From Château to Vineyard: The Lower Loire Valley


October 13 – 22 & October 24 – November 2, 2019


With an optional extension: Bound to the Sea: Brittany’s Loire Atlantique Region
October 22 – 25

A cradle of civilization since Neolithic times, the fertile Loire Valley became one of the most important regions of France during the Middle Ages. The conflicts between the Kingdom of France and the Angevin Empire spurred construction of several hundred castles along the nearly 200-mile-long valley between Orléans and Nantes. Once control of the region was wrested back by the French Monarchy in the early 16th century, the fortresses were transformed by their royal patrons and noble inhabitants into extravagant Renaissance and Baroque châteaux that are the hallmark of the region. Our Study Trip Abroad includes the less-visited Lower Loire Valley and combines hidden gems and iconic sites, with a special concentration on exclusive private visits that highlight the region’s superlative architecture, collections, gardens, and wine.

N.B. The first tour commences in Montbazon and concludes in Nantes, whereas the second starts in Nantes and ends in Montbazon. The itinerary for the first tour is shown below, but both schedules include an identical list of sites.


ITINERARY  (subject to amendment)

October 13

Our tour begins in Montbazon, one of France’s oldest fortresses, built by Fulk III, Count of Anjou, whose building campaign of over 100 castles and abbeys shaped the early history of the Loire Valley. We rendezvous at the elegant Hotel Château d’Artigny, built for perfume magnate François Coty between 1912 and 1929 and modeled after the great châteaux of the French Renaissance. Our group then ventures to the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, considered one of the foremost examples of early French Renaissance architecture. We gather in the evening for welcome drinks and dinner.

D included
Overnight: MONTBAZON

October 14

We begin the day at Château de Villandry, home of several important figures from French history, including Napoleon’s brother Jérôme. The estate is renowned for the extraordinary Renaissance-style gardens created in the early 20th century by owner Joachim Carvallo. Following some free time in the picturesque town of Chinon, we are greeted by the owners of Château du Rivau, one of the first ornamental castles built in the valley and the former location of France’s royal stables. The house is notable for the exquisite architectural details and extensive original frescoes. Our day concludes with an unforgettable dinner at a family-owned winery.

B, D included
Overnight: MONTBAZON

October 15

The most recognizable of the Loire châteaux, Chenonceau was inhabited by a succession of powerful women, including royal mistress Diane de Poitiers and her great rival Queen Catherine de Medici. The Menier family, owners since 1913, have overseen several restorations. Following an elegant picnic lunch, we visit Château de Troussay. The 19th-century owner, architectural historian Louis de la Saussaye, remodeled the house, and each façade incorporates a different architectural style. The nearby Château de Cheverny features magnificent interiors and the intact Herault family collection, much of which dates to a major renovation in 1768.

B, L, D included
Overnight: MONTBAZON

October 16

We journey to the city of Bourges, former capital of the Duchy of Berry and a French stronghold during the Hundred Years’ War. The Palais Jacques Coeur, a masterpiece of the Late or Flamboyant Gothic style, was built for the legendary merchant of the city. Nearby is the magnificent Cathédrale Saint-Etienne, one of the earliest and most well-preserved Gothic cathedrals in the country, featuring stained glass dating to 1215. We proceed to the Musée de la Chasse in the 15th-century Château de Gien, which interprets the history of hunting in the Loire Valley, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. We end the day’s journey at Fleury Abbey in Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, one of the most venerated monasteries in Europe and the last great Romanesque church built in the 11th century.

B, L included
Overnight: MONTBAZON

October 17

We depart for Tours, an important administrative and religious center of the Loire Valley since the Middle Ages. We tour the magnificent Cathédrale Saint-Gatien as well as the Musée des Beaux Arts. After some free time in the old town, we proceed to the impressive and complete Fontevraud Abbey. Founded by the itinerant preacher Robert of Arbrissel in 1101, the religious center enjoyed extensive royal patronage by the Plantagenet monarchs of England throughout the 12th century, and was the burial site of Henry II, his queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their son Richard I. We arrive at the charming town of Saumur and the historic Hôtel Anne d’Anjou, which was built between 1750 and 1775 for the Léveseque Des Varannes family. Several of the public rooms have been lovingly restored to their Rococo splendor.

