Thanks to my holiday visits to a home in France, French cuisine has long been part of my family traditions—whether it was cycling down to the local boulangerie to pick up freshly baked croissants or sipping a sweet rosé wine during an impromptu wine-tasting at our neighbor’s wine cellar.
These days, living in Nantes in the western Loire, I’m a full-fledged convert to French cheese, charcuterie, and pastries. Whenever I have visitors, I can’t help but rave about our regional delicacies with the enthusiasm of a local. Because when it comes to delicious foods and world-class wines, the Loire Valley has almost as many specialties as it does fairy-tale châteaux. Here’s how to taste it all in three days.
Summer temperatures soar between 12pm–3pm, the perfect time for a lunch break.
If you only have time for one thing, make it dinner at one of Blois’ two Michelin-starred restaurants.
Mornings mean breakfast, and what's more French than pain au chocolats? Swing by Boulangerie Sim’s before taking a tour of the Loire Valley châteaux. Live out your own fairy tale at the Château de Chenonceau, followed by a wine tasting at the château’s cave and lunch at the terrace restaurant overlooking the Cher river.
In the afternoon, continue to the Château de Chambord, the largest of the Loire châteaux. Combine it with a local winery stop to sample the region’s Cour-Cheverny white wines and a taste of Chambord, the raspberry-flavored liqueur produced here.
Next is a quintessential French activity: wine and cheese tasting. The regal Château de Cheverny, in the Sologne wine appellation, is ideal for fresh whites and fruity reds. Wherever you go, book in advance. Better yet, opt for a private tour.
Next, sample the Loire Valley’s famous goat’s milk cheeses, many of which are named after their shape. Cheese shop Fromagerie Moreau in Pontlevoy has the flower-shaped Fleur de Sologne, log-shaped Bûcheron, heart-shaped Coeur de Touraine, and Crottin de Chavignol (cheekily referencing horse dung).
Add a sweet finish with a goûter (mid-afternoon snack) at Max Vauché Chocolatier for a tour.
Stroll Blois’ medieval old town, stopping by the local market (mornings except Monday and Friday) for regional favorites including rillette, sable cookies, and many cheeses. Charm the stall-holders with a little French and they’ll usually let you taste some.
Between visits to the royal Château de Blois and Cathedral of Saint-Louis, take a coffee break at Boulangerie Lamargote and try homemade Tarte Tatin, another Loire Valley specialty.
End things with dinner at one of Blois’ Michelin-starred restaurants (book in advance). Japanese-themed Assa is popular, but for château views and traditional cuisine, snag a table at L’Orangerie du Château.