Biking by the Loire

Up at seven, we had a pretty good night sleep except that the TV suddenly started playing in the middle of the night. Don’t know what happened, but it certainly worked like a wake-up call. Breakfast is the typical for large business hotels, not great, not bad, just average. We pick up the bikes from the secure garage, load up and make our way back to the Loire river. Arne very quickly notices that his read tire is again quite soft, we had the same issue yesterday and inflated the tire at a public air pump, but it seems the tire itself has a problem and will need replacing. There are no bicycle stores nearby according to Google. We go to the tourist office to ask where we can find another public pump, but they prove their worth and go a bit further: they inflate the tire for us and direct us to the nearest village where it can be replaced or repaired. It’s on our way and only ten km or so, the tire should be able to hold out that far.

We leave the village and follow the river west, the sky is grey and the temp low enough to warrant a light sweater. The river is a few hundred meters wide here, with sand banks, wooded isles and many side channels, a varied landscape for cyclists. The road is asphalt or smooth gravel and pretty quiet, the majority of the people we encounter are trekkers, some hardcore with normal bikes and tents, others more lazy like us with electric bikes and less luggage. A cheerful bonjour is exchanged every time and you can often recognize their country of origin by their accent.

We make it to the Intersport without further problems, where we pay 22 € for a new tire and the service to replace it. The whole of it (including visit to the supermarket to buy lunch/shaving foam and a quick return to fix the wobbliness due to to an incorrect positioning of the outer tire the first time) takes about an hour but we stay pretty relaxed: we should still be able to do our planned itinerary, plus now we already have lunch in our bags.

The day continues grey and cool, we cycle by the river on the dike, then through fields, we encounter a few villages. The insects love this weather, we drive through clouds of them and have to sweep them of our skin and carefully Kleenex them out of an eye or two. We stop for lunch just after crossing the river towards Chambord, sitting on a cozy bench sculpted from a tree trunk. We leave the river behind to find the castle, which is in the middle of its own huge stretch of forest and looms up suddenly from the trees. They really want to welcome cyclists here, because we have our own route to the castle entrance and even bike parking. Even though I’ve seen it a few times, I’m again amazed at its grandeur and sheer volume. The only thing saving it from being bombastic are the many frivolously decorated chimneys sticking up from the towers. There are suddenly a lot of tourists, we’d gotten used to the quiet back roads and it’s a bit of a shock. We find a bench with a view of the castle to have our dessert and then start back towards the Loire river.

The day becomes sunnier and warmer as we approach Blois. The approach is a bit of a hassle, with many round points to be braved, the excellent infrastructure for cyclists along the Loire river is missing here, on approach from Chambord. Once we get to the banks of the Loire we are rewarded with a great view of the old city, with its 18th century bridge, a multitude of church towers sticking out of the sky line and of course the castle. Content to admire all of it from a far, we drive by the city towards today’s destination Veuzain-sur-Loire. Later, along the Beuvron tributary, full of flowering water plants, we spot two nutrias in the water. I am never travelling without my reflex camera ever again. Nutrias aren’t very rare these days, but it’s nice to see wild animals. My battery is now down to 12% and the autonomy only 10 km, but we have only a few kilometers to go anyway. A friendly young lady requests, as we drive by, that we fill in a questionnaire for the Loire à vélo association and I’m happy to do so, since their website was so useful when preparing the trip. We catch a glimpse of Chaumont castle from the bridge towards Veuzain, but try to ignore it, as we’ll pass this way again tomorrow morning.

Arrival at the B&B around five thirty, then a tepid shower and a simple dinner on the church square: hotdog ‘maison’, ratatouille and custard pastry as dessert.

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