B, L included
Overnight: SAUMUR

October 18

Our day begins at the Château de Saumur, famed for its fairytale depiction in Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. The house now serves as a museum of decorative arts. We proceed to the former stronghold of the Château de Brissac, transformed in the 17th century into the Loire’s tallest château by the Cossé-Brissac family, who maintains ownership to this day. The façade uniquely incorporates all five of the classical orders of architecture. Our day’s travels conclude at the imposing Château d’Angers, an important strategic location from the 13th century until the end of the Second World War. The castle houses the 14th-century “Apocalypse Tapestries,” the oldest surviving Medieval French tapestry series. We continue onto the Layon Vineyard for a cooking lesson and splendid dinner.

B, L, D included
Overnight: SAUMUR

October 19

We spend the morning at the Château du Lude, converted from a castle at the end of the 15th century by court chamberlain Jehan de Daillon, who imported Italian artisans to mask its defensive nature with Gothic ornamentation. Joseph Duvelaer, head of the Council of the French East India Company, purchased the house in 1751, and it remains in the family. We then enjoy an exclusive lunch hosted by the owners of Château de la Barre, which holds a magnificent collection of antiques, paintings, and tapestries. Our day concludes with a gala evening performance by the Cadre Noir at the French military riding academy, founded in 1828.

B, L included
Overnight: SAUMUR

October 20

We leave Saumur, stopping to visit the Château de Mongeoffroy, one of the few châteaux in the Loire Valley that was built as a manor house rather than being converted from a castle. The home of Georges de Contades, Marshal of France under Louis XV, the château survives with the contents and family archives intact. Our day continues with lunch at the Michelin-starred restaurant of the elegant Château de Noirieux, before continuing to Nantes and the chic Hotel Radisson Blu, housed in the beautifully renovated Palais de Justice.

B, L included
Overnight: NANTES

October 21 

The day’s explorations begin at the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, the residence of the Dukes of Brittany between the 13th and 16th centuries. Now a city museum, the house holds a diverse historical collection, including fine and decorative arts. We will also visit the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, begun in 1434 and completed in 1891. Despite damage during the Second World War, the church contains the intact tomb of Francis II, Duke of Brittany, one of the few to retain a complete suite of Renaissance-era sculpture. Our tour concludes with a final dinner in the Belle Époque splendor of the renowned Brasserie La Cigale, a fixture of Nantes’ culinary scene since 1895.

B, L included
Overnight: NANTES

October 22  

Departures from the Nantes airport for stateside connections at Charles de Gaulle; or continue for the extension in Brittany.


Optional Extension Bound to the Sea: Brittany’s Loire Atlantique Region

Brittany is home to some of the most ancient artifacts in the Western world and continues to maintain strong ties to the Celtic cultures of Britain and Northeastern Spain. Our tour hugs the southwestern coast of the Breton Peninsula, discovering a picturesque area where splendid architecture and collections serve as evidence of the region’s long history of maritime trade.

October 22

We visit the port town of Vannes on the Gulf of Morbihan, an ancient trading center with well-preserved architecture from the Middle Ages onwards. We take in the Medieval walls and Gothic cathedral before progressing to Pont-Aven, a town made famous in the 19th century as a haven for artists, including Paul Gauguin. We then arrive at the 19th-century Château Locquenole, run as a hotel by descendants of the original owners, who have preserved the interior décor and splendid park-like setting.

B, L, D included
Overnight: KERVIGNAC

October 23

The city of Lorient, first settled c. 3000 BC, entered a new era of prominence in 1664 as the home of the French East India Company thanks to a sheltered port, and has maintained strong ties to the shipping and ship building industry to this day. We explore the Musée National de la Marine, housed in the Citadel of Port-Louis and featuring a broad collection tied to the history of the French navy. The French East India Company operated out of the Port-Louis complex, and the Musée de la Compagnie des Indes contains a fantastic collection of 17th- and 18th-century decorative arts imported to France from the Far East, through this enterprise. We conclude our day at the two-star Michelin restaurant L’Amphityron for dinner.

