Discover the world-famous gardens of France
Attend the world-famous International Garden Festival, visit the garden that inspired Claude Monet, stroll amongst the picturesque hedgerows of the Château de Villandry, and wander through the grounds of Versailles Palace on this vivid tour of the verdant Loire Valley.
After meeting with your Tour Manager at our dedicated Departure Office in St Pancras International, we board the Eurostar to Paris. After arrival in the French capital, we continue by rail to the city of Blois, situated on the banks of the River Loire. Here we check into the Mercure Blois for a four night stay.
Today we enjoy an excursion to the International Garden Festival in Château de Chaumont. The festival has been one of the world's leading events in terms of spotting new trends and landscape designs since its inaugural year in 1992. The festival boasts over 30 themed gardens, sporting designs and plants from across the globe. The 30 landscapes on show are the finalists from over 200 original entries. The grounds of the Château spring to life with vibrant flowers and exotic plants. Be sure to learn some new skills and tips from the many stalls and demonstrations around the 'Festival des Jardins'.
You have the luxury of a Domaine ticket, which grants you entry to not only the day festival but the entire of Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire. You may wish to explore the Château, a fine example of Gothic architecture; the former castle boasts UNESCO World Hertiage status.
Perhaps stroll through the stables, where the wealthy members of the local aristocracy kept their prize horses throughout the 19th century. The Château's well-kept grounds are perfect for a relaxing walk. Designed by the great Henri Duchéne in the 19th century, the gardens are all that is left of the former 2,500 acre estate. The Historical Gardens are particularly worth visiting and are landscaped in a traditionally English style.
Your Domaine ticket also enables you to enter the many art galleries and exhibitions that are held in the grounds throughout the International Garden Festival. Later, we enjoy an indulgent wine tasting at Domaine Chesneau.
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 the French Royal court. You are free to explore this quaint market town.
You may wish to visit the Pagode de Chanteloup, a 44 metre tall Chinese pagoda built during the 18th century by the Duke of Choiseul. The town also has a wonderful museum dedicated to the history of the French postal service. The town is most famous for being the final home of Leonardo da Vinci, who died here in 1519.
We visit his former manor house, Clos Lucé, which still contains a number of his inventions. We enjoy time at the great painter's former residence and stroll through the well-kept gardens where da Vinci once worked.
This morning we enjoy a guided excursion to the Jardins des Plessis, which is home to an English garden in the heart of France. This afternoon we continue to the magnificent Château de Villandry, 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.
The morning is free for you to continue exploring the riverside city of Blois. You may like to visit the 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. This afternoon, we board a coach for the journey north to Rambouillet, stopping en-route at Chartres, for a tour of its famous Cathédrale Notre-Dame. On arrival we check into the Mercure Rambouillet for three nights.
Today we travel by coach to nearby Giverny to visit the former home of Impressionist founder and painter Claude Monet. We explore Monet's picturesque gardens, the subject of his Impressionist painting, this includes the water meadow and lily pad speckled ponds that feature in Monet's most iconic works, the 'Water Lilies' series of paintings. Monet was famously very particular about the landscaping of his garden and instructed his gardener daily with precise designs and elaborate plans for new layouts and flower beds.
Much of the garden remains as it once did when Monet lived here in the early part of the 20th century, as does the interiors of the house, which exhibit a number of Monet's works including various woodcut prints. We enjoy a guided tour of the iconic artist's former abode, now a museum.
The tour includes the old barn that once doubled up as a painting studio and workshop, where many of Monet's most famous works were produced.
Today we visit the grand Versailles Palace, the opulent former seat of the Royal family until the French Revolution. The Palace gardens are equally as impressive. The grounds are some of the most recognisable in the world and feature a web of manicured lawns, extravagant fountains and dramatic sculptures. Much of the garden landscape is built around a series of lakes and canal waterways that feed the mesmerizing fountains in the centre of the park grounds.
We also enjoy the awe-inspiring interior of this wonderful building, rich in colour and jewels on a guided tour You can also 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. The spectacular grandeur of the palace is matched only by its rich history and importance throughout the ever-changing political climate of historic France. On our return to the hotel tonight, we enjoy a final, farewell dinner together.
This morning we board a coach in Rambouillet and make the short trip to Paris. Here, we continue by Eurostar service to London St Pancras International where our tour concludes.
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.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Discover the world-famous gardens of France