The first day of our route by car through the Loire Valley I could not start better. Behind we leave Nantes who will wait for us in the future. Our journey has begun ...
Planning the route of the day: Nantes - Saumur
Remember that in this newspaper we will be commenting our planning and choice of stops day by day, in this way, if we have left something aside you know the reason and you can assess it on your route. He itinerary of the day has been the following (click to see it on Google Maps)
The route has taken us in just 1 hour to Angers to get to eat in others 25 minutes to Brissac. The second part of the day we have begun to 30 minutes in beautiful Montreuil-Bellay and so have almost all the evening ahead toSaumur 20 minutes from the previous
Distance traveled during the day: 180 km
Car used in the trip: Toyota Yaris rental (pre-booked online with Rentalcars)
Hotel chosen to sleep in Saumur: Château De Verrières Hotel and Spa (a renovated castle)
Alternative excursions to the car from Paris in Spanish: Loire Castles in 1 day, Loire Castles in 2 days, 2-3 day castles of the Loire and Mont Sant Michel orCastles of the Loire and Normandy for 3-4 days
What to see between Nantes and Saumur?
Our stops have been Angers, Brissac, Montreuil-Bellay and Saumur but the route would allow us to stop at the following locations considered within the Loire Valley and Listings by stop order (many do not appear even in the usual guides -With the most interesting-):
- Nantes, the city of culture that we discarded yesterday to optimize time
- Ancenis, a typical river town before Angers
- Béhuard, the only town nestled on an island in the Loire
- Denee, another picturesque town towards Angers
- Angers, city-heritage considered gateway to the Loire Valley
- Blaison-gohier, millenary town with charm Saumur road
- Brissac, population with one of the best castles of the Loire in our opinion (remember that you already have our list of "The 12 best Castles of the Loire (not to be missed)")
- Bauge, another town out of the way that might deserve a stop
- Saumur, one of the best historical centers with a castle that enjoys the best panoramic view
Eye, one thing is everything we see that could be done and another that you are overwhelmed with seeing everything ... You would need 1 month! We have chosen the best and most outstanding for a 7-8 day trip.
What to see in Angers, the gateway to the Loire Valley
It's barely 8 in the morning and, after resting in theHôtel Nantes Aéroport nearby, we have gone to the Terminal where we landed last night to have breakfast (6 EUR), pick up our little Yaris processed withRentalcars as we usually do (we reserve full franchise coverage and usually opt for Europcar although on this occasion we have chosen Sixt that in Paris has a very central office to return it right next to the hotel we choose), install the TomTom that we always bring with us and get in the way. Getting to Angers from Nantes It has not been complicated since it really is taking a toll road (8.50 EUR) and you plant in the center in 100 kilometers and 1 hour of route
In spite of being the end of July, it seems that we will not be lucky with the weather this first day and a half of travel although later it seems that there will be several days of sun and good weather. After locate and walk through the main square, which seems to not affect what happens outside is to the little Olivia that inside Paula already asks for her second breakfast (5.80 EUR) Definitely, the pace of travel will be somewhat quieter this time.
They call Angers as the gateway to the Loire Valley and the truth is that it does not detract from that qualifier. The richness of its Heritage, with its Castle-Fortress, its Cathedral, the Collegiate Church, museums and galleries or large natural spaces, are mixed with the great atmosphere that usually breathe its streets on the banks of the Loire, its cuisine offered in dozens of terraces or its "invaded" surroundings of DO vineyards
And what is it A must see in Angers that you can't miss at your stop in the city? As always, it is best to see the route on a map
Get to theSaint-Maurice Cathedral 1 is not very difficult. It is an angevin Gothic building and possibly the most remarkable (as the guides say) are its stained glass windows of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries
Just behind is thePlace Sainte-Croixe and the Maison d'Adam 2 that can be considered the most atmospheric area of the city, especially at sunset and where the wooden facade of a beautiful mansion of the 16th century worthy of some photos stands out. The monumental walk continues along theSt. Martin Collegiate Church 3, theSaint Aubin Tower 4 and the multiple cultural options for lovers of museums and galleries such as theDavid de Angers Gallery 5 located in the former Toussaint abbey church or theMuseum of Fine Arts 6 in the Barrault residence palace that has beautiful gardens
But, for those of us who are passing through, in addition to wandering through its historic center, what catches our attention is the imposing Angers Castle 7
This is the main monument of the city that served as a residence for the Dukes of Anjou between the 14th and 15th centuries although its construction by the Regent Blanca de Castilla and her son Luis XI (St. Louis of France) dates from S. XIII
