Our trip begins today in Blois, France. After arriving in Paris, transfer independently via train to Blois (two hours) and then by taxi an additional 2 km (5 minutes) to our hotel. We recommend you arrive early to explore beautiful Blois and its grand château, lively shops, and scenic waterfront. Do arrive in Blois no later than 5pm for a bike fitting, followed by a group orientation dinner at a delightful local restaurant, Le Monarque, in the city's historic center just a short walk from our hotel. Dinner included.
We begin straightaway with some of the Loire's most exceptional riding, a visit to the stunning Châteaux of Chambord and Cheverny, and end in lovely Chitenay. Crossing the Loire River, we follow quiet back roads and bike paths to the awe-inspiring Chambord estate, whose formidable medieval walls and towers surround the Loire's great jewel of French Renaissance architecture. We'll explore the château and enjoy lunch nearby, then return to our bikes and set off through the forest on the estate's picturesque bridal paths, leading out to the charming small community of Bracieux. From here, we ride on to the Château of Cheverny. The gardens and superbly restored interiors of Cheverny are a must-see on our way to Chiteney, where we stop for the night at a charming small guesthouse. All meals included.
Cycling: 27 miles (3-4 hours, paved/dirt roads/trails), Elevation gain/loss: +569' / -525'
Our day begins with a transfer by van (provided) to Chenonceau, the iconic château built on a bridge that spans the Cher River. Chenonceau is also known as the Château of the Three Ladies, referring to the three women—Katherine Briconnet, Diane de Poitiers (Henri II's mistress) and Catherine de Medici—who lived in the castle between 1513–1589 and greatly contributed to its opulent décor and preservation. From here, we return to the back roads and protected bike paths leading north through vineyard, field and forest to charming city of Amboise, where some of the most important French royalty lived and where the last home of Leonardo da Vinci, the Château du Clos Lucé, is located. We'll visit Clos Luce and enjoy lunch in Amboise. Leaving there in the afternoon, we ride along the Loire River through the vineyards at Montlouis then continue on to Tours and our next charming hotel. We'll enjoy drinks and dinner in the charming town center and retire here for the evening. Breakfast, dinner included.
Cycling: 25 miles (3-4 hours, paved/dirt roads/trails), Elevation gain/loss: +737' / -789'; Van transfer: 45 mins.
Today we'll depart Tours on our bikes and ride the city streets to rejoin the back roads and cycling paths leading from Tours west along the Loire River, making several interesting stops en route to Azay-le-Rideau. We begin with a very special visit to the last of the great renaissance châteaux, Villandry, whose fame is undoubtedly owed to the layers of immaculate terraced gardens surrounding it. From Villandry, we ride on to Langeais as we marvel at architectural reminders of the hazardous Middle Ages, when medieval fortresses were designed to be impregnable! From there, we follow our route through the valley of the River Indre to end the day's ride at Azay-le-Rideau, with a tour of its romantic château. Located on an island where it appears to float in the Indre River, the château houses a remarkable collection of Renaissance portraits and tapestries. All meals included.
Cycling: 25 miles (3-4 hours, paved/dirt roads/trails), Elevation gain/loss: +658' / -661'
Our final big day of riding begins as we head west to rejoin the Loire River and Rigny-Ussé where the shining Château d'Usse still stands long after inspiring Perrault to pen the fairy tale "La Belle au Bois Dormant" (Sleeping Beauty) in 1696. We continue riding towards the confluence between the River la Vienne and Loire River to one of the most beautiful tiny villages of the Loire valley, Candes-Saint-Martin, where you can visit the magnificent 12th and 13th century collegiate church. Proceeding to the village of Montsoreau dominated by its château overlooking the Loire river, we ride on along troglodyte sites to the vineyards at Champigny for a late afternoon wine-tasting. Finally, we arrive in Saumur at the end of our tour. Enjoy a farewell dinner and a final night in the French countryside before turning in for the night. All meals included.
Cycling: 35 miles (4-5 hours, paved/dirt roads/trails), Elevation gain/loss: +1,017' / -1,080'
After breakfast, transfer independently from our hotel in Saumur to the local train station for a rail connection back to Paris and homeward bound flights. Our hotel can assist with taxi service. Breakfast included.