The long way around

Up at seven, breakfast at eight, it’s raining just slightly when we leave around nine thirty. We load the bikes in front of the hotel and leave Tours along the same route we followed the day before yesterday to enter it. A bit boring, but at least it’s a safe cycling path. We follow the main Loire à velo trail to the castle of Villandry, its extensive gardens as its main attraction. We can’t see much of it from the cycling trail, but we don’t mind, we’ve visited a few times before. It’s a pretty busy stretch of trail here, lots of trekkers and day tourists. When the left turn of the detour to Azay-le-Rideau comes up we take a short break and deliberate: do we want to go the extra mile (I don’t mean this figuratively)? Will the batteries hold on?

We decide to go for it, the detour should at least be a quieter stretch, which is an attraction in itself. After a pretty steep climb out of the Cher valley we find ourselves again amidst wheat fields, the wind is dead against us, strong to the point where you have to squint your eyes and speak loudly to make yourself heard. Again we’re very grateful for the borrowed e-bikes. At the village of Azay-le-Rideau we serendipitously find a public battery charging station: each locker has an electricity plug and you simply lock the battery and the transformer away while you whatever. While we have lunch and a quick look at the front entrance of the castle, my battery is charged about 15%. Not great, but it will allow us to make that second detour later. Arne’s battery is much newer and doesn’t need the extra boost.

We follow the Indre river back to the Loire on small local roads. We pass the charming but barely-visible-from-the-road Chateau de l’Islette, follow the traffic signs to the ‘exceptional village’ (their words) of Bréhémont, where we use a bus stop as a shelter for a few minutes while it drips a few heavy drops. It’s supposed to rain today, but this brief timid squall is all we’ve seen so far, though the skies look pretty imposing. We decide to abandon this boring stretch of route for an alternative trail, a few kilometers from the river side. The map promises an unpaved road (read: no car traffic) and indeed it’s a beautiful stretch of quiet, comfortable gravel road. We arrive at the Chateau d’Ussy right when a snack is in order. We first have a waffle and then find the best spot to admire and photograph this romantic castle. It’s clear we have left the busier stretch of the Loire valley, at least from the point of view of cyclists.

From here we find a bit of a shortcut and start on our second detour, this time to the village and castle of Chinon. Again it entails a steep climb from the river valley, a windy stretch on the plateau and then a descent, this time towards the large Vienne river. This castle looks imposing rather than charming, its originally defensive purpose still clearly visible. By this time my battery is again half empty, so we slow down a little while we follow the Vienne river back to the Loire. A bit boring here, no charming trail along the river bank, just local roads of degraded asphalt.

On our final approach to our destination Turquant we still get to admire the village and castle of Montsoreau. We make a tiny detour to see it better, but honestly by this time we have to be careful, I know the hotel is on top of a cliff and I don’t want to run out of juice right before we get there. We end our ride around six after ninety kilometers. We sleep in a troglodyte hotel, meaning a lot of the rooms are carved into the cliffside. The pool as well, it’s a 15 m long, 3 m wide irregular shape, following the original shape of the cave, quite charming. We have a quick, cold swim, a long, warm bath and then head out on foot to the village center for dinner. Blog writing late in the evening, without pictures this time, as the wifi isn’t good enough to upload all of them..

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