Ok, it was tuesday, not the weekend, but a long weekend holiday here in France nonetheless. So we rented a car and went shotgun all the way down south to Orleans and then proceeded to drive on the banks of the Loire to Tours. The area is famous for wine and castles (chateaus). If there's another thing they're famous for, sorry, I didn't know about it. Its supposed to be famous for pear (as in the fruit) stuff, but other than an overpriced bottle of pear confit, we didn't see too much of anything else. The main castles we went past were Chenonceaux (which straddles across a river), Chambourg and Amboise. Google for them. All of them require some kind of fee to visit and the queue was long. RUle of thumb, if the queue is long, don't bother. It cost 9Euro at least to get in, and you're going to be in a cramped room with a lot of noisy tourists anyways. And in summer there are no air-conditioning for sure so you're going to be all sweaty all over in no time. We went into Chenonceaux and just loitered outside the rest, not willing to be a chateau scholar and study the inside.
Winery was everywhere on the small roads. They open on public holidays as well, at least most of them. Be armed with a little French. They'll explain to you a lot of things about the different years and how it affects the grapes and if you want to learn more, and if you dont understand what is the difference between a dry and not so dry wine means to a French, you get to taste them as well. I learnt there was a heat wave in 2003, and the wine was a little different from other years. Tasted a little more strange to me, but can't describe it.
We drove there on a day trip and while its do-able from Paris, its going to be a whole day affair. You can either take the toll highway (A10 to Orleans and then direction to Bordeaux) or the N10 I believe which cuts diagonal, is free, but with many stops and speed changes, you move between 90kmph, 110kmph and 70kmph zones thru many cities. I have not checked my GPS telemetry data but I bet the distance saved thru the free road may make up in lost time due to lack of speed. By the way the toll from Paris to just outside the west of Orleans (This town called Meung-sur-Loire) is about 10.90Euro one way. Basically, aim to do 3-4 castles (including the 3 mentioned here) and stop anywhere you want on the small roads to learn more about the wine in the region. If you don't mind reaching Paris late at night, you can have dinner on the way back before you hit Orleans. We arrived in Paris last night at almost midnight.