25 June 2009

Taking the train from Onzain to Paris

Yesterday I drove CHM up to Onzain. We've figured out that that's the best nearby train station for passengers going to Paris from here. Onzain is on the Loire River just downstream from Blois toward Amboise, and about 30 to 35 minutes from Saint-Aignan by car. The drive to Onzain is on a scenic country road and is very pleasant.

Of course you can take the train from Saint-Aignan all the way to Paris, but you have to change trains in either Tours or Vierzon. Depending on connections, that takes extra time. And you can drive to Blois to get the train there, but that takes longer than driving to Onzain. You can drive over to Tours and get the TGV there, but that takes even longer and the TGV, while faster, is more expensive than the regular trains.

The Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire seen from across the river

The ride from Onzain to Paris Austerlitz station takes 2 hours on the regular train. The full price second-class ticket costs about 25 euros. In February and in April, W. and I were able to get discounted tickets at 10 euros each by purchasing them on-line well in advance. CHM's first class ticket, with a senior discount (which I now qualify for too, because I'm 60), was a little less than 20 euros.

Close-up of the same view — the houses down on the
riverbank show you how massive the château is.

Anyway, Onzain is now our gare of choice for the train ride to Paris. The little town is right across the river from Chaumont, which is the site of a famous château up on a bluff above the Loire. Yesterday, we left far in advance of the time we needed to get to Onzain for CHM's train. I told him we could stop and take a walk (not to mention some photos) in the park of the château at Chaumont. The weather was beautiful.

The SNCF — Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français
is the French national railway system.

When we got there, however, we found big changes. The park is no longer open to the public for free. You used to be able to walk in and walk right up to the château and to the edge of the bluff it sits on, which gave you great views out over the river. You always had to pay to get into the château itself, and you had to pay to get into the gardens. But now you have to pay to get into the park.

For us, because we only had 20 or at most 30 minutes, it just wasn't worth the price of admission (8€ per person) yesterday. So we drove on over the bridge and then along the river road across from Chaumont to get some views of the château in the distance. I took pictures from over there, using my zoom lens.

I like this old silo next to the train station in Onzain.

As we were stopped off the side of the road, a big tractor trailer truck roared by hauling two pre-fabricated homes on its flat-bed. There's a vacation park — a big trailer park, basically — located between Onzain and Blois a few miles from the river. It's owned by a British company, and we know somebody who works there. I figured the truck was hauling those "mobile homes" to that park.

You can see the château from pretty far away
on the opposite bank of the Loire

When we drove into Onzain, we needed to go under an overpass to get to the train station. It turned out that the tractor-trailer had taken that same road, and it was stopped under the train tracks for some reason, blocking all car traffic. Luckily, we had plenty of time.

Again, a closeup of the château seen from
farther back, away from the river

It's always a good idea to allow extra time when you are going to catch and train or plane. You never know what might happen. In this case, a dozen or more cars were lined up behind the big truck and had been there long enough that a lot of the drivers were out of their vehicles, standing in the middle of the road looking to see what the problem was.

I told CHM we would try to go around the traffic jam. We drove west toward Amboise on a little back road, though green fields of corn and sunflowers and barley. The road was lined with ditches filled with bright red poppies. After two or three miles, we found a road going north that went over a bridge across the railroad tracks. Then we backtracked to Onzain, headed for the station. By the time we got there, the stuck truck was gone and traffic was flowing normally. It didn't matter — we weren't late and we had had a nice ride in the countryside.

The train to Paris about the pull out of the gare d'Onzain

CHM got on the train at 11:30. At about 2:30 he called and said he had arrived back at home and was making lunch. The trip had been easy. I think he took a taxi from the Gare d'Austerlitz in Paris to his apartment. He had been here for just short of two weeks and we did a lot of touring around during that time. W., Callie, and I are going to try to get up to Paris to see him later in the summer, before he goes back to the States.


  1. Yes, it was a pleasant train ride through the Loire Valley countryside. There is no stop between Orléans and Paris.
    I also enjoyed the car ride through rolling hills and pretty, old villages. The scenery there looks like postcards!

  2. It's good to know that you've figured out the best train route to Paris, and that it's a nice drive for you... since you get so many visitors! CHM, enjoy Paris for us all!

    I loved the photos of Chaumont-sur-Loire. I'm putting a link to one of them on my châteaux website, if you don't mind!

  3. Of course I don't mind, Judy. Yesterday was a beautiful day, despite the disappointment about not being able to go into the park at Chaumont. Today it's humid and we are expecting a thunderstorm.

  4. Chaumont-sur-Loire is beautiful- I double clicked on all the photos for full effect. I like the ones with the houses below which remind me of Amboise which reminds me of seeing Amboise at sunset in '69...

    I'm glad you enjoyed your train ride, CHM. We love your visits because you take us to many new sights in the Berry and Loire countryside.

  5. Isn't the château at Chaumont sur Loire also called sleeping beauty's castle?

  6. Hi Isabelle, I'm not sure about Chaumont, but I know the château at Ussé, on the other side of Tours from us, is called sleeping beauty's castle.

    Evelyn, Chaumont is really impressive. I know we have driven by there together but I don't know if we have ever had a chance to stop in. It is worth a visit. K.

