A French Barge Cruise Along the Loire – FAQs

If you’re considering a luxury French barge cruise through the Loire Valley, you may find the answers to some of the following FAQs useful.

Where is the Loire Valley?

It runs much of the width of France in an east-west direction. That’s from just south of Paris until it reaches the sea at the great port city of Nantes. As a matter of convention, the term ‘Loire Valley’ is usually only applied to the areas around the historic cities of Blois and Tours.

Can you travel the whole length of the Loire on a French barge cruise?

Some parts are not navigable; others, particularly around Nantes, are quite industrial and ‘big port’ in appearance and culture, so probably not very attractive to tourists.

Many French barge cruise holidays are based around the scenic areas mentioned above.

Where are the nearest airports?

Paris is probably the most common destination for air travellers on this type of holiday. It’s a relatively short drive to the Loire Valley from there. There are also regional airports in cities such as Tours and Nantes.

What’s the summer weather like?

The Loire Valley is famous for many things, including the fact that it is the north-south divider in weather terms. In other words, in the Loire Valley the colder Northern European climate gives way to the warmer southern systems. So, in the period from June to September, you can normally be sure of good warm weather. Of course, this isn’t the Mediterranean and, as such, good weather can’t be absolutely guaranteed even in summer. The luxury barges, though, are superbly equipped and a few showers are unlikely to spoil your enjoyment of this type of holiday.

Is this a ‘touristy’ destination?

This is an emphatic no. Of course, this area has been popular with visitors for decades, if not centuries, but its towns and villages are entirely unspoilt and remain living and breathing entities where tourism is just one of many local industries. Even at peak times, you’ll be unlikely to find crowds at major stopping-off spots.

Can you tour the vineyards?

Yes – within reason. This is a major and very famous wine producing area and many estates will have ‘degustation’ (tastings) for visitors. Some will offer guided tours and direct sales where you may pick up a bargain. They are working establishments, though, so don’t assume you can just drive up at any time and march in demanding a tour! Your barge cruise operator may well have arranged such visits so you won’t have to bother with any of the planning.

What are the best local buys?

France has never been a low-cost holiday destination of the type typified by, say, Greece and Spain. Although people argue about this, broadly speaking, you should anticipate most prices overall to be comparable to the UK. Some will be more expensive and others cheaper, but on the whole things balance out.

Things that are likely to be cheaper include: local wines (probably when purchased from supermarkets as opposed to the vineyards themselves); luxury packaged foodstuffs such as Foie Gras; high-end ceramics and glass. Prices do vary over time though. Once again, your French barge cruise holiday provider will be able to offer more advice at the time you’re on holiday and give you some valuable insider tips as to where and when are the best times and places to purchase such goods.

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