Although on the outside it is already very photogenic, and despite the rain, we have not hesitated to enter (9 EUR each) because it houses the odd treasure, starting with what was the stately residence separated from the fortress that came to constitute the almost 600 m in circumference where it was finally located
Walking through the gardens, which came to have a zoo, one realizes the many extensions that have been accumulating in later centuries. Large windows with racks, chapel, royal dwelling and even a castle, the work of the eccentric King Renato de Anjou
Do you sound the Tapestry of the Apocalypse? It is a set of 6 pieces of the end of the fourteenth century with a representation of the Apocalypse of St. John. This jewel is now in one of the Angers Castle galleries and its importance is also that it is the largest medieval tapestry in the world. Impress! Everything must be said
By some side stairs, you can also climb the walls that will give us the best views of the city and that give a good idea of the last modifications that Luis XI, adapting the fortification to the new artillery techniques, and Luis XIV, that would turn it into a small Bastille, made in the more than 25,000 m² of castle wall
Knowing this monument seems obligatory among the attractions to see in Angers if you decide to stop and although today it is converted into a museum, it is capable of moving to that historical past since it is very well preserved
If your trip takes you to spend the night in Angers or you simply have more time, there are bike routes ranging from Angers to Maine or La Loire through the beautiful landscapes of Trezale. The Anjou vineyards For lovers of good wine, they also allow visits to more than 30 denominations of origin and wineries prepared to taste. Loire boat trips, terrace and snack in bars or cafes from the city, visit the troglodyte caves, approach the Botanical Garden or put route to Brissac castles, le Plessis-Bourré, le Plessis-Macé or Serrant nearby, may be other good options
It's around 12'00. It seems like a good time to set course for our next point in the day's journey
Brissac Castle, the tallest castle in France
Although its height may be a good claim, it was reading a phrase that caught our attention while preparing the trip: "Brissac Castle is delighted and has its own ghost". Approaching Brissac, just 25 minutes from Angers (and multiple free parking) was the best decision we could make. We are facing one of "The 12 best Castles of the Loire (not to be missed)" as well we include in the list and you have your own dedicated article on "Visit to Brissac Castle (with prices and map)" (coming soon)
Brissac is a small town that breathes peace and tranquility in the commune of Brissac ‐ Quincé de Maine ‐ et ‐ Loire. Hunger squeezes and the first thing we see is a lovely creperie called Le Haut Tertre in which we would have loved to eat (point it out, it has a pint !!!). However, we already know where all the people are ... there is no place! Sandwiches in Paula Square (7.70 EUR)? With that, drink and views, what more could you ask for?
There are two types of entrance to Brissac Castle, one that includes its dependencies and another just to see it from the gardens (they are wonderful) which is what we take (5 EUR each). The tallest castle in France was built in the eleventh century for the counts of Anjou and underwent reconstructions and remodeling in the coming centuries by Carlos VII, Enrique de Navarra or Carlos II de Cossé. It is currently the residence of the 13th Duke of Brissac and looks imposing with its high towers and fortified plinths
We lacked dessert, right Paula? The house that makes the entrance also has a nice cafeteria where you can enjoy a piscolabis and some coffees (5.50 EUR) while we have just read about 'la Dame Verte', the ghost of the unfaithful wife killed by her husband in the 15th century but that We leave it for the dedicated article.
We return to the parking lot where we have left the car, right here next door (for now it has been very easy to park) and we begin to think that we have to get to Saumur to dominate although we are going very well in time
Montreuil-Bellay, a medieval village high on the Thouet River
Okay, we admit, maybe it wasn't exactly on the way to Saumur (exactly 30 minutes from Brissac) but it hadn't been 1 or 2 that had previously told us about a beautiful medieval village framed within the Loire-Anjou-Touraine regional natural park that still maintains the atmosphere of yesteryear, with its wheat lands, vineyards embedded in hillsides and tile and slate buildings. And what better access than the Saint-Pierre staircase to get into it?
Montreuil-Bellay stands 40 meters above the level of the Thouet River, inside some walls and dominated by a castle. Today he prepares for a party and at this time there are still hardly any tourists walking through its exceptional historical heritage.
It seems that the first inhabitants of this area date from the Neolithic, even menhirs of that time are still preserved. However, how could it be otherwise, the main attraction of the town was born there by the year 1025 when Focha Nerra built a castle later reinforced in the S.XIII and S.XV
Both the castle and the current winery can be visited. Kitchen, basements, dining room, rooms, stairs of honor ... ending with a good wine tasting. We, after some good walks and also know some workshops of ceramic artisans and bookbinding, we ended the visit surprising us with its surroundings. Without a doubt, it would have been a perfect place to base and navigate its river, hiking, cycling or horse riding or even fishing.
