Travelogue – Loire Valley Part 1: Nantes, Angers, Saumur, Chinon

If you’ve been following for a while now, you’ve seen me progress into a full blown Francophile.  It started in Paris (here, here, and here), followed me to Burgundy, persisted in Alsace, Champagne and now the Loire!  I just can’t get enough.
We started in Nantes at the “mouth” of the Loire and followed the river all they way East, ending at the northern tip of Burgundy in Chablis.  You will definitely need a car to hit all the spots; we spent a total of 7 days making our way, ending with 2 nights and 2 days in Paris.
The Loire is a very large region and can generally be split into two halves, cities and towns comprising the areas east and west of the central city of Tours.  In part 1, I will focus on the first half of our trip and the region west of Tours.

We flew into Paris and took a quick flight to Nantes where we picked up our car.  We spent the night at the Okko Hotel which I highly recommend.  Nightly happy hours and a substantial breakfast spread, centrally located, what more could you need??Our first meal was at La Cigalle, a historic restaurant in the heart of Nantes.  I couldn’t wait for my first sip of Muscadet paired with fresh oysters!  The table-side steak tartare was also amazing!

The next morning we began our journey East.  Our first stop was the Sunday market in Angers to pick up picnic supplies.

Followed by a quick run through a brocante (antique market) at the castle.
We continued our drive to the town of Bourgueil where we found a picnic bench in the middle of the vineyards for our picnic!  The town was almost entirely shut down as it was Sunday.


Our final stop was our home base for the next 2 days, Hotel Diderot in Chinon.
After checking in we walked around town, making our way up to the Chateau and stopping for an aperitif at Cave des Silenes, a wine bar that features the wines of local producer Charles Joguet.
And then it was time for dinner!  Much of Chinon is also closed on Sundays but we had a delicious meal at Les Anees 30 with the first of many cheese trays!


The skies cleared the next morning, showing off the beautiful hotel exterior!
Owners Jamie (an American!) and her husband Jean-Pierre carry on the Hotel Diderot tradition with an unparalleled spread of breakfast jams.  The banana jam with rum raisin made its way home with me and I’m still savoring the last few bites!
After all those carbs (really just a vehicle to try every jam flavor!) we embarked on what was supposed to be a languid, easy bike ride along the river to Candes-Saint-Martin.  Choosing to follow the river meant a bumpy dirt road for most of the journey which turned our 1.5 hour round trip journey into almost 3… stick to the paved bike route and you’ll have an easy time!

We made it back just as Jared’s pedal fell off his bike…..after a quick change we were off again.  Back to Saumur where we had lunch at L’Escargot before a tasting at Ackerman.
A word of warning when planning your trip, almost everything was closed for dinner on Sunday/Monday in Chinon.  We drove 25 minutes to L’Etape Gourmande in Villandry for some home-cooked French classics.

The next day we said our goodbyes to Hotel Diderot and continued to follow the river East.  We stopped at Chateau Villandry to admire the beautiful gardens, Rick Steves does not do this place justice and says to skip it unless you are a garden lover!  I completely disagree and it was quite possibly my favorite chateau because of the beautiful grounds.

We had a delicious lunch at Le Bistrot de la Liodiere in nearby Joue-les-Tours.

We spent the afternoon in Vouvray with a stop at Champalou and Domaine Huet.  More details on our tasting experiences on this week’s Wine Wednesday!
Our final stop for this leg was Amboise where we spent the next 2 days.  Stay tuned for Part 2.
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