Tuesday, March 30
Depart the U.S. on a flight to Paris CDG.
Upon arrival, gather in the airport’s Sheraton Hotel. Drive to Bourges, stopping for lunch at the riverside restaurant Le Rivage in Olivet. Check in to the Hotel de Bourbon in the center of Bourges where we stay for four nights. After an introduction to the trip by Olivier Bernier, dinner will be at Les Petits Plats du Bourbon.
Day 2 BOURGES
After a walk through the unspoilt medieval center of the city, with its extraordinary abundance of medieval to 18th century architecture, we visit the Palais Jacques Coeur. Built between 1453 and 1461, this remarkable late Gothic building was the residence of France’s first, and hugely rich, finance minister the well-preserved palace will tell us about the good life more than half a millennium ago. Lunch is at leisure. In the afternoon, we visit the St Etienne cathedral one of the most important in France. Begun in 1155, mostly finished in 1255, it is impressive by its size, the quality of its architecture and the extraordinary abundance and quality of its medieval stained-glass windows. Dinner will be at Le Bourbonnoux.
Day 3 BOURGES
Our morning will be spent at the important Decorative Arts Museum. The house was built at the end of the 15th century for a wealthy merchant and now houses a rich collection of 15th to 17th century furniture and objects. The original chapel is especially splendid. After lunch at leisure, we go on to the Church of Saint Bonnet. Built in 1513, it has a splendid ensemble of 16th century stained glass windows.
Dinner at Le Cercle, a Michelin-starred restaurant near the Cathedral.
Day 4 BOURGES
Today, we drive into the nearby countryside. The Berry is justly known as having some of the richest, greenest landscapes in France. Our visit will be at the château de Meillant. Once a massively fortified castle, it has kept three major wings dating from the early 14th to the early 16th centuries. The interior façade is richly adorned. In the courtyard, the chapel has kept an important Flemish 16th century altarpiece and 16th century stained glass windows. In the main buildings there is a good collection of 16th and 17th century paintings and objects. Lunch will be local. In the afternoon, we go on to the nearby Cistercian Abbey of Noirlac. Built between 1150 and 1250, it is one of the very few to have preserved the entirety of its buildings. Dinner will be at Le Jardin Gourmand and will focus on local foods.
Day 5 BOURGES TO ROMORANTIN
Today we leave Bourges. Our first stop will be at the Romanesque abbey of Clermont, one of the earliest and most important Romanesque abbeys ib France. Its carved capitals are of particular interest. Our next visit will be to the château of Châteauneuf-sur-Cher. Largely rebuilt in the 17th century, it has a fine collection of 18th century furniture. We then continue to Nohant, the house that belonged to George Sand, the hugely popular 19th century woman author. Arguably the first successful feminist, she left her husband and went on to become a prolific author as well as a political activist. Lunch will be in the tearoom.
In Romorantin, we stay for four nights at the Châteaux et Relais Grand Hotel du Lion d’Or, a 16th century residence with 21st century comfort.Dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 6 ROMORANTIN
The morning will start with a visit to the Favignolles market, and continue to the Musée de Sologne, situated on an island in the river Sauldre; it has exhibits about the province of which Romorantin is the capital. There is a particularly fine view from the nearby bridge. Lunch will be out of town at L’Epicurien. In the afternoon, we will look at the racing cars at the Musée Matra. Diner is on your own.
Day 7 ROMORANTIN
The 11th century Abbey of Fongombault, famous for its Gregorian chant, and a handsome building, will begin our day. Lunch will be at Le Boeuf Couronnè in Mèziéres en Brenne; like most of the other restaurants on this trip, it specializes in the ue of local products.. After lunch, we will visit the château de Valençay. A 16th century château with 18th century interiors, it was once the property of Talleyrand, the great French 19th century foreign minister. It has splendid gardens. We will go on to the handsome 18th century château de la Moustiére where we will have a wine and cheese tasting. Dinner is on your own.
Day 8 ROMORANTIN
Saint Benoît sur Loire is one of the oldest monasteries in France. Founded in 651, sacked by the Normans in the 9th century, it was rebuilt in the 11th. It has remarkable13th century sculptures and capitals as well as 15th century choir stalls. Lunch will be at the restaurant Le Grand Benoît. On our way back to Romorantin, we will visit the faience manufacture in Given, whose production began more than two centuries ago. Dinner is on your own.
Day 9 LOIRE
Drive off to Montbazon where we stay for three nights at the luxurious Chateau d’Artigny. Arrive in Blois in time for lunch in the Orangerie of the château; after visiting its Renaissance and 17th century wings, we will go on to the important Musée des Beaux-Arts, before finishing the day in Montbazon. Dinner is on your own.
Day 10 LOIRE
Today we visit the house of Pierre Ronsard, the greatest of the French 16th century poets, we will have a lunch of local products, then have a stroll through the center of Vendôme and see the spectacular façade of the Trinity Church. We go on to a troglodyte village and dine at La Cave aux Fouées, a troglodyte restaurant installed in one of the caves.
Day 11 LOIRE
This morning, after visiting the château at Amboise, we go on to the Pagoda at Chanteloup, a remarkable example of 18th century chinoiserie, and look into Leonardo’s house at the Clos Lucé. The farewell lunch will be at the Clos Lucé. The afternoon and evening are free.
Drive to Charles de Gaulle airport and fly back to the U.S.
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PLEASE NOTE: due to the effects of the pandemic, and to the possibly permanent closing of some hotels and restaurants, it is not yet possible to offer a firm price. Updates will be sent in due time to all interested travelers.