Tailormade tour Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Dordogne rail-drive tour France

8 nights/9 days

Amboise • Chinon • Bordeaux • Dordogne

This rail-drive tour to the Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Dordogne combines train travel and the use of a hire-car to explore the sites of these regions steeped in history from prehistoric times, their delightful scenery of world-famous vineyards and pretty villages, and an array of local events from son-et-lumiere shows, to art exhibitions and local markets.
Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from about £1,960 per person.

Luxury rail holiday to Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Dordogne and tour by car

This 8-night rail-drive touring holiday to the Loire Valley, Bordeaux and the Dordogne combines travelling by Eurostar and TGV with the use of a hire-car so that you can explore each region in depth. You take the Eurostar to Paris and change to the high-speed TGV to Tours. With a departure about 09.30 hrs from London you reach Tours by about 15.00 hrs. You then have the use of a hire-car to tour the region, before continuing by train to Bordeaux, where you collect another hire-car for your use in the regions of Bordeaux and the Dordogne. You return the car to Libourne at the end of your stay in France, before taking the TGV back to Paris. You return to London by Eurostar. If you leave Libourne just before 11.00 hrs, you reach London just after 16.30 hrs. The first of the three regions you visit is the Loire Valley, strategically important during the Hundred Years War. The remains of mediaeval strongholds and fortresses still bear witness to this. Eventually the fortified castles were replaced by chateaux designed to be for enjoyment and relaxation. The numerous chateaux are obvious places of interest (Chambord, Cheverny, Villandry, Chenonceau, Aazy-le-Rideau among many others) but there are many gardens, some attached to chateaux, vineyards, walks, river trips, local festivals, museums and galleries, son-et-lumiere shows, markets (Tours boasts no fewer than twenty markets), and fine dining with an array of Michelin-starred restaurants. Your second region is that of Bordeaux where you have both the city itself with its wide boulevards, river frontage, museums, galleries and restaurants and the surrounding vineyards. You can tour the Medoc and see the famous chateaux or visit the pretty wine-town of St Emilion. Your third region is a short drive inland; the Dordogne is one of the loveliest regions of France and renowned for its hearty cuisine, prehistoric sites at Les Eyzies and Lascaux, mediaeval castles that perch above the river valley, and pretty market towns in stone of rich tones of golden brown.

Highlights

Amboise • Visit Chateau Chenonceau • Vineyard visits • Visit old town of Tours • Visit Azay-le-Rideau • Bordeaux • Visit Medoc vineyards • Visit St Emilion • Dordogne • Visit Sarlat • Visit Les Eyzies and Lescaux • Kayak on the Dordogne • Visit La Roche-Gageac

Day by day

Your rail-drive touring holiday of the Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Dordogne starts with a Eurostar journey from London to Paris, a change of stations in Paris and then the high-speed TGV from Paris to Tours St Pierre des Corps, at the heart of the Garden of France. If you leave London about 09.30 hrs you arrive in Tours about 15.00 hrs. You collect your hire-car from the station and your first stay is at Amboise, just to the east of Tours and about 40 minutes’ drive. You stay in Amboise for three nights.

You have two full days to explore this part of the Loire Valley. There are numerous places of importance to visit within a very short drive. Amboise, on the banks of the river Loire, is home to the Chateau d’Amboise, a 15th century residence of Charles VIII and where you will find the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci. Nearby is the Chateau du Clos Lucé where Leonardo Da Vinci lived. In the grounds are displays of working models of this designs. Not far from Amboise is the Château de Chenonceau, known sometimes at the ‘Ladies Castle’ due to its string of female owners, such as Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers, is not to be missed. This château offers an extensive art gallery and a collection of exquisite Flemish tapestries, as well as wine-tasting opportunities. You can dine in L’Orangerie, the on-site restaurant, or relax in the tea rooms, before exploring the wax museum or enjoying a boat ride. In the warmer summer months of July and August, night strolls around the castle and its grounds are very atmospheric, particularly with the backdrop of music by Arcangelo Corelli. Whilst in Amboise, you may want to visit the capital of the region, Tours. It is an ancient university town and this region purports to speak the ‘purest’ form of French. The old town is a delight with its narrow streets and tall, gabled, half-timbered houses. The Cathedral of Saint Gatien dates from the 12th century but most of it is obviously flamboyant Gothic, completed about the same time as the Chateau de Chenonceau. In Montlouis-sur-Loire, we recommend visiting the Domaine de la Taille aux Loups to taste the local wine: the dry and fizzy Moelleux wines from this region.

