Train & bike

The alarm is at six, a bit early for a holiday but we have a train to catch! I hop out of bed, for Arne it’s more of a lurch, but we have no problem getting everything packed and ready by seven. I even have the time to cull a bit in my t-shirt pack: my bags feel pretty heavy so I decide to leave some in the small valise that will stay in the car. My stuff is organized in a few subpacks: an XL for t-shirts and shorts, an M for underwear and an S for socks, with a few extra for electronics and bathroom necessities. Outerwear goes into the big Ortlieb rack pack, which we’ll strap on top of the back rollers. I definitely have enough volume, but have to be careful with the weight.

Right when we’re leaving the hotel there’s a few drops of rain and muted peals of thunder, but we get to the station, right nearby the hotel, and into the train before the rain starts in earnest. We settle the bikes into the available racks, take our luggage upstairs and settle down for a four hour trip. Arne watches a movie (and a half), I read a bit and watch the scenery slide by. I see a cruise boat wharf (I can tell because there’s a huge ship in scaffolds), a castle or two and the back side of a lot of small towns, with the Loire appearing now and then in the background.

We arrive in Orléans around noon, the city is famous for it’s history with Jeanne d’Arc, but all we’re interested in today is lunch and a quick route through, to the start of the Loire route. We take away a Subway half sandwich from near the station and descend towards the river, looking for and finding a shaded bench on the right bank. It’s really hot, around 30° C / 86° F, the sun burning your skin. It’s not so bad once we start cycling, moving through our self-made wind. We ride east today, up river, away from the coast and our car, simply because we have enough time to do this extra bit and anyway it’s fun to include this easternmost castle at Sully-sur-Loire. 50 km: a tad, a smidgeon more than we would normally do in an afternoon, but I figured we could do it with the electric bikes.

It takes some getting used to, the bike is not very stable because all the weight is at the back, plus it’s a women’s model, whereas I’m used to a men’s bike with both back and front packs. Nevertheless, I’m really enjoying the support of the electric motor. We make some adjustments again to the height of the saddle and after that I’m quite comfortable, with barely a twinge in the knee joints. And so we follow the wide and shallow river east, sometimes on the dike itself, dividing the wide riverbed from the fields and villages, sometimes in wooded green ribbons along the shore. The temperature rises, reaching 37° C / 99° F, at this point nothing can keep you cool, even the wind feels like it comes from a hair dryer. We share the road with some locals looking for a cooler place, bike trekkers and a few tourists on rented bikes. There’s almost more traffic on the river, even aside from the many white gulls, with loud groups of young people in kayaks.

We make a small detour to see the Oratoire carolingien de Germigny-des-Prés, a ninth century church with the only remaining Carolingian mosaics in France, quite beautiful and impressive. From here it’s only ten kilometers or so to our destination Sully-sur-Loire and we’re getting anxious to arrive, to get out of the heat and our backsides off the saddle. The castle is visible from across the river, built in the 12th century and much added to in the centuries after, it looks properly massive and medieval. We take a tour around it, admiring it from a few angles, before finding our hotel nearby. We’re happy to find out it does have air-conditioning in the rooms, happy with the hot shower to rinse of the sunscreen and assorted tiny insects and happy with our dinner at a Moroccan restaurant nearby. The restaurant is located in a sixteenth century edifice, it used to be a café for traders travelling to this small town to sell their wares. Apparently it’s one of the few old buildings still standing in the village after the second world war. Anyway, the food is delicious. We spend the rest of the evening in the cool hotel room, I’m writing the blog and Arne is fighting the stay awake.

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