When considering taking children on a boating holiday in France, a river cruise in the Loire Valley aboard Nymphea, is an amazing way to explore the many attractions this region has to offer.
There’s nothing like seeing the world through the eyes of children. Learning how locks operate, visiting castles, an aquarium and a zoo, makes this not only fun for children and adults but it’s an education in itself. Below is a sample itinerary of this all inclusive family river cruise.
Moulin de Nitray – You are met by a crew member at St Pierre des Corps TGV railway station and transferrey minibus to the barge. Upon arrival a champagne welcome awaits you at our mooring near the 17th century Moulin de Nitray.
Dinner is served aboard.
Moulin de Nitray to Larcay – In the morning we cruise through two locks and arrive at the quaint town of Larcay where we moor for lunch under the weeping willow trees.
In the afternoon we take an excursion to Amboise to visit the model village and the Aquarium Du Val De Loire. The model village is set in 5 acres of landscaped park and is criss-crossed by 6 railway lines of miniature trains. It features 45 miniature recreations of the finest châteaux in the Val de Loire region.
The Aquarium has 40 pools displaying a wide variety of aquatic life, including fish from the Loire, sharks from the deepest ocean, and crocodiles from the Amazon.
We return to Nymphea for dinner aboard.
Larcay to Vallet – After a morning cruise passing several private châteaux, we moor opposite the hamlet of Vallet, a cluster of classic Tourangeau architecture grouped around its 18th century mill.
We then explore the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci, Château du Clos Luce and its gardens. Here you can discover his 40 fabulous machines, inventions that were 5 centuries ahead of their time, including his helicopter, airplane, car, parachute, and tank. Many of these inventions are displayed in the landscaped gardens of the Château.
In the Evening we cruise on a traditional wooden gabarre (antique Loire sailing barge), and have a barbecue down the river Loire from Chaumont to Amboise. Floating with the current downstream, we glide silently past the local residents – beavers, swallows and a myriad of waterfowl.
Dinner is served aboard.
Vallet to Chissay en Touraine – We cruise in the morning and we may pull into the tiny landing stage next to Domaine de Château de Fontenay and take a short two minute walk to their courtyard. Here we can taste their range of Touraine wines as an aperitif before lunch moored at Bléré.
In the afternoon we will be cruising under the 5 arch bridge of the impressive Château de Chenonceau and moor at Chisseaux. One can take a canoe from the lock before the castle, follow the barge and then explore the moat and arches of Chenonceau, before paddling upstream to rejoin the barge at its mooring.
We can also visit the Zoo Parc de Beauval in St Aignan sur Cher. It is home to 4000 animals including tigers, elephants, gorillas, alligators, tropical birds and much more including hourly marine animal and birds of prey shows.
Upon our return we cruise upstream to Chissay en Touraine. We dine out tonight in one of the local restaurants.
Chissay en Touraine to Montrichard – In the morning we cruise towards the troglodyte village of Bourré.
We tie up at the lock and take a short walk to one of the more unusual troglodyte dwellings in the Loire Valley, La Magnaneraie. The Coquillat family has grown up in this hillside troglodyte habitation, which has been a wine cellar, a quarry for the tuffeau stone, and lastly a silkworm nursery.
After lunch we visit the impressive Château de Chambord which is the largest castle in the Loire Valley and one of the largest in the world. Due to the scale of it, the first sighting will take your breath away. There are daily tours and costumed tours for children with special audio guides.
Surrounding the château is the largest walled game reserve in Europe, The Parc du Chambord. Red deer and wild boar roam freely in the park and can be seen from one of the 4 game observatories. Twice daily there is an equestrian dressage display in the grounds and further exploration can be done by boat, horseback or by bike, all of which are for hire.
We then return to the barge and cruise to Montrichard where we moor for the night. Dinner is served aboard.
Montrichard to Nitray – After breakfast, we take a short stroll into the heart of one of the largest weekly street markets in Touraine, held in the town of Montrichard.
There’s time to explore the 12th Century Château de Montrichard and its dungeon constructed by Foulques Nerra which overlooks the medieval town square.
Afterwards you may like to spend some time on the small beach at the yachting club where you can hire a canoe or pedaleau or go swimming.
After lunch, Nymphea sets off downstream, for another passage under the Château de Chenonceau where there is an outside children’s play area with a maze and canoes. We arrive at the hamlet of Nitray and there may be time to visit the Château de Nitray, a large wine making estate with an incredible architectural ensemble including a pigeon house, a chapel and a landscaped English Rose Garden.
Here you can enjoy an aperitif from their vineyards. In the evening there’s a Captains ‘Farewell Dinner’ aboard.
Nitray to Tours – After breakfast, disembark, and return by minibus to St Pierre des Corps Station arriving there at 9.30am