Lance Armstrong I am not. In fact, my most recent bike riding has been limited to the occasional commute to work when the sun is shining, and even then I never really work up much of a sweat.
But when planning our recent holiday in France, we came across Peregrine’s Cycling the Loire Valley itinerary and we were sold. The region has always appealed to me (that might have something to do with its most famous export) and what better way to wind my way through the vineyards alongside the river than upon a bicycle built for one?
After a short train journey from Paris to Blois, I was blown away by the beauty that this ancient city possesses. The imposing Chateau and Cathedral watch over the old town, and the locals must feel the security that these beautiful buildings exude because they move at a much slower pace than their Parisian cousins.
This was my first visit to a city other than the capital, and I was amazed by the warmth, generosity and care that the locals showed me. The two days that the itinerary includes here are well spent wandering the narrow streets, shopping and sipping.
On the road
When it came time to leave Blois, our luggage was picked up and driven to the next hotel, as it would be for each change of location. Equipped with top quality bikes, maps, mile by mile directions, and our very own bike computer, any fears we had of losing our way were put to rest.
The well defined and maintained paths that follow the river to Amboise were a joy to ride, and cycling beneath the willow trees with only the sound of the water gently flowing by helped create a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I loved that fact that after rising in the morning and enjoying the breakfast that was provided daily, my only concern was getting to the next hotel before the sun went down. As the greatest distance we cycled was 55 kms, we were never in danger of arriving at our hotel too late in the day. Dinner was included daily, and each meal was magnificent. One dinner was even at a Michelin star restaurant! The cheese platters on offer at the end of each meal were another meal unto themselves! This tour was a foodie’s delight!
The chateaus that we passed along the way have to be seen to be appreciated. Chaumont, Chenonceaux, Cheverny, Chambord... each late medieval castle is more ornate and opulent than the last. It’s little wonder that such historical figures asJoan of Arc and Leonardo da Vinci fought for, and lived in the region.
I was expecting to be impressed by the chateaus, but cycling through dozens of sleepy little towns such as Feings stand out in my memory just as much. These towns with their tiny, much loved churches, and family owned bar-cum-restaurants are miles from the tourist trail yet they are the perfect places to stop for lunch with the locals and perhaps enjoy a glass of wine.
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