You return your hire-car to Tours St Pierre des Corps station and take the TGV to Bordeaux. This is a frequent service but if you take the train at 11.00 hrs from St Pierre des Corps you arrive in Bordeaux-St-Jean at just before 13.00 hrs. Time to collect your hire-car and drive the short distance to your overnight stop in the Bordeaux region. You stay here for two nights.

The city of Bordeaux is a thriving hub of wine-making in the Aquitaine region. On the bank of the Gironde Estuary, just south of the Médoc Peninsula, and about 40 minutes’ drive from world-famous Saint-Emilion, Le Saint-James is the ideal place to be based in order to explore this region. Track down one of the impressive wine châteaux dotted across the region, such as the Château Rauzan Gassies and the Château Mouton Rothschild, to taste the fruity Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and experience the distinctive vanilla and coffee aromas that develop as the wines of the area age. Other grape varieties in the region include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Within the port city of Bordeaux, much more than wine-tasting is on offer. Stroll around the city streets to get a feel for the wealth of extensive and interesting architecture. Recommended stop-off points include The Amphithéâtre de Bordeaux dit Palais Gallien, the Cathédrale de Bordeaux, the Opéra National de Bordeaux, and the Basilica of St. Michael.

Today you leave the Bordeaux area to drive for just over two hours into the heart of the Dordogne to the village of Tremolat on the northern bank of the river. In terms of the route, we would suggest that you spend some time visiting along the way. Perhaps this is the day to visit St Emilion as you leave Bordeaux and possibly to call into the Bergerac before reaching your destination for the night. You spend three nights in Tremolat. Make the most of your days in Trémolat, walk into the centre of the village to appreciate the imposing and austere Saint Nicolas Church. Its riverside position makes it ideal for kayaking and fishing, and the neighbouring hills make for fantastic hiking trails. You stay here for three nights.

The Dordogne is renowned for its rich and hearty cuisine and the region produces all manner of fascinating food stuffs, from walnuts to mushrooms, from cheese to truffles, from foie gras to pork delicacies. There is wine too, at Bergerac and Monbazillac. The Dordogne has a great number of very picturesque small towns, most of which have markets on various days of the week. Sarlat is probably the best known but Domme, La Roche Gageac, Les Eyzies and Beynac are worth seeking out. Some of the towns also have night-time markets where you can eat, drink and listen to music. You have two full days in this area to become acquainted with all manner of foodie things but also to experience the rich culture and history of the region, from the prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux and Les Eyzies to the mediaeval fortresses that perch on rocky crags above the meandering valley of the Dordogne, to beautifully fashioned gardens, at Eyrignac and Marqueyssac for example.

You return your hire-car to Libourne this morning and take the TGV from here to Paris. If you leave Libourne just before 11.00 hrs you arrive back in London on the Eurostar just after 16.30 hrs.

Holiday price guide Prices from £1,960 per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room.

Holiday Code FRBR08

Luxury rail holiday to Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Dordogne and tour by car

Your rail-drive touring holiday of the Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Dordogne starts with a Eurostar journey from London to Paris, a change of stations in Paris and then the high-speed TGV from Paris to Tours St Pierre des Corps, at the heart of the Garden of France. If you leave London about 09.30 hrs you arrive in Tours about 15.00 hrs. You collect your hire-car from the station and your first stay is at Amboise, just to the east of Tours and about 40 minutes’ drive. You stay in Amboise for three nights.

You have two full days to explore this part of the Loire Valley. There are numerous places of importance to visit within a very short drive. Amboise, on the banks of the river Loire, is home to the Chateau d’Amboise, a 15th century residence of Charles VIII and where you will find the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci. Nearby is the Chateau du Clos Lucé where Leonardo Da Vinci lived. In the grounds are displays of working models of this designs. Not far from Amboise is the Château de Chenonceau, known sometimes at the ‘Ladies Castle’ due to its string of female owners, such as Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers, is not to be missed. This château offers an extensive art gallery and a collection of exquisite Flemish tapestries, as well as wine-tasting opportunities. You can dine in L’Orangerie, the on-site restaurant, or relax in the tea rooms, before exploring the wax museum or enjoying a boat ride. In the warmer summer months of July and August, night strolls around the castle and its grounds are very atmospheric, particularly with the backdrop of music by Arcangelo Corelli. Whilst in Amboise, you may want to visit the capital of the region, Tours. It is an ancient university town and this region purports to speak the ‘purest’ form of French. The old town is a delight with its narrow streets and tall, gabled, half-timbered houses. The Cathedral of Saint Gatien dates from the 12th century but most of it is obviously flamboyant Gothic, completed about the same time as the Chateau de Chenonceau. In Montlouis-sur-Loire, we recommend visiting the Domaine de la Taille aux Loups to taste the local wine: the dry and fizzy Moelleux wines from this region.

