Paris & the Loire Valley - The Best of France in One Parfait Getaway!

February 10, 2015

Combine a stay in chic Paris with a few days unwinding in the Loire Valley - the heart of France’s spectacular châteaux country and a picturesque haven for food and wine lovers.  

There are many alluring reasons to visit Paris. For some, it’s to marvel at post-impressionist art at Musée d’Orsay or shop at the luxurious boutiques along Avenue Montaign. For others, it’s to sit in a cosy café and enjoy the French Art of Living. Whatever your preference, France’s sultry capital has something for everyone, its iconic sites beckoning you at every turn.

The ‘City of Light’ provides boundless inspiration - romantic and otherwise. Unfurl a blanket and picnic in the enchanting Tuileries or Palais Royal gardens. Take pictures on the Pont des Arts, the famous ‘love-locking’ bridge. Climb atop the impressive Arc de Triomphe and marvel at unobstructed views of Paris. Stroll through the narrow, winding streets on the hill of Montmartre or the magical quarter of Marais with its aristocratic stone mansions. Enjoy an evening bateau-mouche ride on the Seine as you glide under bridges, past Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower glimmering in the night sky.  

Paris’ café culture is world renowned. Its charming streets lined with art nouveau cafés and wicker-chairs that spill onto its old-world streets. Visit the legendary establishments Café de Flore or Café Saint-Régis. In historic Place de Voyages, picturesque cafés fill the square. Sit back and take in Parisian society as the smell of fresh coffee and the chatter of patrons’ echoes throughout.

Chocolate and dessert connoisseurs can indulge at the renowned Salon de Thé and Pâtissier Angelina; their famous chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) is legendary. Taste decadent pâtisseries, chocolates and macaron at Pierre Hermé or Ladurée. If you’re in the mood for a delicious gelato or sorbet, then go to Maison Berthillon or Amarino.

With more than 170 museums, Paris is a haven for art lovers. Not to be missed is the Musée d’Orsay located in a former Beaux-Arts railway station. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world. For older works, visit the massive centuries-old palace known as the Musée du Louvre. The Centre Pompidou is the place to go for 20th century art while Musée Rodin is a must to see incredible sculptures.   

For shopping, head to the chic Faubourg Saint-Honoré district lined with the world’s greatest fashion houses or the grandiose Avenue des Champs-Élysées. On a cold or raining day, head to the famous department stores Galleries Lafayette and Printemps.

After a few days of shopping and taking in the magical city sites it’s time to head out to the countryside to relax and unwind.

Loire Valley

When Parisians want to unwind for a few days they look no further than the spectacular Loire Valley, an enchanting land of rolling green hills dotted with historic vineyards, mouth-watering cuisine, fairy-tale castles and storybook villages. A former playground of the kings and queens of France, what remains is a treasure trove of magnificent château, symmetrical gardens and tranquil forests that will take your breath away. 

Located two hours southwest of Paris, the Loire Valley can be easily reached by bus or train. With its scenic, winding roads that captivate you at every turn, the region is best explored by car or on bike. And with 500 miles of bike paths, it’s no wonder this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one the most bicycle-friendly in Europe.

The delightful towns of Tours, Blois and Amboise provide the ideal base and are brimming with historic fortresses, churches, museums, quaint shops, cafes, patisserie, and artisan markets for visitors to explore. We suggest picking up some fresh, delicious local fare from the market and enjoying a picnic chateau-side.  

The ultimate epicurean destination, the Loire Valley has a long history of incredible gastronomy and superb wines. Its bounty of local fresh ingredients used to prepare traditional French country dishes fit for royalty. Savour specialties like the region’s famed goat cheeses, white butter sauce, freshwater fish, rillettes pâté, fouace bread, charcuterie, game from acres of forest, and delicious Tarte Tatin that have long delighted palates across France.

The Loire Valley is also home to many excellent wines. Look for dégustation (tasting) signs throughout the region. Enjoy an aromatic glass of local Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé wine, arguably the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. There are also many historic wineries. Explore the mysteries of the Wine Grower’s Brotherhood at Chinon’s Caves Painctes where former quarries were converted into wine cellars during the 15th century. In Vouvray, visit the Cave Touristique, its atmospheric cellar makes a great sparkling Vouvray and classy, dry Chenins. 

