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* specializing in France & Italy *

Europe’s cultural mosaic offers something for everyone – historic and artistic masterpieces, mesmerizing architecture, extraordinary cities and charming villages, a variety of cuisines, and remarkable geographic diversity. Whether a first-time visit to a previously uncharted territory or a many-times-over return visit, discover anew the thrill and enchantment of Europe with insider-access experiences.

Initiate your own independent odyssey by selecting destinations, cities, and regions you wish to explore. We will then connect the dots by designing an exciting and unique itinerary that encompasses your personal passions and interests. You will be escorted point-to-point by guides whose expertise enlightens and delights. Or you may opt to travel with a congenial like-minded group of old friends or new acquaintances. Whether the royal capitals and tsarist palaces of the north or the Mediterranean flavors and playgrounds of the south, embrace Europe’s magic with family and friends.

Loire Châteaux and Le Vin - Biking the Slow Road


The picturesque Loire’s castle-lined routes have long been the playground of kings and queens, and the small country roads are perfect for biking. Here, you’ll visit the tombs of Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine; explore the mysteries of the Wine Grower’s Brotherhood in Chinon’s Caves; and settle in for a fantastic lunch in the shade of a newly-restored private home. We’ll also put you up at a trio of palatial châteaux, one of which is open just for us. Now that’s royal treatment!

DAY BY DAY - Sample Itinerary

DAY 1:  Get your first glimpse of the Château de Villandry and its amazing gardens on a warm-up ride along the gorgeous Loire River. In the evening, listen to a French history expert and learn more about the Medieval Characters.

DAY 2:  Ride past troglodyte villages and the extraordinary Castle of Azay-le-Rideau, the famous Renaissance masterpiece also known as the "playground of the kings." Be certified as a member of the “Chinon Secret Wine Community” before dinner in the home of Michelin Star Chef, M. Rigollet.

DAY 3:  Cycle along the banks of the Vienne River through the Chinon vineyards. Experience a great cooking course by Chef Philippe Schilling and enjoy the dinner you just prepared in the vineyards.

DAY 4:  Ride along bike paths and through villages seemingly forgotten by the temps modernes, where life slowly accepts the changes from the seasons. For lunch, enjoy a dégustation of some of the best wines in the Bourgueil appellation before driving west to the elegant riverside city of Saumur.

DAY 5:  Embark on a lovely ride to the Royal Abbey of Fontévraud, a soaring gothic abbey which has witnessed much of French history. Lunch is on your own in the charming village of Fontevraud or back in Saumur. Tonight the owners of Château Verrieres will host a private dinner in its vaulted rooms to celebrate one last dinner.

DAY 6:  After breakfast we will shuttle one hour to the train station in Angers for connections to Paris—both downtown and Charles de Gaulle Airport. Bon Voyage!

LOIRE VALLEY HISTORYDotted with châteaux (castles) and besought by war, the history of the Loire Valley is long. In the interest of brevity, we’ll focus on the period when most of the region’s fortresses and châteaux were built. After the unification of France, subsequent French kings — Charles VIII, Louis XII and Francis I — admired the aesthetic they saw in Italy during various military campaigns, and they imported Italian gardeners, architects and artisans to construct beautiful palaces in the Loire. Through them, the Italian Renaissance arrived in France. The kings often paid for the loyalty of their noble subjects by offering them the expertise of the best Italian craftsmen in the building of their own palaces. The bourgeoisie grew richer by loaning money to the king, and they too poured money into Renaissance-style residences.

LOIRE VALLEY WINEThe Loire Valley is the fifth-largest French wine region (by volume), and not surprisingly, wine has always been part of life here; vines were planted in the Touraine before the Roman occupation, as indicated by the Celtic name of Vineuil, a little village near Blois. The Loire was originally known for its excellent whites, but recently its reds have gained popularity, due in part to their affordability. Lighter in flavour than Bordeaux or Burgundy wines, Loire reds still retain a great deal of personality. Some aged Chinon red wines would give many Burgundies a run for their money! The four principal grapes in the valley are cabernet franc, chenin blanc, melon de Bourgogne and sauvignon blanc.

HOTELS

DOMAINE DE LA TORTINIÈRE, MONTBAZON 
We not only feel welcomed at the intimate Château La Tortinière, but very special when we’re there — especially since this immaculately restored 18thC castle seems straight out of a fairy tale. The château offers views over a private park in which some rare plants and trees (a 200 years old Lebanese Cedar for example) are hidden.

CHÂTEAU DU RIVAU, LEMERÉ
Located in the heart of the Touraine region, this is a private home whose owners have graciously welcomed guests. Their 12-plus-year restoration campaign has returned the 15thC historical monument to its former glory, and its whimsical gardens complete the fairy-tale setting. By staying here, you join very illustrious company; Joan of Arc was a guest here in the 15thC.

CHÂTEAU DE VERRIÈRES, SAUMUR
Peacefully set in a four-acre park, Chateau Verrières is located in the midst of Saumur, close to the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud, the troglodytes caves, the historical cities of Chinon, Angers and Tours and the many chateaux of the Loire Valley. A four star hotel, Verrieres provides a private mansion atmosphere with authentic decoration and period furniture.

in collaboration/Butterfield and Robinson

 


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