1. Lower Loire Valley: The route of the castles.

We will do this route by car and we will leave from St. Nazaire... why? Well, because this town is a port of arrival for ferries from Spain and from England, making it ideal for bringing your vehicle. But beware! The problem is that the ferries are not operational throughout the year and in fact some companies right now only carry freight transport since taking tourists is not profitable. But don't worry, the other option is start from the city of Nantes, where you can get there by plane or train (from Paris, for example) and then rent a car.

Castle of Azay-le-Rideau (Loire Valley)

Nantes is where the route through the Loire River Valley begins, in fact it is the capital of the Pays du Loire region. Between Nantes and Orleans there is a spectacular landscape of green fields and beautiful castles along the river valley. The castles are large or small, they are all different, you can choose which of them to visit depending on the time you have, even some of them can be seen from the road. Attention, because there are more than 200 castles!! Some are in the center of towns but others are isolated. Of course, along the route you have places to eat, accommodation and various tourist activities. It is ideal to spend several days.

2. From Orleans to Versailles, via Chartres.

Both the Loire and the Seine rivers are very long rivers that originate in the southeast of France, near the Alps, to cross the country in a northwesterly direction and empty into the Atlantic Ocean. The upper part of a river is the closest to its source and the lower part the closest to its mouth.

In Paris the route begins through the lower valley of the Seine to Normandy, but before arriving there, we can stop at Versailles or even see Paris, although I recommend that you leave it for another occasion and spend more time to see the capital of France, because it well deserves it. What I do recommend, as it is on the way to our destination, is that you make an almost obligatory stop in Chartres, to see its impressive cathedral, one of the highest in the world. If you travel by car you can see it in the distance amid the flat and green landscape of this part of the heart of France.

Gardens of the Palace of Versailles

3. Lower Seine valley: the route of the abbeys.

In this lower part of the river course, the Seine River meanders until it reaches the Atlantic, forming a spectacular landscape with picturesque villages with impressive views such as the famous Les Andelys, which appears on many French postcards. Already between Rouen, a city worth visiting as the capital of Upper Normandy, and the mouth of the river, is the Meanders of Seine National Park. The abbeys of Jumièges and Saint Georges de Boscherville are located in this natural space which you must not miss!

4. Normandy.

To do this complete route and return to Nantes, it is ideal to do it through Normandy and Brittany. Although if you have more time, it would be a good idea to take another more complete trip through these regions to get to know them better, since they have much more to offer. But on this route, in a more or less straight line back to Nantes, you can visit some wonderful towns and places that are still on the way, to give us an idea of the uniqueness of both territories. So... we move on!

The first thing worth visiting in Normandy is visiting the famous Étretat cliffs. The road from Rouen to here is simply extraordinary. The landscape presents immense fields of crops full of yellow hues, when the rapeseed blooms, in spring and summer.
We can also visit the pretty towns of Honfleur and Bayeux, as well as the city of Caen.

Étretat Normandie France
Cliffs of Étretat (Normandy)

Continuing to Brittany, the last stop before changing region, we make a mandatory stop at Mont Saint-Michel, perhaps the most characteristic place in northern France. A small islet
rocky near the coast where a spectacular 16th century abbey and a small village around it emerge. From the road, you can see its spectacular beauty in the distance, and to get there you will have to take a bus from the parking lot or walk. Since it is sought that there is not an excessive mass of tourists by car. You need some time but it is worth visiting it and taking some souvenir photos, especially at dusk or at high tide.

Mont Saint-Michel

5. Britanny.

Near Mont Saint-Michel is the Breton town of Saint-Malò. It is a small but more modern city in which its walled fortress and also its port stand out. And a few kilometers is Dinan, a very touristic and lively little town, full of commercial establishments and souvenir shops. From here we can go to Fouguères, a characteristic medieval town of this region or continue to Rennes, the capital of Brittany.

The landscape in this part of Brittany changes from its neighboring Normandy. The cultivated fields give way to grassy meadows for natural pasture, more wooded areas and with dreamy medieval villages, always near to small rivers, well cared for and adorned with flowers. We find three of these towns very near to each other, next to Nantes. They are Josselin, with an imposing castle. Malestroit, and Rochefort-en-Terre, the latter named as the most beautiful village in France in 2016.

Before returning to Nantes or the port of St. Nazaire, you can end the tour at some point on the easternmost coast of Brittany, such as Mine d'Or beach. As you can imagine, its name comes from its ocher-colored sands.

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