With over a thousand châteaux strung across the Loire Valley, the greatest challenge for any visitor is how to choose, so it’s good to be discerning. The romantic Château of Chenonceau with its breathtaking galerie de bal that spans the River Cher will enchant you, as will a boat ride along the Cher and a night walk through the illuminated garden accompanied to music. At the Chaumont-sur-Loire attend the annual International Garden Festival. Stand in awe at the imposing Château de Chambord; it is a masterpiece of French renaissance architecture with its elaborate rooftops. An enjoyable way to take in its splendor is by horse-drawn carriage. There’s also the gracious Villandry with its famed decorative Renaissance gardens and the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau built in the centre of a romantic park. In summer, transport yourself back in time at one of the famed château son-et-lumière (sound-and-light) show.

Lovingly referred to as “the Garden of France”, a magical way to see the beautiful Loire Valley in its entirety is via hot air balloon ride or helicopter tour. The bird’s eye view of these architectural masterpieces is postcard perfect, so pack your camera!

The best time for travellers to visit the Loire Valley is from May to October.



The turreted and ivy-covered DOMAINE DES HAUTS DE LOIRE in Onzain en Touraine is one of the finest classic French châteaux hotels in the region. Its antique-filled rooms overlook 180 acres of glorious forest between Blois and Amboise. This splendid 18th century hunting lodge (built by a publishing magnate with aristocratic pretensions) is now a hotel brimming with attributes: swimming pool, tennis courts, gardens, a pond with floating swans, and picturesque walking trails where guests can rejuvenate in the splendor of nature. Its chief glory is the two-Michelin-star restaurant under the direction of Head Chef Rémy Giraud that serves classic French cuisine with a modern twist using seasonal ingredients; the result is utterly superb. Among his signature dishes is an Aquitaine Caviar, a crunchy eel salad with shallot dressing and a Ligérienne fish soup. The wine list is impeccable, as is the service. For more information, visit 


Dine in an 18th century castle with a magnificent cellar of 20,000 bottles at Origan in Château d'Artigny. Try their hare royale stuffed with foie gras and truffles.  

In the heart of Tours you will find the La Chancelière by Michelin-star chef Olivier Arlot. His cuisine is simple yet creative using local fresh ingredients. A fine example is the veal in pistachio-oil-flavored jus.

  • Renaissance writer Rabelais was born here.
  • Joan of Arc led French troops to victory in the Hundred Years’ War in the Loire.
  • The Cradle of the French Language, Loire residents speak the purest French.
  • The tombs of Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine are here.
  • The 15th century manor house, Clos Lucé in Amboise is where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years.



Paris’ historic palace hotels are legendary for knowing how to roll out the red carpet and the opulent LE MEURICE is one of the city’s finest. Opposite the beautiful Tuileries gardens and close to the Louvre, the hotel offers breathtaking views of Paris’ spectacular skyline and features marble bathrooms, fine linens, antique furnishings, a Michelin-starred restaurant and a luxury spa. Within walking distance of Paris’ most iconic sites, it is the picture-perfect setting to sip champagne and watch the sun set over the most romantic city in the world.


For an impeccable dining experience head to anyone of the Michelin-starred restaurants housed in the city’s spectacular palace hotels; Le Meurice, Shangri-La Paris, Plaza Athenee, and Le Royal Monceau among them. If you’re a fan of Asian food, the Shangri-La’s Shang Palace is home to the only Chinese restaurant in France awarded one Michelin star.

Dine on oysters and wine at L’Auberge Dab, an elegant Parisian brasserie serving traditional French food and fresh full-flavoured shellfish in a warm and intimate setting.  

Enjoy a meal of steak frites at the ever popular Le Relais de L’Entrecôte. This 80 year old traditional Parisian restaurant serves the perfect Parisian meal. 

Read this article in the new issue of Travel Professional on newsstands now.

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