  7. You are right, Ken, it's Ussé's château that's called sleeping beauty's castle!
    I did visit it 2 years ago, and it really looks like Chaumont's château, that's why I got confused...

  8. I too hope Monsieur Charles-Henri will come back visiting you often so we go along for the ride.
    I was wondering if Walt and you have a competition on who gets the most comments? In my book, you are both winners.

  9. Thanks so much for the tour of the countryside and the beautiful photos of Chaumont.

    You and W really must go there this summer to see the many (I think 27) demonstration gardens. Each year different gardening groups or associations are chosen to design the gardens and I can tell you, they are amazing! Most of them are not your typical garden at all! These gardens are available for viewing from April through Sept and then they are razed and another 27 groups get to design them for next year.

    Can you tell I liked going to Chateau Chaumont? ;-)


  10. Oh, also meant to comment on the best train connections from St A to Paris. Thank you!


  11. Bonjour Nadège, non, W and I do not compete over the no. of comments we get. Personally, I enjoy the comments but they are not my main motivation for blogging. If I didn't get any, I would start to ask myself why I should continue blogging, however.

    BettyAnn, any chance of your coming back to the Loire Valley in October?

  12. Ken, I saw many lovely places during my time in the Loire last year but now that I'm reading about all the wonderful places you and CHM have visited recently, I'm wondering why I'm spending two weeks in Paris in Oct! ;-)


  13. Ken, can you point me in the direction online to find train schedules for the Paris-Onzain route? I can't seem to find them on raileurope without getting the "can't book this yet" message. Thanks in advance!
    Jacqueline in Canada

  14. The French site for the SNCF is www.voyages-sncf.com. When you buy tickets on the site, type in Onzain and Paris Austerlitz as you departure and arrival stations. And give France as your pick-up point. Then you can pick up the tickets at any train station in France when you get here by showing them your printout and the credit card you used to pay for the tickets.

  15. Hi Ken, First time I write on a blog. I want to thank you for all the things you write. I will go to Onzain september 30th by train from Paris. First time in France.
    I'm travelling alone from Montréal.I have booked a hot air balloon tour in Chaumont-sur-Loire.
    37 days before I leave Montréal, I am very anxious to arrive in France. Have a great day. Louise

  16. Hello Louise, I hope you have a great time. How long are you staying in Onzain/Chaumont? I hope you have good weather. Je présume que vous parlez français, venant de Montréal. Tenez-nous au courant...

  17. Hi again,
    I am only staying three days in Onzain/Chaumont. Arriving wenesday and leaving friday afternoon by train. Vous avez devinez, je parle français. Si vous êtes au courant d'un évênement qui se passe le 1er ou 2 octobre 2009 s.v.p. m'en faire part. C'est sur que je vais aller voir les jardins au château de Chaumont-sur-Loire.
    Bonne journée et merci encore pour les informations de votre site.

  18. Hi I am planning a visit to ST Aignan and having trouble arranging travel. I will be leaving Newhaven to Dieppe then either plan to go St Aignan - Paris or Paris St Aignan then back to Dieppe. I won't have a car at all so planning to use the train all the way. IF you could advise me on what stations I need to book tickets for that would really help as having trouble with SNCF site! Also if you can recommend some cheap and cheerful accommodation in St Aignan I would really appreciate it!!

  19. Anonymous, I'm not a travel agent and I don't even travel that much these days. However, there is a train station in Saint-Aignan (St-Aignan-Noyers) that you can get to by changing trains at Tours (St-Pierre-des-Corps station) or at Vierzon. Tours is reachable by TGV from Montparnasse station in Paris, and Vierzon from Austerlitz station.

    What do you plan to do in Saint-Aignan? Without a car, you can't see any of the surrounding countryside or sights. Are you looking for a hotel room or a gîte/apartment in the town? The Grand Hôtel de Saint-Aignan is always a viable choice. It is conveniently located for walking around the town and is not expensive. Have you considered staying in Amboise or Blois? Both are larger towns and have many more interesting sights for the carless than Saint-Aignan does.

  20. Thanks - that's great info. There were a few place names similar on the SNCF site so glad I was looking at the right one. Reason for visit is a bit odd really! I have a painting of StAignan that my grandfather brought back at the end of the war. Both my grandmother and mother visited the place since and I felt it was my turn - so just interested in walking in my grandfather's footsteps really. However i will check out car hire as it seems a shame to come all that way and not see the surrounding countryside. Thanks again for all your advice. Regards, Susannah Coventry, Muthill near Crieff, Scotland.

  21. Ken - Thanks so much for the information about the train station! I'm meeting friends there and can't find any information about it. Like the address, if it has payphones, any amentities, if there's taxi's in Onzain, etc. If you have any other information you could pass my way, I would really appreciate it. Thanks!

  22. Hi Amanda, I wouldn't count on taxis, and I don't know if there is a pay phone. I was there this morning. If you want big-city amenities, it's probably better to take the train to either Blois or Tours.

  23. Thanks so much for the information. We're staying at the Parc Du Val De Loire and figured Onzain was the closest station to the park. This way, if our friends have problems picking us up at the station, we could walk or get some other transportation. Good to know though that walking might be the only option! : ) Thanks again for your help, I really appreciate it!


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