These are Susan’s tips for where to eat and what to do in the Loire Valley. She splits her time between Boston and the Loire Valley, so she’s in the know!

Who are you? I’m Susan, a retiree and food lover.

How do you know the Loire Valley? For the past 12 years, I have owned a house in Varennes-sur-Loire (near Saumur) in the Loire Valley where I spend about four months of every year.

Who will your tips would be most helpful for? Visiting Saumur and the surrounding area is for people who want to see a beautiful and historic part of France where they can relax or be active. Culture and history, yes; nightlife, no. Wine and cheese, yes; high-end clothes, no. And while the Loire has its specialties, this isn’t a region particularly known for its food although the region has some delicious dishes and is home to Tarte Tatin.

Any hotels, restaurants or activities that shouldn’t be missed? Saumur is on the Loire River. For activities, there are river cruises and biking trails, notable wineries–we are in Saumur-Champigny country–plus, of course, de riguer for this part of France–a beautiful chateau.

For looking or shopping, there are outdoor food markets and flea markets and for the bargain hunters, vide-greniers aka garage sales.

The hotels in Saumur are modestly price. I particularly like Anne D’Anjou right along the quai. In nearby Montsoreau, there are two hotels I recommend: La Marine de Loire and the Hotel de Bussy. The latter is up on a hill with a panoramic view of the Loire and lovely outdoor space. That said, for the experience of a lifetime, there is no more luxurious place than the Manoir de Champfreau right in my village. The manoir is a 15th century manor house with beautifully appointed rooms, a spectacular collection of antiques and art, breathtaking gardens and grounds, a pool, and two super professional, warm hosts, one of whom is a talented chef who is happy to prepare a meal or two. Finally, Saumur is centrally located and from there one can easily see other chateaux, visit several cities like Angers and Tours, enjoy local specialties like rillettes and fouée, tour other well-known wine areas like Vouvray and Sancerre and eat Loire cheeses, mostly chevre, at their source.

Any other tips? Travel to Saumur from Paris is easy and the ride on the TGV is just over two hours. For car rental, I go with Europcar. In terms of things to do, in addition to the above, don’t miss touring the troglodytes, limestone caves for which Saumur is famous. There’s the mushroom museum which is a hoot and some kids, adults too, will like the Musée de Blindés–a tank museum.