Cooking Holiday in France: Chateaux and Gastronomy in the Loire
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Grand Tour of the Loire

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About the location: Among the glories of the Loire Valley are the magnificent chateaux studding the banks of the Loire river. The playground of nobles, the valley became the cradle of the artistic explosion of the French Renaissance. Today, you will also find vineyards flanking much of the length of the Loire, and you will blend your visits of the chateaux with tastings of the best wines of the region alongside your English-speaking guide. Your accommodations will be in an elegant 4-star hotel, situated in the heart of Tours, the perfect place to explore all the chateaux that the Loire Valley has to offer.

During this special and exclusive cooking vacation, you will enjoy tastings at some truly remarkable locales. Visit world-class wineries where the the experts will lead you in a tasting of the Loire’s famous wines; explore the amazing array of chateaus with licensed and bilingual guides who will share plenty of anecdotes, and see Leonardo da Vinci's tomb; and discover the origins of goat milk cheese in France.

About the cooking courses: You will have the opportunity to cook with a chef at a boutique cooking atelier. At this cooking school, there is a team of 10 chefs, who are all passionate about their art and are proud to share their knowledge and love of French gastronomy. Following a visit to the local Tours market, where you'll discover the best vegetables and tastiest cheese, you'll head to the kitchen to learn how to make a seasonal meal.

Grand Tour of the Loire Itinerary

Day 1

Order of activities may vary depending on the season and your start date.

  • Arrival at Tours train station on your own.
  • A short taxi ride (not included) to your 4-star Hotel de L’Univers (or similar), which is located in the fashionable shopping area of Tours. The hotel offers all the comforts of a grand hotel and has been the hotel of choice for a number of European celebrities.
  • Time to relax or explore Tours, the largest city in the Loire Valley. Historically and architecturally speaking, it is one of the cradles of the French Renaissance. Stroll thrown the city and discover the area known as “Old Tours,” pedestrian streets, and numerous 15th and 16th century timer-framed houses, the famous Plumereau, Charlemagne Tower, Saint-Martin collegiate church, and the new Saint-Martin Basilica.
  • Dinner on your own with a list of recommended restaurants from the hotel.

Day 2

  • After breakfast, meet at the Tours Tourist Office at 9:30 a.m. (just 200 meters from the hotel).
  • Your tour today starts at Chateau of Blois, which is unique for its combination of four architectural styles, Gothic, Flamboyant, Renaissance and Classic. As such, the chateau is like a resume of architecture from the Middle Ages to the classical period.
  • Cheverny & Cour Cheverny wine tasting: This appellation produces elegant red wines, such as pinot noir and gamay, as well as fruity white wines, including chardonnay and sauvignon, that are perfect for real connoisseurs. One such wine is the “Cour Cheverny Appellation,” a stunning white made from the Romorantin grape.
  • Lunch in a local restaurant with wines, cheeses, charcuterie, salad, and dessert.
  • Guided visit of the Chateau of Cheverny. In the 17th century Cheverny was the first chateau incarnating the classical style in the Loire Valley. Built by the governor of Blois city, this chateau is known for the richness of its interiors, which have been kept unaltered thanks to its owners, the Hurault family. Cheverny presents a magnificent collection of furniture and master paintings from the Renaissance period. It is also famous for its tradition of the horse-back hunt and its impressive pack of 100 dogs.
  • Visit of the Chateau of Chambord. Chambord was the very first Chateau of the Valley to be proclaimed by UNESCO as a world heritage. Leonardo Da Vinci most likely participated in the conception of the chateau, which has more than 400 rooms.
  • Around 6:30 p.m., your guide will return you to the Tours Tourist Office.
  • Dinner on your own.

Day 3

  • After breakfast, meet your driver at 9:30 a.m. at the Tours Tourist Office.
  • Guided tour of Chateau de Chenonceau, which is also known as the “Chateau des Dames,” for the great female figures who have lived here, including Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici. It’s also known for its beautiful gardens.
  • Following a tasting of Vouvray, Montlouis, Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil wines, enjoy a lunch at a wine specialist’s. Wines will be paired with a selection of delicatessen meats and cheeses.
  • Guided tour of the Royal Castle of Amboise, once residence to Charles VIII, and a young Francois d’Angouleme, future Franocis I. Discover this wonderful castle, a perfect example of transition from Gothic to Renaissance. The Saint Hubert Chapel today shelters the grave of Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Next, visit the Manoir du Clos Luce, a few yards away from the castle. Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life here and died in 1519. Tour his bedroom, office, reception room, and kitchen. His invention room will leave you in awe, as models of his most spectacular machines are displayed.
  • Your driver will return you to the Tours Tourist Office.
  • Dinner on your own.

Day 4

  • After breakfast, meet your driver at 9:30 a.m. at the Tours Tourist Office.
  • Guided tour of the Chateau of Azay le Rideau, a gem of Renaissance architecture. Situated on an island on the Indre river, it’s an unforgettable gem that’s been well preserved due to it’s mullioned, pepper pots, dormers, and graceful staircase. Be sure to take a stroll around its charmiing English-style gardens.
  • Guided tour of Langeais fortress, one of the most picturesque towns of the Loire Valley. A tour of the interior not only gives a good idea of day-to-day life in the Middle Ages, but also provides reminders of a key event in French history: the marriage of Charles VIII and Duchess Anne of Brittany.
  • Tour and wine tasting at a vineyard in Bourgueil followed by a lunch (drinks included).
  • Take a guided tour of a spectacular garden in Touraine, Villandry. With its diversity (love garden, kitchen garden, medicine plant garden, water garden, and sun garden), and its size (15 acres), this is a garden that should not be missed.
  • Your driver will return you to the Tours Tourist Office.
  • Dinner on your own.

Day 5

  • Check out after breakfast.
  • Meet your driver guide to transfer to Tours for a private cooking class.
  • Your cooking lesson will take place at a boutique Cooking Atelier, which is composed of a team of 10 Chefs, all passionate about their art and proud to share their know-how and their love for French Gastronomy. Gourmet explorers will love visiting the market with the Chef: you will discover the best vegetables, the tastiest cheeses, the best poultry; you will learn how to select your products, and you will prepare a menu according to the season.
  • Back at the cooking atelier, you will cook with the Chef, and will finally enjoy a well-deserved lunch paired with some good wines!
  • Tour and a tasting at a goat cheese farm.
  • In the late afternoon, transfer to Saint Pierre des Corps TGV station.