Nymphea Loire Hotel BargeSimon DaleDecember 18, 2017
DISCOVER THE LOIRE – VALLEY OF THE KINGS
The Loire is France’s longest river. It has been a major waterway since Neanderthal man fashioned boats from tree trunks to export their flint tools up and down stream. Then came the ancient Romans, who founded cities along its bank. From around the year 1500 French nobility fell in love with this stunning landscape, building some of the most fabulous Châteaux in the world. No surprise the entire stretch of water between Angers, Blois, Orleans (associated with Joan of Arc) and Tours, known locally as the Valley of the Kings, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today the Loire Valley offers tourists a voyage of discovery and delight. But to really appreciate the highlights a compact vessel is essential – and when it comes to seeing the very best of the best the 3 cabin 6-berth Nymphea is in a class of her own. For example, no other Hotel Barge on the French Waterways can take you right underneath the most famous Château in the world – the legendary Chenonceau.
FOOD AND DRINK
Food and fine wine is fundamental to the French way of life. We have a gourmet chef on board Nymphea who oversees the menu – which changes with the seasons to ensure everything you eat is as fresh as it can be – and the incredible cheese board. The wines of the Loire are famous worldwide. Muscadet, Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé are signature whites, whilst the red wines around Chinon, made from the Cabernet Franc grape, are increasingly notable. Suffice to say our cellar is renowned throughout the area to ensure that every meal is accompanied by the finest local wines – you’ll never have the same one twice during your cruise.
We moor at the Moulin de Nitray, an easy 55 minute high speed rail journey from Paris, and when you arrive we’ll welcome you with a glass of champagne, tell you a bit about the itinerary and then sit you down and let our chef take over – your taste buds are in for a real treat.
After cruising through two locks we moor up at the quaint little town of Larcay where we lunch under the weeping willows. After lunch it’s Châteaux o’clock as we drive to Villandry with its world-famous renaissance gardens. Aperitifs and dinner back on Nymphea.
There are many private Châteaux along this waterway and the only real way to get any real glimpse of them is from the river itself – have your cameras ready as we cruise to the hamlet of Valet with its classic Tourangeau architecture and 18th century watermill. After lunch on board we travel to Amboise to see its Royal Château and the Clos Luce which was the home of Leonardo da Vinci. Dinner is served back on board.
For many today is the highlight of the week. We normally call in to the private landing stage of Domaine de Fontenay for a tasting of their Touraine wines – a perfect aperitif pre-lunch. This afternoon we cruise right under the five-arched gallery at the Château de Chenonceau, moor at Chisseaux and board our minibus to visit the Château itself. This evening we treat you to dinner at one of our favourite local restaurants specialising in regional cooking.
The white tuffeau rock cliffs along the side of this ancient valley were heavily quarried for stone used to build the various Châteaux. They also made for some remarkable underground dwellings, as seen at Bourré, where we disembark for a short walk to La Magnaneraie where the owner’s family have lived a somewhat ‘troglodyte lifestyle’ for many years in what have variously been a quarry, a wine cellar and, most recently, a silkworm nursery After lunch we move on to Valençay to visit one of the most splendid Loire Châteaux, and the home of Napoleon’s foreign minister, Talleyrand. Back on board we cruise one more lock, down to Montrichard where we moor for dinner.
It’s a prompt start as Montrichard holds one of the best and busiest street markets in Touraine and we wouldn’t want you to miss that. Whilst here we wander around the 12th century Château of Foulques Nerra with its dungeon overlooking the medieval town square. If we make good time we can visit our friends the Meriau family to taste their regional Touraine vintages. After lunch we turn downstream, pass once again under the walls of Chenonceau, and arrive at Nitray in time to visit the Château and ‘English Rose Garden. Farewell dinner this evening.
After breakfast we say our ‘au revoirs’ to Nymphea, and transfer you back to St. Pierre des Corps High Speed Railway Station for 9.30.
HOT AIR BALLOONING IN THE LOIRE
The skies along the length of the Loire burn brilliant blue all summer long and, in the cool of the mornings and evenings, are perfect for hot air ballooning. We have established a great rapport with ‘France Mongolfiers’ who have become our very own balloon buddies and most weeks he has a slot reserved for our guests. It’s one of the highlights of the vacation and a completely different perspective on this land we love. We’ll ask you if you’d like to take the flight when you book.
Nymphea has three comfortable cabins providing two twin-bedded staterooms and one twin or double stateroom all with en-suite facilities. Nymphea is 81ft long by 14ft wide. The dining saloon is decorated in a warm classic decor of rich varnished hard woods, stained glass and brass light fittings which provides a welcoming country house atmosphere. There are six bikes aboard for independent exploring, and an air-conditioned minibus for daily excursions.