You return your hire-car to Tours St Pierre des Corps station and take the TGV to Bordeaux. This is a frequent service but if you take the train at 11.00 hrs from St Pierre des Corps you arrive in Bordeaux-St-Jean at just before 13.00 hrs. Time to collect your hire-car and drive the short distance to your overnight stop in the Bordeaux region. You stay here for two nights.

The city of Bordeaux is a thriving hub of wine-making in the Aquitaine region. On the bank of the Gironde Estuary, just south of the Médoc Peninsula, and about 40 minutes’ drive from world-famous Saint-Emilion, Le Saint-James is the ideal place to be based in order to explore this region. Track down one of the impressive wine châteaux dotted across the region, such as the Château Rauzan Gassies and the Château Mouton Rothschild, to taste the fruity Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and experience the distinctive vanilla and coffee aromas that develop as the wines of the area age. Other grape varieties in the region include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Within the port city of Bordeaux, much more than wine-tasting is on offer. Stroll around the city streets to get a feel for the wealth of extensive and interesting architecture. Recommended stop-off points include The Amphithéâtre de Bordeaux dit Palais Gallien, the Cathédrale de Bordeaux, the Opéra National de Bordeaux, and the Basilica of St. Michael.

Today you leave the Bordeaux area to drive for just over two hours into the heart of the Dordogne to the village of Tremolat on the northern bank of the river. In terms of the route, we would suggest that you spend some time visiting along the way. Perhaps this is the day to visit St Emilion as you leave Bordeaux and possibly to call into the Bergerac before reaching your destination for the night. You spend three nights in Tremolat. Make the most of your days in Trémolat, walk into the centre of the village to appreciate the imposing and austere Saint Nicolas Church. Its riverside position makes it ideal for kayaking and fishing, and the neighbouring hills make for fantastic hiking trails. You stay here for three nights.

The Dordogne is renowned for its rich and hearty cuisine and the region produces all manner of fascinating food stuffs, from walnuts to mushrooms, from cheese to truffles, from foie gras to pork delicacies. There is wine too, at Bergerac and Monbazillac. The Dordogne has a great number of very picturesque small towns, most of which have markets on various days of the week. Sarlat is probably the best known but Domme, La Roche Gageac, Les Eyzies and Beynac are worth seeking out. Some of the towns also have night-time markets where you can eat, drink and listen to music. You have two full days in this area to become acquainted with all manner of foodie things but also to experience the rich culture and history of the region, from the prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux and Les Eyzies to the mediaeval fortresses that perch on rocky crags above the meandering valley of the Dordogne, to beautifully fashioned gardens, at Eyrignac and Marqueyssac for example.

You return your hire-car to Libourne this morning and take the TGV from here to Paris. If you leave Libourne just before 11.00 hrs you arrive back in London on the Eurostar just after 16.30 hrs.

Holiday price guide Prices from £1,960 per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room.

Holiday Code FRBR08

Our prices include ● Eurostar standard class London to Paris return, and TGV second-class Paris to Tours return
● Hire of a group B car for 4 days in the Loire valley
● Hire of a group B car for 5 days in Bordeaux and Dordogne
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Traditional double room at Le Choiseul, at Amboise
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Comfort double room at Les Sources de Caudalie, near Bordeaux
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Superior double room at Le Vieux Logis, at Tremolat
● Concierge service and Expressions Holidays regional helpful hints

Our prices do not include ● Early check-in or late check-out at any hotels (although we can arrange this on request at additional cost)
● Any other services not mentioned above, such as transfers and meals except breakfast at hotels
● Personal holiday insurance. This is essential and cover should be in place from when you book the holiday.
● Local tourist tax, usually between Euros 1 and 3 per person per night, and payable locally to the hotel
● Transfers in Paris

Additional information Driving times for this touring holiday
Tours to Amboise 40 minutes
Bordeaux to Tremolat 2 hrs and 10 minutes
Tremolat to Libourne 1 hr and 30 minutes

Luxury rail holiday to Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Dordogne and tour by car

About Bordeaux Region

An Expressions tailor-made holiday to Bordeaux is a chance to explore a region renowned the world over for its wines and its awe-inspiring chateaux, whilst Cognac is less explored yet holds a countless store of treasures waiting to be appreciated. The Bordeaux region is ideal for short breaks and touring holidays with a range of sights to discover. Cognac country is a perfect destination for the discerning traveller as it is still relatively unknown yet is within very easy reach of more popular areas such as the coastal resorts between La Rochelle and Royan about 30 minutes` drive to the west, the Medoc and Saint Emilion vineyards about 45 minutes` drive to the south and the intriguing Marais Poitevin about an hour`s drive to the north. Moreover, the cuisine has a character of its own, utilising cognac, pineau and Marennes oysters. A holiday to the Bordeaux and Cognac regions is highly recommended. A fantastic way to discover the region is to incorporate it into a self-drive touring holiday, flying to Bordeaux and then exploring this area as well as the Basque Country and Carcassonne by hire-car. It is also accessible by train, such as in our suggested rail holiday travelling to the Loire Valley and Bordeaux which also allows you to explore by hire-car.

