Châteaux de Chaumonts et Chenonceau

We’re cycling to Tours today, by way of Chenonceau castle. Only 68 km planned, so it should be an easy day. We gave the B&B hostess our breakfast preferences yesterday, so aside from the ubiquitous baguette with sides of butter and jam, we get the requested pains au chocolat and croissants. I don’t translate this, because they don’t make them like this outside of France anyway, so Google a picture if you’re curious (but make sure to add ‘France’ in your search string).

It’s not too cold when we set out around nine thirty, but the weather services predict showers and the occasional thunderstorm throughout the day, so we’re in shorts/t-shirt but with the rain jackets really close by. We make our way back to the Loire – past the church square where we had a simple yet delicious meal yesterday, on foot through the underpass at the rail way station, round the roundabout and back over the long, long bridge over the river. We have a beautiful view of Chaumont castle up on the hillside. It presides over the village and church below like a priest on a pulpit, only I suppose with a better view. I wonder what function these castles had when they were built.. doesn’t look very defensible to me (N.B. when I look it up in the evening: it was a defensive fort in the 11th century, at the Blois/Anjou border, but was destroyed completely in the 15th and rebuilt as an ornamental castle in the 16th).

After Chaumont we leave the Loire river, as the deviation towards the castle of Chenonceau, 26 km away, is indicated. We follow small, local roads from village to village, though the signposting here is a bit more erratic and we have to stop now and then to verify directions. The landscape has gentle waves here and we can see far out across the wheat fields from the hilltops. Closer to our intermediate destination we have to pick our approach and decide on the road following the Cher river, a tributary of the Loire, equally slow but quite big itself. We turn the final curve and the castle appears before us, bridging the river on its graceful arches. We stop at five different points to catch the perfect picture, it just looks so .. picturesque. We continue on unpaved paths by the Cher, at some point we even have to lift the bikes over a recently fallen tree, its branching taking a dip in the river and its trunk right across the path. No problem, we can lift them over one by one even without taking of the luggage. Now and then we get some rain, the clouds look like they’re rolling and tumbling in a stormy sky. At least we can see the rain coming from miles away. We decide to have lunch at a restaurant to ensure a dry spot and use the Google recommendations to pick a burger bar in Bléré. It looks sort of sleazy, but the burgers are indeed delicious and we sit cozily under a parasol while it rains.

After Bléré the road improves and it’s a fun ride all the way to Tours. It doesn’t cease to amaze me how many castles are sprinkled over this green land. Most are privately owned and completely closed to the public, a few have converted into hotels, wineries or musea. Into Tours, through the town center, along a pedestrian shopping street, where my bike slides from under me like in a slo-mo movie. I’m going pretty slow, so I manage a perfect sideways lunge and stay on my feet. The bike fell on the bags and is likewise fine, the trick is to pack your clothes on the outermost side (on which the bike would fall) and the breakables against the hard plastic inside. Check in around three, a long shower, a rest and then out for a delicious Lebanese dinner. Chef says he can’t explain how to make falafel his way, it requires too much herbs you can only get in Libanon. Shame..

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