Rain (and some castles)

Breakfast is served from eight thirty, so we’re making an effort and set the alarm only at seven thirty. In the small breakfast room I have baguette with smoked meat, with a soft brie-like cheese and one with a boiled egg, with crème d’Anjou as dessert, yummy. It started raining during the night and the sky is a uniform grey, that does not bode well. We set off in t-shirts, shorts and rain jackets, the temp is about 18° C / 65° F. We’re approaching the end of the stretch of river designated as UNESCO world heritage and we’re seeing that the trail is less well maintained and less well indicated. Often we join the few cars on the local road following the river. In the mean time I entertain Arne with some fun facts about the region: lots of asparagus farming here (now we know what those fluffy plants in the fields are), the reason there’s so many castles here is because the French kings chose this valley as their residence after the 100 year war, the UNESCO area goes from Sully-sur-Loire (where we started) until Chalonnes (where we’ll pass tomorrow) and the rock we’ve just slept in is called Tuffeau stone.

We slept in the middle of the troglodyte area, where dwellings are made in the cliffs by the river. Long hallways were created when the rock was mined for construction, you can see this Tuffeau stone in many of the castles and old houses in the valley. We see a few more of these villages on our first segment of the day, with steep, narrow roads, doors and windows set directly into the rock. Must be nice and cool in summer, but I have no idea if this is earthquake safe.

Our next intermediate destination is the city of Saumur. The castle (made of Tuffeau stone) rises above the river and town. The rain has diminished to a very slight drizzle, but this doesn’t seem to hold back the crowds visiting the market. We walk through with our bikes, the town looks quite charming and lively. On our way out of town, in a green area with a lake or two we see an unfamiliar bird sitting on a branch stick out of the water. We can observe it for a while, we know straight away it’s some kind of heron but which kind. Google helps out and we’re pretty sure it’s a black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), not something we’ve seen before. In my mother tongue Dutch the bird is called a kwak, perhaps referring to its call? We try to get a bit closer but it flies away.

Onwards to Gennes, where we plan to have lunch. We pick a small restaurant specializing in rotisserie chicken, I have a salad and Arne a quarter chicken with ratatouille, yum. Meanwhile the rain intensifies. Even before we leave the town again, we realize we’re too cold and add Goretex rain paints and a light sweater under our jackets, the temp has gone down to 16° C / 60° F.  We move to the right bank and follow the signs to Angers. There’s two routes here: one along the bank itself, which we try but discard quickly because of the uneven road surface, and one a bit further removed from the river, through the fields and villages. There’s honestly not much to say about it. It gets sunnier and then rainier again, we pass Angers, a big city, but never notice because we stayed in the green belt by the river. I carefully hoard my bike battery percentages. Around five we see the island of Béhuard ahead and we increase our effort (or in my case, the motor support) to arrive at the hotel more quickly. We’re pretty tired, though we did only about 80 km. We’re sleeping in guest rooms at a fancy restaurant, so the rest of the evening is pretty lazy: a hot shower, a small walk through the ancient village and then an extended, delicious dinner. Uploaded all the pictures, too.

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