Love and death on the Loire

Murders, Massacres & Mistresses

  • Visit the breathtaking Château de Chambord, one of the many stunning châteaux of the Loire
  • Delve into the dark world of Catherine de Medici, learning about her interest in occultism
  • Experience sumptuous visits to local vineyards, where fantastic wine is produced

The opulent châteaux that line France’s tranquil River Loire are renowned for their romantic architecture, superb settings and perfectly manicured gardens... However, these wonderful buildings mask dark stories of intrigue, passion, plots, poison and religious violence, which tore 16th century France apart.

This is a Loire tour with a difference. Experience immersive visits to historic châteaux, accompanied by expert guide Lisa Hilton, who will unfold the fascinating and horrific stories that once stained these stones. Sit down to sumptuous wine-tasting tours of the renowned local Touraine wines, led by our expert, Lys Hall.

Indulge in a delicious fusion of history and wine as we travel around this glorious region in search of the tales that put it on the map, the vintages that make it a celebrated destination for oenophiles and the scenery that the Loire Valley is celebrated for.

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

We meet at the Green Line coach station in Victoria and drive to Newhaven for the ferry to Dieppe, En route our two guides introduce the tour. On board the ferry we enjoy a Club Class buffet lunch. On arrival in France, we drive to the Chateau d’Anet, the home and last resting place of Diane de Poitiers, legendary mistress of France’s King Henri II. After touring the Chateau with its sumptuous panelled bedroom of the Royal lovers, we drive on to our hotel in the historic city of Orleans.
Hotel: Orleans
Meals: Dinner included

Day 2

We spend our morning in Orleans, visiting the magnificent Gothic cathedral; and the ancient city hall, the Hotel Groslot, where Mary, Queen of Scots spent much of her first marriage to the sickly teenage King Francois II, and where the king died. After lunch, we visit a regional winery. Our final visit of the day is to the Chateau de Meung, former palace of the Bishops of Orleans, later used as a brutal jail. Here the poet Francois Villon was kept in an ‘oubliette’ dungeon, but somehow survived. We return to Orleans for dinner.
Hotel: Orleans
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

We check out of our Hotel and drive to the nearby town of Blois on the Loire. This sprawling renaissance and Gothic Chateau witnessed many momentous events in French history, but darkest of all was the double assassination of France’s most powerful nobleman, Henri, Duc de Guise, and his cardinal brother in 1588. Carried out by King Henri III’s bodyguards on the King’s orders. We take a guided tour of the Chateau’s many rooms, and see the secret cabinet reportedly used by Queen Catherine de Medici to store her poisons. After lunching in Blois we visit the Croc du Merle before driving on to our hotel.
Hotel: Blois
Meals: All meals included

Day 4

We spend a relaxing day in and around the largest chateau on the Loire, the magnificent Chambord. Originally a hunting lodge built by Francois I, the edifice just grew and grew, reaching its present enormous size of 480 plus rooms and a reputed 75 staircases – one probably designed by Leonardo da Vinci himself. Too huge to inhabit comfortably, the chateau is simply a thing of staggering beauty. The treasures of the Louvre, including Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, were housed here in the Second World War. After our tour of Chambord, we visit a local vineyard in the AOC Cour Cheverny.
Hotel: Blois
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

We drive to Chateau Chaumont overlooking the Loire, and enter the dark world of Catherine de Medici’s occult beliefs. A follower of astrology and black magic, the Queen consulted many soothsayers here, including the legendary Nostradamus. It was here that Catherine used a ‘magic mirror’ brought by her personal astrologer, the sinister Cosimo de Ruggieri, to foretell the grim future awaiting her sons, who all met violent or premature deaths. She left Chaumont after learning this. But first, she forced her love rival, Diane de Poitiers, to take the Chateau in exchange for her property, the exquisite Chenonceau. After lunch we visit two vineyards: the Vincent Girault Clos de la Briderie at Mesland and the Caves de Monce.
Hotel: Blois
Meals: Breakfast & lunch included

Day 6

Our Chateau visit today is to Chenonceau, the jewel in the crown of the Loire Chateaux. Catherine de Medici threw banquets, balls and topless parties here, which often turned into orgies. Her daughter-in-law, Queen Louise, went mad after the assassination of her husband Henri III, and haunted the Chateau corridors dressed in mourning. A later Louise, Louise Dupin, saved it from destruction during the French Revolution, and entertained the philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau here. After lunch we visit a local vineyard.
Hotel: Blois
Meals: All meals included

Day 7

The final full day of the tour sees us visit the Royal Chateau of Amboise. Charles VIII was born here, and died here in 1498 after hitting his head on a doorframe en route to watch a game of real tennis. In 1560 the chateau was the scene of a botched coup d’etat by French Protestant Huguenots which was met by a savage Royal revenge. After touring the Chateau, we enjoy lunch at the Domaine Marc Bredif.
Hotel: Blois
Meals: Breakfast & lunch included

Day 8

We head for home via Dieppe, pausing for refreshments at Gigou at Domaine de la Charriere at Chartres u le Loir.
Meals: Breakfast & lunch included

What's Included

  1. Tour Manager & Guide Lecturer
  2. Meals - As per the itinerary
  3. Transport - Return travel to France via ferry and all local travel
  4. Hand-picked hotels throughout the tour

Expansion & Empires

The early Modern era is one of expanding empires and emerging identities. This new progressive age took cues from the Renaissance that preceded it - embracing individualism, secularism, and democracy. Change came at an unprecedented speed, reshaping Europe and all of the Empires it had acquired abroad. Join us as we explore the changes and transitions that helped the world move towards the modern life that we live today.

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