The most special thing about France is the uniqueness of each region and the dramatic differences from one area to the next. We decided to travel to two different regions on an eight day adventure.
If you arrive in paris via the Eurostar, the easiest thing to do is rent a car from Gare du Nord and hit the highway immediately. Driving to Tours takes approximately 2.5 hours and costs about 25 Euros for the tolls. Tours is a mid-size town that offers great food and therefore a great place to base yourself if you’re going chateaux hopping and wine tasting. There were two restaurants we tried in Tours that we think you’ll like too!
La Souris Gourmande. Tartine? Fondue? With hundreds of cheeses on the menu, this was a very welcoming place! The thing most likely to make us quarrel on vacation is by far where to eat dinner. We have these horribly long discussions about where we should eat and neither of us ever says what we want. So it’s not that we’re fighting about where to eat, it’s that we can’t even decide at all. In order to avoid this in Tours, we set out on a scouting mission to find a place to eat dinner, as our guidebook offered slim pickings. As we ducked down an alley feeling as if we would never make a decision, the owner of a restaurant we were passing by began to chat us up about his passion for cheese. I would like to say it was an easy decision and we returned without hesitation that evening, but the bottom line is that we discussed it for another two hours. But we didn’t regret it! This was one of the best meals I have had in France and it was off of the main tourist drag of Tours so it felt very cosy and authentic!
Zinc. Classic french Bistrot at an affordable price, nestled down a side street off the main square.
From Tours, you can access many different Chateaux in less than an hour. In my life I have been to Chenonceaux, Chambord, Blois, and Amboise. To be very honest, the only one I can ever remember is Chenonceaux, and it is the only one I have returned to. Built over the river, it is impossible to visit and not imagine what life would have been like on this exquisite piece of property. And on a spring day, it is actually very peaceful, as tourists slow down a bit and saunter the manicured grounds and well preserved interior. I can still remember posing for a picture out front with my high school French class and thinking about how I never thought I would get to see a real castle!
It wouldn’t be a trip to the Loire without a bit of wine. On our way out of Tours we stopped in a very small little town called Chinon. This was a wine we had been drinking for most of the trip and we were immediately in love with it. We decided we had to go visit a Cave there and buy from the source. So early on a Sunday morning, when you’d never expect anything to be open, we pulled in to the cellars Caves Plouzeau and low and behold they were closed. Even though they said they’d be open. But we persevered, walked around the town, and when we came back, a woman was pulling up her truck to open the Caves! I highly recommend visiting this very deep, dark, cave and picking out a ton of wine.
After staying two nights in Tours we hit the road for Angers, where we spotted out first rainbow of the trip on the side of a bus! Ahh France and its outdated design esthetics. After listening to Andrew downplay the city, I had low expectations. I don’t know if it was the weather, or what, but I thought Angers was very impressive with a massive castle looming over the town the the clean open outdoor spaces for recreation. We had a nice lunch in the town center before leaving the Loire Valley and entering Bretagne.
The town of St Malo is a real gem on the Northern coast. Andrew has been talking about it for years. Stay there for one night and enjoy Gallettes (buckwheat crepes, a speciality of the region), a walk around the entire city on the fortress walls, stunning views of the blue sea, and at low tide climbing out on the rocks and on the little islands that have many secrets to be discovered.