are engaging and others not so much. They spent 5 hours at Chenonceau. You can take canoe under the arches of Chenonceau.

At night they have a “son-et-lumière” at Chenonceau where they project images on the château to classical music and commentary (which may be in French only and possibly boring if you don’t understand what’s being said). Take the time to check out Trip Advisor reviews on those light shows, some of them have probably come a long way recently.

The Number 1 Château on Everyone’s List Should Be Chenonceau

[14:37] Chenonceau should be on everyone’s list, not just for the architecture and the interior (they try to replicate era tapestries, furniture and such) but the gardens are also stunning. In France, the Revolution did a number on everything. It is very likely that most of these castles were robbed during the Revolution so if you see furnishings they will probably be either replicas or other period pieces, not the originals. Plan on 5 hours, especially if you are going to eat there.

The Number 2 Château on Everyone’s List Should Be Chambord

[15:46] The next château on your list should be Chambord. They also spent 5 hours there and it is the biggest château in the Loire Valley. You can also rent bicycles or do a horse and carriage ride. They have outstanding audio-visual presentations that explain how it was created and the history. Some Disney Castles were modeled after Loire Valley Châteaux but they are so much smaller it is hard not to be blasé if you see both.

Lesser Known but Worth a Visit Château d’Ussé

[17:32] Speaking of Disney, the Château d’Ussé is also worth a visit, especially of the outside. Charles Perrault wrote La Belle au Bois Dormant aka Sleeping Beauty. They try to recreate the story inside the castle with wax figures and mannequins, but they are scary looking. Part of the tour at Ussé take you up into the attic, but it’s very dark up there. This is one that looks glorious from the outside, but you may consider skipping the inside. Maybe tell the story of Sleeping Beauty to your kids while walking around the outside and call it good.

Château Villandry Is also Worth Considering

[19:20] Also probably nicer on the outside than on the inside (but not bad inside by any means) is Château Villandry. This one has magnificent gardens on 3 levels: flowers, vegetable,  water gardens, fruit terraces, all meticulously maintained. They have 10 gardeners that maintain it throughout the year. It is close to Tours.

Should You Visit Loire Valley Castles with Young Children?

[20:28] You have to worry about little kids at those château because they may be bored to death. If you’re just seeing great architecture and gardens, you can be sure the kids won’t like it. But there are some Loire Valley Castles that have festivals in the summer.

Saumur has a whole summer Medieval Festival with jousting, sword fighting, displays. But if you can transform your daughters into princesses and your sons into knights, take them on bike rides along the river, they may love it too. Check out this site (in French) for a list of kid-friendly activities in the Loire Valley. Also be aware that some of the best kid-friendly activities may be only available in French.

Hot-Air Balloon Ride

[22:14] Janice went on a hot-air balloon ride near Amboise. It wasn’t cheap (189€) and everything depends on the weather. You get picked up near Amboise and the flight is about 1 hour and you can ride close to the ground at times. You can see some private châteaux. She liked it, but didn’t love it because they didn’t see some of the most famous châteaux except Amboise that they were close to. There are rides offered near various châteaux, choose the one you want to see most.

Canoeing and Bike Tours

[24:49] Canoeing and Renting Bicycles are also great activities that are a lot cheaper and will appeal to the entire family. The Loire Valley is extremely flat, so it’s a great place to rent a bike and go from château to château. You can do this even if you’re not in top cycling shape. You will see a lot of bike tours in the Loire Valley because it is very conducive to that. We talk about the difference between Loire and Provence Cycling Tours in Episode 149.

Amboise Château

[25:32] Amboise is a really beautiful château, particularly from the outside. It is high up, so you’re looking down at the river, and is wonderful for photographers. This was also Da Vinci’s final home. The Foire d’Amboise takes place the third week-end in April and is a wonderful tie-in to visit the area.

Le Clos Lucé, a Great Place for Kids!

[26:28] When at Amboise, you also need to visit Le Clos Lucé, aka The Leonardo Da Vinci Museum. A great place for adults and kids alike. Clos Lucé is wonderful, it is where they’ve recreated a lot of Da Vinci’s inventions in the place where he lived at the end of his life.  The inventions they installed in the gardens are wonderful, you can crank things and try a lot of them, it’s hands-on. In the summer they have extra demonstrations which makes it extra fun. This one will surprise you by how wonderful it is!

Tintin and the Château de Cheverny

[28:08] Hergé, the author of Tintin comics, modeled his fictional “Château de Moulinsart” (translated as “Marlinspike Hall” in English) on the Château de Cheverny. Beautiful grounds, beautiful château, famous for their hunting dogs. You can see the dog feeding times morning and night. A great château to take kids to, espcially if they like either Tintin or dogs.

Château de Beauregard

[30:25] You don’t hear about Château de Beauregard as much, but it is known for its gallery of hundreds of portraits. They’ve taken 20 or so of the portraits to the grounds and it makes your walk through the grounds more interesting.

Stay at a Château instead of a Hotel

[31:42] If you have the chance, you should stay at a real château instead of a hotel. Janice enjoyed staying at the Château d’Artigny in the city of Montbazon (Check it out, GORGEOUS!!!). Janice has also stayed at the Château des Tertres in Onzain near Chaumont-sur-Loire, beautiful, great breakfast, recently renovated, amazing price. The Château de Chissay in Chissay-en-Touraine (near Chenonceau).

Smaller Châteaux Close at Lunch-Time

[35:08] There are lots of châteaux in the Loire Valley that are not famous, some privately owned, some open to the public, other do not, and some close at lunch-time.

1000 French Châteaux for Sale on any Given Day

[36:34] Owning a French château is an expensive proposition and it is said that there are 1000 French châteaux for sale on any given day. French tax structure at the moment assumes that if you own a “château classé”  (of high historical value) you must be in a high tax bracket, so you get big tax breaks to help you deal with the expense. The consequence of that is that if you are not in a high tax bracket to begin with, you get no help whatsoever until you make enough money. The other problem is that there are strict rule as to how you renovate a historical site, and that makes every little thing expensive.

There is a TV show on the CBC called Escape to the Château and it’s about a couple who buy a castle and renovate it to be rented out for receptions. If you really yearn to do this sort of thing, maybe start with a “maison de maître” which is much smaller than a château.

Wine Making in the Loire Valley: Château de Valmer

[41:34] When traveling to the Loire Valley as a tourist, it’s amazing to see how they built these enormous homes. Some of them make money by making and selling wine, such as the Château de Valmer.  Loire Valley Wines are famous. For example Touraine or Janice’s favorite Vouvray.

Definitely do some wine-tasting while in the Loire Valley, or at the very least, buy some local wines at the grocery store. When you are at a restaurant, ask them if they have a pichet of local wine, you will be surprised both by the quality and the price of those wines!

We’ve Barely Scratched the Surface Here!

[43:10] There are so many châteaux in the Loire Valley that there are several we haven’t mentioned. For instance Blois and Chinon. You need to do some research into the particular attractions you enjoy. One week of châteaux might get you all the way “châteaued-out”.

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