Make a Bored Dad in France into a Sophisticate
April 30, 2012 4:56 PM   Subscribe

Mefi French Folk and Francophiles, please help out my dad! My dear dad is stuck in the little town of Argenton Chateau (recently renamed Argenton Vallee)- which I think is about 50 km away from Tours, I think, and Angers , I think, and just south of the Loire Valley, I think. He has nothing to do all day but read his Kindle and sit at the local cafe while my mom is in a painting class in the little village for the next three weeks. Do you have recommendations for day trips and sights in the area?

He is not the best at planning and that's why he did not bring a guidebook specifically for the region. He's wiling to drive to Tours or do some other driving around the area, is very open-minded and quite mobile despite being in his 70s. Even especially scenic walks in the countryside or especially intriguing little towns would be nice side-trips.
posted by foxy_hedgehog to Travel & Transportation around France (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It looks like there is this huge nature park that covers most of the area between Angers and Tours.

According to the painting class's website, they're 50 MINUTES from Angers, not 50 km.

If I were in the area, I would look for this place just to take a picture of the sign, but that's just me.
posted by mkb at 6:35 PM on April 30, 2012

A little Googling turns up this, apparently the site of a gite (rural vacation retreat) near Argenton-les-Vallées with the following list of nearby attractions:

Charming town 1/2 hrs drive away set by the river. Excellent chateau to visit offering tours in English, picnic by the river and view the ancient Medieval town walls.

1/2 hrs drive to visit the old Trogolodyte village which is well worth a visit. The cave homes are preserved as a museum - fascinating for all ages.

Doue La Fontaine
1/2 hr drive to this pretty town boasting a fantastic and family friendly zoo, great creperies in the square and beautiful rose garden on the outskirts of the town.

Beautiful chateau with breath-taking gardens that are famous throughout the world. (1.5 hrs drive)

Amazing architecture to be found at the Abbey at Fontevraud, famed for being the burial place of Richard the Lion Heart and full of French and English History.

Puy de Fou
Medieval style theme park with jousting displays, falconry and a spectacular sound and light show - the biggest in Europe. (Advance bookings required)

Well worth just over an hours drive to Poitiers, Futuroscope is the thinking man/woman/childs answer to Dinseyland. Lots to see and try and discover.

Saumur, Angers, Chinon
These famous French chateaux towns all all just over an hours drive. Each is brimming with history and a variety things to see and do; museums, mushroom farms and art gallerys to name but a few!
posted by caryatid at 6:49 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I spent a few weeks in the south of France near Carcasonne a few years ago, staying at a friend's 19th century farmhouse, where she gave art classes. I was the cook.

Rural France is extremely relaxing, IMX. I spent most of my free time walking the country roads between nearby achingly picturesque tiny villages and Cathar ruins and just feeling thrilled to be there. I envy your dad.
posted by caryatid at 7:05 PM on April 30, 2012

There are loads and loads of little and larger towns with châteaux round there: Chinon, Chenonceaux and Blois are my favourites.

A great place to go is Amboise, which is a little further down the Loire than Tours - it was the home of Leonardo da Vinci in his last days. The château there has a display of models of his fantastic machines.

Not French but I lived not far from Blois a few years ago. Love that part of the world.
posted by altolinguistic at 4:40 AM on May 1, 2012

I would 2nd Amboise...I used to live not too far away and this was a favorite when people came to visit.
posted by richmondparker at 11:53 AM on May 2, 2012

That part of the world isn't short on scenic little towns. There are too many châteaux in the area to list them all, but one that's worth a look and hasn't been mentioned already is Azay-le-Rideau.

If scenic walks are his thing, the waymarked GR3 path runs right through the area, through several of the places people have mentioned (though a fair bit to the north of Argenton). Close-up of the relevant section here. I'm afraid those links are in French, though I'm sure a bit of searching could turn up sites with details in English. (Wikipedia has a page in English for the GR system generally, and pages on several of the paths in particular, but not the GR3, I'm afraid.) For that matter, a bookshop--especially in one of the bigger but still touristy towns--would probably have an English-language guidebook with the details. These trails are very easy to follow, with frequent waymarks, so walking a segment here and there should be fairly trouble-free. The IGN maps are useful for covering distance but at 1:75,000 for the hiking series are at way too large a scale for my cossetted British tastes (Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 being perfect, 1:50,000 being okay).

Combining a good lunch in a small town with a walk through surrounding countryside might be just the right mix of exercise and indulgence. There are many excellent vineyards in the area, too. I'm sure the local tourist office could point him in the right direction for one within walking distance.

Finally, most people have suggested driving east to visit the Loire valley châteaux; he could also try driving west to the coast (longish but doable day trip) or to Nantes (about 60 miles). Nantes isn't the most outstandingly pretty city but it's full of cool things--a giant mechanical elephant, for example.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 7:54 AM on May 6, 2012

Oh, and if tanks are his thing (hey, who knows?) the Cavalry School at Saumur has the national Armoured Vehicle Museum (link in French, and don't let the little [fr] [en] fool you into thinking a version in English is available; dreadful website). There are more old-style--that is, horse-based--cavalry goings on at the National Riding School (a link in English this time). Their team does regular displays; the big one's not until July, though, I don't think.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 8:02 AM on May 6, 2012

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