20-23 July 2017. Pumped up with adrenaline while watching Le Tour de France. Seduced by the varied French landscape flew through by the indefatigable cyclists. We decided to embark on a bike project: cycling in La Loire, centre-west of France.
We would be based in Tours, the popular basecamp to explore the region. From Tours, we planned to make two out-and-back day trips along both sides of La Loire: Day 1 on the east side of the river, while Day 2 on the other side.
La Loire is famous for its castles “Châteaux”. Châteaux de la Loire refers to the chain of castles scattered along France’s longest river, La Loire. We chose the region mainly because of its flattish terrain which is suitable for a newbie like me who lacks uphill strength, and is scared of steep descents. In addition, the proximity from Paris – one hour by TGV – makes it an ideal destination for a weekend trip. It will be a prelude to our upcoming big summer vacation in Sebes, Romania.
La Loire à Vélo Cycling Path
Cycling is indeed the best way to explore La Loire region. La Loire à Vélo, a 800km cycling path was developed to encourage everyone to take up the sport while exploring the country. The 800km path is actually part (western end) of EuroVelo 6, the trans-European 4,400km bicycle path which links up the Atlantic Ocean with the Black Sea.
We forgot to reserve spaces for our bikes when we booked our train tickets. Hence, we had to transport them as luggages on the train. It was really a “pack up” trip as we had to dismantle our bikes and put them in the bike bags that we bought specially for this trip.
It wasn’t that fun lugging a 9kg bulky bag through crowded metro and train stations. At times, we were literally blocking narrow passages. We were extra careful in not making sudden swings with our bags so as not to hit pedestrians.
The weather was perfect. Clear, blue sky with occasional strong gusts of wind that made me struggle to keep my bike upright!
We planned to cycle to Chateau de Chaumont, 50km from Tours, and back. On the way, we passed by Château d’Amboise, one of the more renown castles. It was in this castle that Leonardo Da Vinci was invited as a guest, while he lived and worked (and later passed away) in a manor house close by.
As the key objective of our trip was to build our cycling endurance while traversing the region, we did not spend much time visiting the popular touristic landmarks. However, we did make occasional customary picture stops along the way.
The weather was not as welcoming: cloudy sky interspersed with drizzle and occasional moderate rain. We went to Bréhémont (34km away from Tours) with a quick lunch stop by the river, continued 10km down south to Château d’Azay-de-Rideau before rounding back to Tours, totalling 76km. However, when the rain did pause, the colours reflected from the landscape looked more vibrant than ever (refer to the Sunflower profile photo which was captured in Villandry, on the way back from Azay-de-Rideau.)
Well-kept little towns
As we cycled up and down the Loire river, we passed through numerous small communes, and each of them is so well-kept: roads (including side ones) are well-maintained and clean; trees, shrubs and plants are prettily planted in rows, individual houses are pleasant looking. It may sound silly, but I was so amazed to be able to find a public toilet, and a particularly clean one at that, when I was in Bréhémont. I did not expect a not-too-touristic village willing to spend resources to upkeep a free public toilet. Not even in Paris do I often find clean, free public toilets.
It’s an indeed real joy cycling along the Loire.
Le vélo est un art de vivre
Oh, when we were along La Loire at Chaumont, a couple of photographers stopped us to take our photos. They are currently embarking on a project called BPF Projet , relating to “Le vélo est un art de vivre”, translated as “the bicycle is a way of life”.