Europe 2022 – Loire Valley, Part Four

June 9 – 14

After another hearty breakfast at the hotel, we packed up our bags, checked out, and then walked just down the block to Detours de Loire, the company I would be renting a bike from.  In addition to the rental, they would be transferring our bags from stop to stop.  We’ve embraced this model before, the first time when we did the Camino de Santiago in 2017 (hiked for then days and then rode rental bikes for ten days) when we had one or more bags transferred each day for about 8-euros a bag.  We would have done the same a few months earlier on the Katy Trail in Missouri but had to cancel that portion of the trip due to Joanna’s broken arm. 

I chose a mid-range option for the bike rental, a trekking bike at 49-Euros for the three days as opposed to a more expensive gravel or road bike at 80-Euros.  If I were to do it again, I’d likely pop for the better bikes, as the one I received, while fairly comfortable and completely adequate, just couldn’t compare with the type of bike I’m used to riding. 

And, as I would find out on the road, I couldn’t keep the seat at the proper height; I should have contacted Detours to fix the issue, but I kept thinking I could get it to stay and that any attempt to swap bikes would be complicated.  That was my bad as it made the experience less enjoyable than it could have been. 

Ready to Get Riding

Because this is just a great area to ride a bike in for several reasons.  In no particular order they are:

  • The bulk of riding is done on dedicated bike paths with some on street sections where traffic isn’t too bad. 
  • Signage is excellent (I did use printed pages from the Cycling the Loire Cycle Route guidebook to help out when things got confusing) but most of the time navigated by just looking out for the signs. 
  • You will not be alone as it is a very popular activity in this area
  • It is mostly flat with only a few relatively short climbs that follow the terrain
  • Distances between towns is short enough so that food, drink, and opportunities to chill are abundant, and
  • Many of the hotels have safe and secure bike storage available. 

I’d be riding just 25 miles today to Amboise, alongside the Loire River for much of it, where I would meet up with Joanna in the afternoon.  I’d spend most of the trip on the Loire Cycle Route, the 654 mile long dedicated route that starts in the Massif Central mountains of central France, then heads north to Orleans before turning west to hit the Atlantic at St. Nazaire. 

Total elevation for the day would be under 400 feet, but a couple of the short climbs were steep, making me glad for the gearing on the heavy bike.  That first day turned out harder than it should have been as I struggled with trying to keep the seat at its right height and dropped the ball by not having a water bottle, thinking I’d knock out the short distance easily. 

It continued to be very warm, and this caught up to me ten miles in as I could feel the need for water.  Fortunately, I hit a village with small market and bought a Coke Zero and a big bottle of water, which I would continue to refill as the days elapsed.  Feeling a lot better now I pushed on through a variety of terrains, mostly open fields under blue cloud filled skies, paused later for an Orangina and a Snickers at a café, and finally reached the outskirts of Amboise to descend to the center of town and the Logis Hôtel Restaurant Chaptal, our lodging for the night. 

While I was out riding Joanna had arrived in Amboise and made a beeline for ‎Château du Clos Lucé and the Parc Leonardo da Vinci.  In 1516, Leonardo da Vinci left Rome to accept the position of engineer, architect, and painter to France’s Renaissance king, François I.  Leonardo would spend his last three years here, dying on May 2, 1519, living in a little residence that was built in 1450, just within the protective walls of the town, as a guesthouse for the king’s château nearby.  Today it re-creates (with Renaissance music) the everyday atmosphere Leonardo enjoyed while he lived here, pursuing his passions to the very end.  Next to his bed in the bedroom, one can see sketch of François I comforting his genius pal on his deathbed.

Leonardo’s Bedroom

The house is a kind of fort-château of its own, with a fortified rampart walk and a 16th-century chapel. Two floors of finely decorated rooms are open to the public, but none of the furnishings are original.  What is interesting are well-explained models of Leonardo’s inventions, displayed inside the house and out in the adjacent huge park with its life-size models of Leonardo’s inventions, “sound stations” (in English), and translucent replicas of some of his paintings.  The models make clear that much of what Leonardo observed and created was based on his intense study of nature.

In the Garden

I arrived at the hotel before Joanna and checked in, stashing the bike in a large storage room designed specifically for that purpose.  I located our bags in a small room near the bike storage area and schlepped them both up to our room, good sized and very nicely furnished with a couch and best of all, an electric teapot for making coffee the next morning. 

Our Room in Amboise

After doing some unpacking, I went downstairs to the bar area of the hotel and purchased a couple of beers to savor as I waited for Joanna to show up.  Upon her arrival, we ventured out in hopes of getting another beer or so before finding a place to eat dinner.  We walked the narrow streets of the downtown, checking out the many shops, surrounded by crowds of people doing the same.  Being a Saturday afternoon, lots of folks had the same idea as us and the cafes were all busy, but we did find a table at the Café du Chateau, where settled in for a couple of drinks. 

Refreshed we started back towards the hotel in search of a restaurant, but it was still early in the evening and nothing appealing appeared, so instead we stopped in at a Carrefour and picked up food for a picnic in the room for dinner and yoghurt and a package of apple tarts for breakfast the next morning. 

Dinner and Next Day’s Breakfast

We ate in the room and then spent a nice evening streaming shows we watch and just generally relaxing.  My first day on the bike had gone well, the problem with the seat aside, and I looked forward to getting back out there the next day.  More to follow on that in the next post. 


Detours de Loire:

Cycling the Loire Cycle Route:

Logis Hôtel Restaurant Chaptal:

Café du Chateau:

One comment

  1. Dale Swindler · · Reply

    I’m envious! I would love to do that ride some day! –Dale

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