Another experience awaits us in Saumur, so we want to arrive before the castle closes at around 5.30pm (all of the Loire do so at similar times)
What to see in Saumur, the white city of the Loire
We return to the banks of the Loire River, the same that we will go back all this trip. On this occasion they were worried about finding parking in their nerve center to be able to approach the castle. Spanish mentality, what we would say. Already from this first day we realize that France thinks of tourists, pets (castles allow them), accessibility for pregnant women (Paula is delighted) and, in this case being a holiday, even to open the gate of Pay parking and make them public (we park in the Centr'Halles). Live! But, What are the essentials to see in Saumur that can not be missing? Really touring Saumur does not require a map unless you are a fan of museums (of tanks, engines, cavalry) being the boat trips on the Loire and, above all, its medieval old town and imposing castle with the views of the city at your feet, the main attractions
He Saumur Castle arises in the S.X from the need for defense against the Normans although it is already in the S.XII when it turns to a Gothic style. It does not say that it happened a thousand times of hands and functions (military headquarters, prison, ...) even under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte (map of its official website)
As we are well on time, we decided to enter now because, although it is one of those that can be seen from outside, an ambitious restoration carried out a few years ago has created a very interesting visit (7 EUR each), housing even an Arts Museum Decorative and a horse museum. We couldn't do better and now it's part of the list of "The 12 best Castles of the Loire (not to be missed)"and he has his dedicated article "Visit to Saumur Castle (with prices and map)" (coming soon)
Although, without a doubt, the castle of the Dukes of Anjou stands out for having one of the best views of the rooftops of the city and the Loire, which could also have been seen from one of the corners of the gardens without entering. Our opinion is that it is very worth visiting if you have time.
A staircase returns you to historic center of the medieval village, the one that still preserves (in very good condition) old houses with beautiful wooden frames, beautiful churches like Nantilly or the Royal Chapel of Notre-Dame des Ardilliers or terraces to taste a good wine (6.20 EUR) ... well, less Paula (it is what you have to be 24 weeks pregnant, Oli will thank you)
We leave behind the center of the so-called pearl of Anjou and those limestone buildings that allow it to retain its charm and meet the needs, now if, of the small one that is on its way. The fruit never fails (9.03 EUR)
Well, explain that the definition of "the white city of the Loire" has nothing to do with that "Ashgabat, the white marble capital of Turkmenistan"but it comes from the use of tuffeau stone, calcareous tuff that we will see more tomorrow in other buildings, abbeys and even troglodytic houses in the region.
As you know, our trips usually mix the traditional with the search for these different experiences beyond visiting museums, monuments or fortresses. In the case of the Loire Valley, in addition to vineyards with tasting in wineries, boats along the river or bike routes there are charming accommodations that become an experience like being able to sleep in a castle. It is the case ofChâteau De Verrières Hotel
HeChâteau De Verrières Hotel It is a renovated castle from 1890 located in a four-hectare park in the heart of Saumur (it also has a pool) that retains the authenticity and atmosphere of the mansion that was, with a certain romantic and melancholic atmosphere, led by a young couple who go out of their way for the best care. What do you think about our room or the rooms with furniture that look like real antiques?
The building is perfectly preserved, a true jewel, and although it is not cheap, it is like living (and not just visiting) truly in a castle for a day.
At this time of the year, at the end of July, it gets dark around 9:30 pm so we can extend the conference quite a bit. We took the opportunity to gain strength in the "castle" where we slept and returned to the liveliest streets
In this new walk we learned that Saumur is also a milestone in French riding since the end of s. XVI, since the first equestrian academy was inaugurated here, the so-called "Cadre Noir de Saumur", place where you can still attend real horse shows.
Those who seek experiences also have the Combier distillery tasting of liquors and fruit syrups, in the Maison des Vins de Loire tasting of more than 70 wines and in the Martin de Candre factory elaboration of 100% natural soaps. We, however, already visualized dinner
We had an exceptional dinner with salty crepes, salad, some scandal ice cream and Breton beer for 38.20 EUR, for nothing expensive including dessert and coffee
The portions were more than correct and the waiters are very very friendly. We would certainly repeat and recommend it for future travelers.
We enjoy the rest of the day in our private accommodation tonight, very different from others we are used to. Tomorrow we will follow the route to the East and troglodyte houses, some of the most impressive abbeys of the Loire and some of the best castle that can be seen, await us.Behind we leave Angers and Saumur and that surprise of the day that has been the Castle of Brissac, a great stranger.
Isaac and Paula (and Oli), from Saumur (France)
EXPENSES OF THE DAY: EUR 128.93