Firstly, Happy Birthday to my brother Will, hope you’ve had a great day! (okay so that’s 24hrs late as couldn’t publish this on the day, but it’s the thought that counts yes?)
Secondly, in this post I’ll try to cover 3 days, quite quickly. I say quickly but we’ll see how that turns out; cycling the Loire along some of the ‘Loire à Vélo’ trail is another highlight of the tour.
Here are my routes and stats from the last 3 days.
Also, I passed the 3,000 miles since Nordkapp today; about 4,880km, averaging 102km a day including rest days which I’m pretty chuffed about. I’ll do another vital statistics post at some point, maybe tomorrow; more punctures to add to the tally!
–> 20 June
I was awoken by a roaring sound, which I kinda recognised, but needed to get out of my tent to check; hot air balloons going overhead in the morning sunshine.
Once the balloons turned their burners off it all looked and sounded very tranquil. I gave them a wave and got on with breakfast, then packing up (evicting more ants), and saying hello to even more climbers who’d turned up during the night; there was some audacious trampolining going on, as well as some tight-rope walking attempts which appears to be the new ‘thing’ to do.
It was easy riding pedalling South to Montargis, aside from one cobbly bit. I stopped for some lunch at a boulangerie just outside the town, consuming a couple of fine goats cheese tarts and a chocolate roule; French boulangeries really do compliment cycle touring perfectly, and have cut down on my visits to fast food establishments!
I joined a canal path for the ride down to Coudroy, which was a bit off-road but very pleasant chilled out cycling. For the first time on this tour I listened to some music whilst riding; the soundtrack to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode followed by some Bellowhead and Greenday. I didn’t have my earphones in, just quietly played it through my phone which was being charged by my dynamo, worked really well and no-one else around to annoy.
As well as a family of swans, I pedalled past some ducklings and their parents, and added a new bird to my ‘spot it jot it’ list, a Black Woodpecker which I’ve never seen before, and pretty amazing with its red crest; too quick to photo though.
For some reason I’d been feeling a little down, however the ride really perked me up, and listening to music or singing always helps. After the canal path I rejoined roads down to Chateauneuf-sur-Loire, and the Maltournee campsite on the southern side of the Loire.
The campsite proved pretty average, and I couldn’t connect to the Wifi which was annoying, but no-one else could either, however Chateauneuf-sur-Loire was excellent and it was great to finally be on the Loire.
After setting up I headed into town and discovered there was a music festival on, with bands located on the streets which had all been closed for the evening. Although a day early this was to celebrate midsummer, and throughout France there are similar music festivals happening today and tomorrow. After meandering through the town listening to various bands, all pretty different it has to be said, I stopped at a restaurant and sat outside having a pizza, listening to a two-man act – guitar and jambee, who were very good. I think the band were called Sadyra, with a Senegalese influence; I loved the acoustic guitar, drum, and impro nature of the music. The crowd all joined in for various bits as well, with a few people taking up a jambee on occasion; I was too focussed on my Calzone pizza and wine to participate overly.
The street bands finished about 20.00, whereupon the main act kicked off in the central marketplace. They were a 6 piece act complete with accordion, trombone, trumpet and guitars, creating a great atmosphere for the next couple of hours. I filmed a bit of it but still haven’t quite worked out if I can insert a movie into a blog post without having to link to Youtube.
I headed back to the campsite feeling pretty relaxed and happy; the Rose probably helped but the atmosphere and music definitely put me in a good state of mind. I was ready for tomorrow’s ride down to Orleans, and then on to Tours alongside the Loire.
I covered about 96km today, in 5hrs and 45 mins, accompanied by the sound of crickets for a lot of it, which I’ve realised has recently become a permanent feature in the countryside.
–> 21 June
It appears doing quick posts isn’t easy; I’m too verbose for my own good, however I’m enjoying writing this in my tent with a cold beer, listening to what’s either light drizzle or insects hitting the canvas. I think it’s insects, which reminds me of the midges in Scotland, however there was a small shower earlier which was refreshing post a very hot day’s ride.
The night had been muggy however it was a cooler morning to wake up to, and slightly overcast which was nice. Unfortunately there’d been no rain to dampen down the pollen count and dust. I could also do with a shower to give my tent a wash; the outside has got a bit sticky from camping under trees – sap and aphid residue I think. Trees do provide welcome shade though so that isn’t going to change.
After a good evening in Chateauneuf-sur-Loire I was enthusiastic about the ride along the Loire towards Orleans and Blois. Unfortunately I’d forgotten to buy any breakfast so had to make do with a banana, cheese, and some biscuits; not actually too bad considering, however I need to get better at shopping.
I was on the road by 09.00, and spent most of the day on cycle paths, or small roads shared between bikes and the occasional car.
Heading South West it was easy riding, it being mostly flat. The only annoyance was the number of small flies swarming about. They weren’t midges, but were a similar size, and got everywhere. My arms and legs ended up covered in them as I cycled along, and I’m sure I inhaled more than a few; dunno if that counts as valid protein intake? It wasn’t long before I reached Orleans, where I decided to take a look at the Cathedral rather than cycle straight past.
