Guest Notes for Episode 432: Visiting the Loire Valley Without a Car

Category: Loire Valley

Exploring the Loire Valley Without a Car with Claire Ramsdell of the Detour Effect blog

The main castles I want to talk about are Château de Blois, Château de Chambord, Château d’Amboise, and Château du Clos Lucé. Those are the ones I actually visited. I would also mention Château de Cheverny and Château de Beauregard because I know those are both easily accessible via public transportation as well. Chaumont

Getting there:

From Paris you can take a TER train from Gare d’Austerlitz to Gare de Blois-Chambord, about a 1.5 hour ride. This direct train seems to always occur early in the morning around 7:20-7:30am. But, alternatives include taking a train to Orléans (anything bound for Tours or Nantes should stop in Orléans) and then a bus from Orléans to Blois (which is what I did because I missed the direct train, lol). You could also leave from Montparnasse instead of Austerlitz and get the TGV to Tours, then backtrack by taking the TER from Tours to Gare de Blois-Chambord.

Once in Blois, you can simply walk from the train station to Château de Blois. I did this immediately upon arriving, explored the grounds, then left the castle to find my hotel and have dinner. That evening I walked back to the castle again to see the Son et Lumière light show. If people have extra time, the town of Blois is really cute and worth walking around. There’s historic churches (Église Saint-Nicolas, St. Vincent de Paul, Blois Cathedral) and lots of shops.

The second day, to get to Château d’Amboise I took the train from Gare de Blois-Chambord to Amboise, about 30 minutes. From Gare d’Amboise to the château is a pleasant 20 minute walk that takes you over the Loire River past boulangeries and cafés.

After Château d’Amboise, I walked to Clos Lucé. It’s just a ten minute stroll straight down Rue Victor Hugo. Then I got lunch in Amboise and headed back to Blois.

The third day, from Blois I took the shuttle/navette operated by Rémi to get to Château de Chambord. A one-way ticket is €3, which you can pay via cash directly to the bus driver. This same shuttle could also drop you off at Château de Cheverny and/or Château de Beauregard. The two shuttle bus stops in Blois are located at Gare de Blois-Chambord and directly beneath l’Office du Tourisme, down the stairs on the street.

To get back to Paris you should normally be able to retrace your steps back to Gare d’Austerlitz, but the weekend I was there, the direct train wasn’t running to Paris because of maintenance. I took a train to Orléans and then BlaBlaBus to Paris from there. This makes for a good opportunity to mention how there’s a few backup options via public transportation, don’t panic if there’s a strike or something!

Things I would mention for people that I did NOT do but should have: 

  • Supposedly you can show your receipt from the Rémi shuttle bus to the ticket desk agent at the castles to get a discount on your castle entry, which I didn’t know in advance.
  • Before visiting any castles, pop into l’Office du Tourisme in Blois to check out the Castle Pass deals. If I had known about this I could have saved money on entry fees. They have a combination entry pass that includes all four of the castles I visited. They have passes that include Beauregard and Cheverny too, or the Son et Lumière light show at Château de Blois.

Other French words I might mention:

  • People like Duke of Guise, King Henri III, Louis XII, Catherine de Medici, King Francis I, Joan of Arc
  • I stayed at a hotel called “Le Pavillon” (but I can also research other options if we want to suggest accommodation ideas…this one was perfect for me on a budget but isn’t fancy)
  • Other castles I thought about trying to visit but it seemed more difficult on public transportation: Château d’Ussé, Château de Chenonceau, Château De Villandry
  • I’ll want to mention that Leonardo da Vinci is buried in “St Hubert’s Chapel” at Amboise

Negative experiences:

  • The only thing that sticks out in my mind is that Chambord is extremely crowded. It’s beautiful, but it gave me a lot of anxiety and I wanted to rush through in order to get away from people. I couldn’t find anywhere to sit for lunch either, like I just didn’t eat because there were no tables.
  • I couldn’t see da Vinci’s tomb because they were doing maintenance. That’s not a negative review or anything, it’s great that they are renovating. Just kind of a bummer and maybe something other people could try to plan around. Chambord also had a lot of scaffolding up for renovations so I couldn’t get the prettiest pictures.
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Category: Loire Valley