The Loire Valley is a pretty big area, with châteaus spread throughout. Tours, the area's largest city, is located about 150 miles southwest of Paris. Some of the region's attractions, such as Blois, Chambord, and Chenonceau are located up to an hour east of Tours, while others, such as Villandry and Azay-le-Rideau are located to the west or southwest.
WHEN TO GO
Fall is the ideal time to take a gastronomic tour of the region. Days will be fine and warm after the morning mists have cleared. The best time to go is September.
HOW TO GET THERE
Tours airport (www.tours.aeroport.fr) is the best situated for the Loire Valley, and the city is the obvious base for visiting the region's châteaus. While there are no direct flights from the U.S., Ryanair flies there from London's Stansted Airport (www.ryanair.com). As for train stations, Tours has a central train station, though some trains, including most high-speed TGVs, stop at St-Pierre-des-Corps, an industrial complex outside the city. Frequent shuttle trains link the stations in about eight minutes. The trip from Paris takes a little over an hour on the TGV (leaving from the Gare Montparnasse), or about two hours on the slower train (leaving from Gare d'Austerlitz).
The tourist office for Tours is at 78-82 Rue Bernard Palissy (33-2-47-70-37-37; www.ligeris.com). The tourism authority for La Touraine (the Loire Valley) is at 9 Rue Buffon in Tours (33-2-47-31-47-48; www.tourism-touraine.com). The tourist office for Chenonceaux is located at 1 Rue Bretonneau (33-2-47-23-94-45; www.chenonceaux-blere-tourisme.com).View France Factsheet