I also had an ulterior motive; second breakfast. I found a good boulangerie doing 4 pain-au-chocolat for the price of 3, and tucked in. Lobster was more impressed with this than the cathedral, however I liked Orleans, and would return for another look around; this tour is a bit like a scouting trip finding cool places to come back to really. I did have to dodge the tram lines, and actual trams a bit, but made it safely out of the city.
From Orleans I continued on through the countryside next to the Loire. The route encompassed a lot of farmland which was a bit monotonous, but also small towns with markets going on, the occasional cafe, lots of people fishing, and a power station just to make things different.
I passed a lot of cycle tourers as well as day cyclists going both ways along the Loire à Vélo route today, the trail along France’s Royal River being extremely popular; I think it’s over 800km all the way to Nantes. Just before Blois, which I’d decided was far enough for one day, I met up with Ben and Alex who were on the first day of their tour along the Loire, having started in Orleans.
We ended up staying at the same campsite South of the river in Blois; Val du Blois. It was good to meet up with a couple of Brits, and the campsite was swarming with cycle tourers from all over the place; French, German, American, to name but a few nationalities. After setting up, plus an icecream, and realising the wi-fi was once again crap, we headed into Blois for some food, and discovered another ‘Fete Musique’ celebrating midsummer.
There were bands situated all through the town, in a similar fashion to Chateauneuf-sur-Loire but on a bigger scale. One metal band was enjoying their moment in the limelight, scaring the locals slightly, however there were a few stalwart metal fans flinging their hair about. The steak dinner I had, whilst not particularly in budget, was very fine, and I reckon necessary to ensure a balanced diet that will enhance my cycling ability.
Blois is another picturesque town on the Loire, one of many, and good for a visit. After dinner and a wander about we headed back to the campsite before it got dark. It was good to chill out for a bit before cycling on to Tours and then South towards Poitiers tomorrow.
I covered 98km in 5hrs and 38 mins today.
–> 22 June
Today was a bit of a longer ride; 114km in 6hrs and 40 mins, taking me down to a campsite innate grounds of a Chateau.
I’m always slightly surprised when I’m up in good time, not really being a morning person, and ready to start pedalling before 09.00. This turned out to be one of those days, and I think I need to adjust to earlier starts as it gets hotter; start early, have a longer lunch break, then a short ride in the afternoon. It’s probably easier to be a morning person when you don’t have to go to work.
Ben and Alex hadn’t quite surfaced by the time I left, so I left them a good luck note and got underway; good luck guys, hope the wheel issue is fixed, and the rest of the tour goes well.
I followed the Loire past Blois, as the Loire a Velo route took me South West, occasionally turning away from the river through small villages; this ended up adding on quite a few kilometres to the day’s ride, however it was much better being off the roads, and nice saying hello to other cyclists.
I passed through Chaumont, and continued on the road to Amboise.
Amboise had been another possibility for a campsite, however I was glad I hadn’t pressed on yesterday, as it would have taken me at least another 2 hours to get there, probably more on tired legs. It was pretty full of tourists, and I could see why with a picturesque chateau, and the home of Leonardo da Vinci; Clos Luce. It was once home to the French Court too, and I think it was King Francis that invited Leonardo to live here.
After Amboise it was on to Tours, where I turned away from the Loire to head South, following the EuroVelo 3 route; I haven’t seen a sign of EV3 for a long time, but think I’m going roughly the right way. I paused in the city to visit the Cathedral, which was on route and nice and cool.
I like old buildings like castles, cathedrals and churches. The latter two are often quiet and peaceful, and offer a moment of quiet contemplation away from an otherwise hectic day, in the same way a tranquil spot in a forest does. Tours Cathedral, as well as being nice and cool after being out in the sunshine, was pretty impressive. It was built in the 12th century, and they needed to knock down some of the old Roman walls to fit it in.
I headed South from Tours, and it got hotter, which combined with a bit of a headwind could have led to dehydration. I drank all three of my water bottles and a cold can of pop, and am contemplating adding a 4th water bottle to my array, just in case. This is all good acclimatisation for Spain and Morocco, where it’ll be hotter. It’ll be manageable as long as I drink enough and don’t get sunstroke; been wearing a bandana or my lightweight buff, both of which keep the sun off my head, and I can soak them in water when I pass a clean source, which is very pleasant.
Eventually I made it to Trogues, after some dusty riding whilst navigating my way through a bit of a maze of country roads. I arrived at the campsite, based in the grounds of Chateau Rolandiere, about 17.00, hoping they had the snack bar/restaurant as advertised on the ACSI app; sadly they didn’t meaning I had to get a bit creative on the dinner front.
The bar was open though, so I had a nice cold Grimbergen beer as a recovery drink.
The campsite owners were very friendly and helpful, providing me with chair to sit on next to my tent, and complimenting me on my French which I think might be getting better; good to practice lots anyway. I guess I’d better start learning a few phrases from the Spanish book I brought with me!
The Chateau Rolandiere campsite was a peaceful destination for the night, and allowed me to catch up on my blog a bit. It also rained slightly which cooled things down and meant I slept very well. Tomorrow it’s on to Poitiers and beyond.
–> Okay, so that wasn’t that quick a blog post, but to does cover 3 days, and means I’ve only got today to write to be up-to-date now!