Highlights of Bordeaux

Visit vineyards and chateaux, for tasting and buying. Visit the oyster beds. Experience the Cognac distilleries, and the Romanesque architecture. Bordeaux is the historical centre for wine however you may also visit the villages of the wine region such as St Emilion.

Climate in the Bordeaux Region

Average air temperatures in Centigrade: Jan: 10.0, Feb: 9.4, Mar: 12.2, Apr: 19.5, May: 18.0, Jun: 23.7, Jul: 27.2, Aug: 25.7, Sep: 24.2, Oct: 19.7, Nov: 15.4, Dec: 11.0. Source: Direction de la Meteorologique de France

Luxury rail holiday to Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Dordogne and tour by car

About Dordogne

The Dordogne region at the heart of Perigord abounds in clear, flowing rivers, craggy hillsides of golden rock, hill top villages and castles built of the local stone, and attractive houses with grey slate roofs and mini turrets, with vines trained along their walls. A holiday in the Dordogne is ideal for those seeking a combination of activity, sightseeing and relaxation. There are pre-historic grottoes to explore, market towns of mediaeval houses and cobbled streets such as Sarlat, numerous sporting activities such as riding and cycling and castles to visit. Plus, the gastronomy of the Dordogne is renowned for its truffles, foie gras, `magret de canard` and walnuts. The Dordogne region possesses much of the essential delights for a visitor to France. A self-drive touring holiday is an excellent way to travel to the Dordogne, perhaps discovering the chateaux and manor houses of northern France along the way. A quicker alternative is to travel to the region by train, collecting a hire-car on arrival which allows you to explore at your own pace.

Highlights of Dordogne

Cultural highlights include ceramics, wine festivals, foie gras and truffles, wild mushrooms, castles, valleys, water-sports, and local walks.

Climate of Dordogne

Average air temperatures in Centigrade: Jan: 10.0, Feb: 9.4, Mar: 12.2, Apr: 19.5, May: 18.0, Jun: 23.7, Jul: 27.2, Aug: 25.7, Sep: 24.2, Oct: 19.7, Nov: 15.4, Dec: 11.0. Source: Direction de la Meteorologique de France.

Luxury rail holiday to Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Dordogne and tour by car

About Loire Valley

An Expressions tailor-made holiday to the Loire Valley offers travellers a chance to explore this magnificent region, known as the `Garden of France`, traditionally the hunting grounds of the Kings of France, is renowned for its gentle countryside, vineyards, forests, rivers and numerous chateaux. At the centre of this region are the regal river Loire and its numerous tributaries, attractive historic towns and cathedral cities such as Tours, Blois and Chinon and of course the chateaux. The chateaux range from vast palaces to fortresses, from mediaeval strongholds to Renaissance delights and include the well-known ones of Chenonceaux, Chambord, Villandry and pretty Azay le Rideau. The vineyards offer great variety from sparkling Vouvray to the reds of Chinon and Bourgueil. Our `Loire Valley` covers the central region of Touraine and the more westerly region of Anjou as well as taking in a more southern part that extends towards Poitiers. The visitor to the Loire Valley is embraced by seemingly endless amusements whatever the time of year, enticing for longer stays and so well situated for overnight stops or short breaks. It is very easy to reach the Loire Valley by train, combining a holiday here with a visit to Bordeaux. Alternatively, a self-drive holiday to the Loire Valley is an excellent option, allowing you to explore the region's Chateaux by car or to combine a stay in the region with a holiday to the Dordogne region and Normandy.

Highlights of the Loire Valley

Cultural highlights include wines and wine vinegars, wild mushrooms - (visit the mushroom museum), the Troglodyte caves, and local art exhibitions.

Festivals in the Loire Valley

Son et Lumiere in the chateaux in the summer months. Summer festival in Chinon in August.

Climate of the Loire Valley

Average air temperatures in Centigrade: Jan: 7.8, Feb: 6.8, Mar: 10.3, Apr: 16.1, May: 16.4, Jun: 23.6, Jul: 25.8, Aug: 24.5, Sep: 21.1, Oct: 16.2, Nov: 11.2, Dec: 7.0. Source: Direction de la Meteorologique de France.

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