B, D included
Overnight: KERVIGNAC

October 24

Our group departs for the charming coastal town of Saint-Nazaire via the Guérande peninsula. The salt marshes of Guérande, which border the sea inlet of ‘Le Traict du Croisic,’ are a man-made wonder that create a breathtaking mosaic of colors for participants to enjoy along our journey. Due to its location, Saint-Nazaire has a long tradition of fishing and shipbuilding, particularly during the Industrial Era. We venture to the Escal’Atlantic, a museum dedicated the history of ocean liners. Our extension concludes back in Nantes at the Hotel Radisson Blu for a celebratory dinner.

B, L, D included
Overnight: NANTES

October 25

Transfer to the airport for flights to reach stateside connections at Charles de Gaulle, or return to Nantes for the commencement of the second tour.

Terms and Conditions

Land Arrangement Cost:
$6,950 per person, based on double occupancy for 9 nights for the main tour. The optional extension is $1,925 per person, based on double occupancy.

Transatlantic airfare is not included. Please do not make your airline reservations until you have received written confirmation of your registration from the Trust.

A deposit of $1,500 per person is required by December 1, 2018 and an additional deposit of $1,000 is required for the extension. Reservations and deposits are taken on an as received basis. You will receive written confirmation from the Decorative Arts Trust when we are in receipt of your registration. Do not make any irrevocable airline reservations until you receive your verification. Please make checks payable to “The Decorative Arts Trust” and mail to 206 West State Street, Suite 300, Media PA 19063.

Single Supplement:
The single supplement is $825 for the main tour and $185 for the extension, to be paid with the final balance.

Final Payment:
Will be due by June 15, 2019. Invoices for the final payment will be mailed in early May.

Membership at the Sponsor level is required for participation in Study Trips Abroad. Your membership contribution is fully tax deductible. If an increase in your membership level is necessary, the Trust will invoice you for the appropriate level upgrade with your final payment.

A donation to the Decorative Arts Trust of $500 per person is required for Study Trips Abroad. This gift is fully tax deductible and helps support the Trust’s mission and programs.

The schedule outlined in this itinerary is contracted for at this time but subject to change as necessary. A suggested reading list will be sent to you.

Each trip is limited to a maximum of 25 members and requires a minimum of 15. The trip will be canceled if under-subscribed, and deposits will be refunded. We will organize and maintain waiting lists on the basis of the time registrations are received. This is a strenuous trip. We regret that we cannot be responsible for those needing assistance on this trip. By registering, you are certifying that you do not have any mental, physical, or other condition of disability that would create a hazard for yourself or other passengers. The Trust reserves the right to decline anyone as a participant in this Study Trip Abroad should the person’s health, actions, or general deportment impede the operation of the Study Trip Abroad; the rights, welfare, or enjoyment of others; or the standing of the Decorative Arts Trust. A valid United States passport is required for this itinerary.

Included in Trip Cost:
Hotel accommodations in 4-and 5-star hotels, 9 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 5 dinners, private coach transportation, local guides, admission in museums, historic houses, and gardens, gratuities for professional guides and coach drivers, and porterage. The extension includes hotel accommodations for 3 nights in 4-and 5-star hotels, 3 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 3 dinners.

Not Included in the Trip Cost:
Airfare, airport transfers other than specified above, alcoholic beverages other than when provided, personal expenses, and trip insurance are not included

Cancellation and Refund:
If you must cancel your reservation, you are urged to do so as soon as possible in writing to the Decorative Arts Trust. All cancellations are subject to a $250 administrative fee. Deposits are non-refundable after February 1, 2019. Cancellations arriving by July 15, 2019 will receive a 50% refund. Cancellations arriving by September 1, 2019, will receive a 25% refund. There will be no refunds for cancellations received after September 1, 2019.

Complete a digital puzzle from this trip on our Puzzles webpage!


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