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FRANCE'S LOIRE VALLEY: Birds, Chateaux & Wine
A tour of France's lovely Loire Valley, combining lowland birding with visits to the chateaux of Chambord, Chenonceau, and Villandry, as well as some of the region's famous vineyards.

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French novelist Gustave Flaubert once described the Loire as "the most sensual river in France," and that description is still apt today. Europe's only "wild" river -- the only one without a lock or weir or dam anywhere along its length -- the Loire is France's longest waterway, winding northward and westward from the Massif Central through the flat, fertile lowlands of central France to the Atlantic.

Our tour concentrates on the "Middle Loire," famous for its spectacular chateaux, which have housed the country's royalty, rich, and famous since the Middle Ages. The Loire Valley is also famous for its wines; it's France's third-largest wine-producing region, with 100 appellations from source to sea. We'll intersect with some of its best-known regions, and we'll have the chance to sample Chinon, Vouvray, and more.

During the time of our tour, the Loire runs low and sedate, studded with sand and gravel bars that provide protected nesting areas for Yellow-legged, Black-headed and Mediterranean gulls, Little Ringed Plovers, and Common Sandpipers. The mixed deciduous forests along its fringes are home to Black, Great Spotted, Middle Spotted, and Lesser Spotted woodpeckers (with the possibility of the rare Gray-headed Woodpecker as well), Booted Eagle, Song and Mistle thrushes, Great, Crested, Eurasian Blue, and Long-tailed tits, and many others.

In scattered grasslands among the farm fields and vineyards, we'll look for Eurasian Skylark, Common Stonechat, Eurasian Thick-knee, Montagu's Harrier, Zitting Cisticola, and -- if we're very lucky -- some of the region's last remaining pairs of Little Bustard. We'll spend time in the Sologne and Brenne, two regions where hundreds of small lakes -- carved from the landscape by industrious monks more than six centuries ago -- shelter Great Crested, Eared, and Little grebes, Tufted Duck and Common Pochard. Egrets and herons stalk the lake margins while Eurasian Golden-Orioles and Common Nightingales chortle from surrounding vegetation, and Whiskered Terns zoom back and forth overhead.

We'll spend our mornings in the field and shift our attention to chateaux, abbeys, and vineyards on most afternoons. Two comfortable hotels and relatively short drives should combine to make for a pleasant and relaxing holiday!

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2019 Departures
May 31 - Jun 10

2020 Departures
Jun 5-15

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Guides for our tours
Megan Edwards Crewe
Marcelo Padua

What to Expect
Good accommodations, cool to warm climate, easy to moderate terrain.

Our staff travel agents can assist you with tour information, flight reservations and tour bookings. Contact us at (800) 728-4953
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