Explore famous châteaux that stud the verdant Loire Valley
Explore some of the most famous châteaux are scattered through the verdant Loire Valley, and relax in the charming French town of Blois before joining a scenic cruise along the Seine which includes explorations of Paris, Rouen and Honfleur.
We meet at our dedicated Departure Office at St Pancras then leave for Paris on the Eurostar. Next we change for the rail service to Blois, situated on the banks of the River Loire. Here we check into the Mercure Blois for a three-night stay.
Today begins with an excursion to Château de Chenonceau, arguably the most iconic of its kind in the Loire Valley. The Château elegantly spans the River Cher and is a fine example of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. After exploring the château and its picturesque fountain gardens, we travel by coach to the town of Amboise, former home of Leonardo da Vinci, who died here in 1519. We visit his former manor house, Clos Lucé, which is filled with some of his fascinating inventions. You are free to explore this delightful manor house and walk in the footsteps of the master himself, who was so inspired by his scenic surroundings.
You are free today to continue sightseeing independently. Perhaps take a relaxed stroll through Blois and discover Château de Blois; located at the centre of the city, it was once the residence of King Louis XII. The 18th century bridge that spans the Loire is also a prime example of Renaissance architecture.
Or why not head further afield? Nearby Château de Villandry is celebrated for its rich Renaissance style gardens. The castle-palace was constructed in the 16th century on the sight of the old fort, which had at one time been the location for peace talks during the Hundred Years War between the English and the French. The castle gardens are some of the most beautiful in the world and include a variety of water gardens, ornamental flower beds and vegetable patches, all set within a puzzle pattern of low-box hedges.
Following breakfast we check out of our hotel and transfer to the train station for the return rail journey to Paris. Then it's time to meet our floating hotel for the next six nights, the MS Renoir, and the rest of our cruise family.
On the morning of Day 5 we enjoy a guided tour of the splendid French capital. We see many of the major attractions such as Place de la République, the Grand Boulevards, Opera House, Place de la Madeleine, Place Vendôme, and the Louvre. After lunch aboard you have some free time to sightsee independently. We set sail in the evening for a cruise along the Seine, admiring the illuminated attractions we see along the way (weather permitting).
We start the day cruising to Giverny, during which time we are treated to an expert talk on board; 'A Definition of Impressionism', the perfect warm up for a visit to the delightful village of Giverny. Now synonymous with Monet, Giverny very nearly missed out on getting its name on the map - it was during a train journey the artist made in 1883 when he decided that this was the spot he wanted to live and work in. With its instantly recognisable lily ponds, the gardens are the image of how they were when Monet first painted them, almost like stepping into one of his actual artworks, and the house still has the atmosphere of a peaceful creative retreat.
Alternatively you may prefer to visit the slightly more opulent Palace of Versailles. Seat of the Royal family until the French Revolution, the complex is split into house and gardens and we enjoy a tour of both. The palace gardens are some of the most recognisable in the world, and feature a web of manicured lawns, extravagant fountains and dramatic sculptures. The awe-inspiring interiors are rich in colour and jewels and we even have a chance to see the historically important Hall of Mirrors, the former seat of the French government and famously the site of the Treaty of Versailles signing, which brought an official end to the conflict of World War One. We rejoin the boat where tonight there's a traditional French 'guinguette' evening held on board, an 18th century take on cabaret.
Our destination today is Rouen, former capital of Normandy, where we enjoy a guided tour that follows in the footsteps of the Impressionists themselves. This medieval city is the proud home of The Museum of Fine Arts and its impressive collection of Impressionist compositions. We make a visit to the gallery as well as taking in Rouen Cathedral, which was depicted in oil paint by Claude Monet. His series of over 30 paintings show the building at all different times of day. Following an insightful few hours, we return to our ship for tonight's dinner.
We make our way to Duclair today, sailing through a landscape of steep cliffs and timeless villages, fleeting views of which helped inspire the Impressionist style itself. On arrival in Duclair we embark on an excursion along the Route des Abbayes, exploring the abbeys that line the route of the river by coach. Stretching between Rouen and Mont-Saint-Michel, this historic trail has seen religious orders being built here from the 5th century onwards, and at one point there were up to 120 sites of worship. Later we continue upriver to Honfleur, where we moor for the night.
The charming port town of Honfleur is located on the southern bank of the Seine Estuary in the Calvados region of France famous for its apple brandy. Centred on its adorable historic port and marina - the 'Vieux Bassin' - Honfleur boasts a number of preserved traditional buildings and today you can choose to take a tour of this quaint destination, famous as being an important influence in the work of many artists, including Monet, Courbet and Boudin, who set up the Ecole de Honfleur, an artists' colony and melting pot for the whole Impressionist movement.
Otherwise you might select our excursion to the nearby beaches of Gold and Juno, two of five landing sites utilised for the D-Day landings on June 6th 1944, a pivotal event in the eventual Allied triumph over the Axis powers. Following some free time this afternoon, tonight we celebrate the end of our cruise at the captain's special gala dinner.
We transfer to Paris after a final breakfast together. From here we catch the return Eurostar service back to London.
For this tour, we recommend arriving to, and departing from, London Gatwick or London Heathrow airport (LGW or LHR). London Gatwick is approximately 30 miles from your start and end point, and London Heathrow is approximately 19 miles from your start and end point.
It is your responsibility to check and fulfil the passport, visa, health and immigration requirements applicable to your itinerary. We do not accept any responsibility if you cannot travel, or incur any other loss because you have not complied with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities. You agree to reimburse us in relation to any fines or other losses which we incur as a result of your failure to comply with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Explore famous châteaux that stud the verdant Loire Valley