Château de Chenonceau
© Leonard de Serres via Chateau de Chenonceau
Aerial view of Villandry Gardens
© J Gillard T Vincent via Chateau de Villandry
© Chateau et Jardins de Villandry
Chaumont sur Loire
© Eric Sander
Chaumont sur Loire
La Borde en Sologne
© La Borde en Sologne Chateau & Spa
Discover the magnificent treasure houses of the French kings from the peak of the Renaissance, including the final home of Leonardo da Vinci
Delight in wonderful gardens attached to the châteaux, including the world-famous examples at Villandry, and take in the beautiful landscape of the UNESCO-listed Loire Valley
Enjoy an overnight stay at La Borde en Sologne, a 17th century château elegantly converted into a stunning hotel and surrounded by parkland
“A wonderful, highly informative and enjoyable tour”
- ACE customer on the 2023 Jewels of the Loire tour with Andrew Spira
Across the Loire Valley, a rich artistic and architectural heritage, elegant garden designs and breathtaking landscapes combine to create an unsurpassed cultural experience for travellers. In spring 2024, we look forward to taking in the crème of the region’s cultural riches, with a particular focus on the medieval and Renaissance châteaux and their gardens.
Although the Renaissance is typically associated with the revival of interest in classical art and architecture in 15th and 16th century Italy, the French kings oversaw a version of the phenomenon that was very distinctively their own, blending ideas from antiquity with the outstanding heritage of medieval France. While the powerful influence of Italy on France is epitomised by Leonardo da Vinci’s relocation to the Loire Valley for the last three years of his life, the art and architecture of the region demonstrates very clearly that the spirit of medieval France remained ever-present throughout the period.
Our tour provides an in-depth exploration of some of these medieval treasures, including the 12th century Abbaye de Fontevraud (burial site of the Angevin kings), the Cathédrale Saint-Gatien in Tours and the unique cycle of 14th century ‘Apocalypse’ Tapestries at the Château d’Angers.
The region is equally rich in Renaissance châteaux, dating from the 15th to 17th centuries. Among its gems is the Château de Chenonceau, which, straddling the Loire River, transports visitors back to an age of impeccable courtesy and grace. Other wonders to behold across the Loire include the gallery of portraits at Beauregard, untouched since the 17th century, and the ‘double-helix’ staircase at the Château de Chambord. The latter is one of the most distinctive examples of French Renaissance architecture, and a true jewel in the crown of the Loire Valley.
A further highlight will be a visit to the Château de Montreuil-Bellay; inhabited by the same family since 1822, it marries Renaissance elegance with defensive features conserved from the Middle Ages. The estate has a long tradition of winemaking, with cellars dating back to medieval times, and we look forward to a wine tasting here.
Our itinerary also takes in the picturesque riverside town of Blois; the world-famous restored Renaissance gardens at the Château de Villandry on the banks of the Loire; and the annual gardens festival at the Chaumont-sur-Loire estate, as well as its fine château overlooking the river. The gardens festival, which has been running since 1992, features gardens by landscape designers from all over the world. Further highlights include the museums of fine art in Angers and Tours, home to masterpieces by artists ranging from Mantegna and Boucher to Monet and Degas.
We will spend six nights at the four-star Hotel Oceania L’Univers Tours, a comfortable hotel occupying a smart 19th century building ideally situated in the heart of Tours, just a short walk from the cathedral and Musée des Beaux-Arts. This will be followed by one of our tour highlights: an overnight stay at the four-star family-owned La Borde en Sologne Château & Spa, an exquisitely restored 17th century château surrounded by parkland. The château’s historical interiors have recently been sensitively and elegantly renovated with input from a consultant at the Louvre, and our stay will provide an opportunity to experience contemporary château living at its finest.
Tour Director Andrew Spira, MA, studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art and City University, London. For several years he was a specialist in Byzantine and Russian icons at the Temple Gallery, London, before working as a curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Andrew was subsequently Programme Director at Christie’s Education, and has been leading tours to cultural sites for over 20 years. He looks forward to returning to the Loire Valley with an ACE group in 2024.
Included: return airfare, accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, seven breakfasts, two lunches, five dinners with wine, water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.
Not Included: travel insurance, double room for single use supplement £595.