A wolf? And of course a castle

Breakfast is from eight, so we’ve set to alarm at seven thirty. I slept well, I think, though I only turned in around around ten thirty, after reading a few chapters in my new Jessie Mihalik book. Breakfast is a impressive spread, with a selection of cheeses and cold cuts, eggs with bacon and/or sausages, a platter of desserts, plus of course the delicious French baguette. We take our time and enough calories to tide us over for a while. We pack up, settle the bill and spend fifteen minutes or so adjusting the bikes: I move the clips of my back rollers so that the weight is positioned more forward (this should help with the stability) and tilt the saddle a bit (this should help with the lady bits). The weather is sunny but not too warm, the hotel owner tells us there was a big storm during the night, surprised that it didn’t wake us up, but it the threat seems to have mostly passed. The weather is expected to stay dry, with variations of clouds during the day and a maximum of 24° C / 75° F.

Around nine thirty we set out westward, downstream the river Loire and against the strong wind. We doubt about putting on an extra layer, but are pretty sure it’ll warm up soon. We’ll follow more or less the same route back to Orléans as yesterday (but then in the other direction), with a slight variation where we can follow the left bank trail instead of the right bank one. The birds are tweeting loudly, flitting in all directions across the path, but otherwise we don’t see much other life, with the exception of the occasional trekker. Around Germigny-des-Prés (where we visited the oratory yesterday) I spot something swimming in the river and we stop to observe. At first I think it’s a large bird but when it turns its head to look back at us, I see it’s a swimming dog. There’s no dog owner in sight (and we can see pretty far from our position on the dike) and when we see it bound out of the water on the opposite bank, we start thinking it might be a wolf. It has the right size and coloring, but it’s impossible to be sure: there are dog breeds that look similar so it could be an abandoned dog. I take many pictures with my iPhone but I can already tell they’re going to be pretty blurry, the animal is standing on the other side of a wide river. I am NEVER TRAVELLING AGAIN WITHOUT MY TELELENS. We continue to observe while it jogs away into the trees, amazed that we might have seen a wild wolf. A bit of googling turns up recent articles that wolves have indeed been spotted in this area, in any case I’ll report the sighting tonight and see what the specialists say.

On we go, discussing every detail of the event. We remember to take regular breaks to drink water, decide on a pick nick for lunch, buy a chicken sandwich to share at a bakery in Jargeau (other trekkers have found it as well, sitting outside to eat) and take our lunch break at a picnic area near the river (other trekkers find this as well). The weather is a bit changeable, sometimes sunny and warm, sometimes cloudy and a bit cooler and the wind picks up even more, we’re thankful the have the support of the electric motor. To get some sort of baseline, we’ve decided to drive in ‘Tour’ mode the whole day, so we can see how far the battery lasts and if we can do more than the 70 km planned for today.

In Orléans, we stop for dessert and a bathroom break at a Starbucks near the cinema. I had actually first seen the Häagen-Dazs logo and wanted an ice-cream, but it unfortunately was not yet open.. A cookie and mint/lemon tea are a good second choice. We stop at the same bench we had lunch on yesterday to put on a fresh layer of sunscreen. I’ve learned to bring wet wipes to wipe the old layer (plus assorted bugs, dust and pollen) off and to clean our hands after applying a generous amount of new sunscreen: it’s a factor 50 for kids, so especially sticky and water-resistant.

After Orléans the river turns south-westerly and we have the wind at our back: it feels much warmer and it’s much less effort to keep a respectable speed. Though the Loire must be close by, we’re often cycling through fields: mostly wheat with a dusting of red poppy flowers, looks cute. We make sure to drink a lot of water and take frequent breaks, stretching our knees and restoring the blood flow to the general backside area. One of the tiny villages we pass has a public air pump especially for cyclists and we take the opportunity to add a bit more pressure to our tires – still trying to minimize the wobbliness of the bikes. Our destination Meung-sur-Loire is not too far now, we cruise on with the occasional view of an old church, the river with its multitude of gulls, a charming village. It’s a pretty quiet area, also literally: outside the villages there are not many sounds except the rushing of the wind and the tweeting of the small birds.

Our destination reveals itself around the bend, we can see the bridge where we’ll cross the river again, with a giant church and huge castle in the background. Our hotel should be right behind it. We find our way through the maze of narrow one-way streets, admire the church/castle (closed for visits on Monday, but posing prettily behind the wrought iron gate) and check in around five, happy once more with air-conditioning and a hot shower. You would not believe how much soap and scrubbing one needs to remove that sunscreen! I report the wolf on loupfrance.fr, adding one of the sucky pictures, the exact location and our estimates of the size of the animal. NEVER AGAIN WITHOUT THE TELELENS! A drink on the terrace while I write my blog and then a meal at the restaurant nearest the hotel: tartar steak for me and a burger for Arne, with a half bottle of local red wine. No dessert. I suppose I did already have a cookie, but I do miss my stash of quality chocolate at home. We’ll need to work a bit still on our route for tomorrow, we’ll pass not too far from Chambord castle and I’d like to modify the route to see it again. I must have seen it four or five times already, but for me it’s the quintessential Loire castle, plus it’s situated in a large wooded area, great for cycling!

P.S. I totally changed my mind while writing this post and did order dessert: we shared a creme brulee.

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