Cycling Week 1: Nantes to Olivet

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Chateaus, Bridges and Medieval Villages

16-22 May 2018
350km

We arrived in Nantes, eager to kick off our cycling trip. We spent a couple of days there, using the time to prepare. We posted a few things home, shopped for a few essential food items (pasta, muesli, milk powder, oil, salt, pepper and chilli) and took in the sights of Nantes. It is a great city, full of heritage and has a good feel about it. We loved it.

We packed up Gaston and Belle (refer to Paris page to meet Gaston and Belle) and with trepidation we set off at 8:30am on Wed 16 May.

IMG_1192As soon as we hit the EV6 path along the Loire we were so excited to finally be ‘Euroveloing’ it. I still remember the morning mist along the river as we left Nantes and the beautiful bridge that appeared through the mist (the first of many).

This week was all about the beautiful Loire river with its many majestic bridges, historic chateaus and quaint medieval villages. The Loire is really untouched and natural. It is not built up at all around the river banks which makes it special. The sights and sounds of the birds, especially the call of the dove is something I won’t forget.

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The track has been really easy to follow so we have managed to not get lost yet which is a bonus. It is mostly a ‘cycle only’ path along the river and only diverting off this to weave through small villages.  I am also pleased that my red pannier bags, as hoped, are making me cycle faster and I am beating Paul up the hills.

Here is a summary of our itinerary. I have added our favourite campsites in hyperlinks. Feel free to skip ahead to the highlights section.

Day 1, 16 May (Nante to Montjean sur Loire. 65km)

Day 2, 17 May (Montjean sur Loire to Les Ponts-de-Ce. 35km)

Day 3, 18 May (Les Ponts-de-Ce to Montsoreau, 60km)

Day 4, 19 May (Monsoreau to Tours, 75km)

Day 5, 20 May (Tours to Muides-sur-Loire, 60km) – we recommend not staying at the Chateau campsite. The municipal campsite next to the river looked better

Day 6, 21 May (Muides-sur-Loire to Olivet, 60km)

Day 7, 22 May. Rest day in Olivet

A few highlights along the way:

  • We quickly settled into our daily routine of breakfast (muesli, yoghurt, fruit), leave camp by 8am-8:30am (anyone who knows Paul will know we were ready to leave before most people had stepped out of their tents), coffee and pain au chocolat mid morning in suitable medieval village, and lunchtime baguette from suitable boulangerie at about 1pm. We usually arrive at a campsite mid afternoon, set up camp followed by beer or red wine with snacks, cook dinner (usually some variation of pasta, chorizo, tomatoes, carrot, zuchinni, then tea and bed at around 9pm*.
  • The joy of finding a great cafe in a quaint village at the exact time we are ready for our morning break (my sister Cathy and sisters in law Sandy and Emma know the importance of this…it’s all about the vibe). We are now drinking cafe noisette, similar to a piccolo in Australia. All the stops were great this week but our favourite was in Chalonnes-sur-Loire (day 2)*. We also snuck in an afternoon coffee at Turquant (day 4) as it was too cool to resist and deserved of a two coffee day.

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  • The  joy of finding a friendly boulangerie at the exact time we are ready for our lunchtime baguette. Our favourite was Bouchemaine (day 2)*.

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  • There were so many beautiful sights this week. We had to keep pinching ourselves. A few to call out are the view of the Chateau from the campsite bar in Les Ponts-de-Ce (day 2);IMG_1213 The grand Castle in Samur (day 3);

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The amazing ‘cave village’ of  Parnay that was a little out of this world (day 3);

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Riding through the vineyards near Samur (day 3). We always tried local wines and we discovered one of our favourites here, Samur Champigny; the gorgeous village of Monsoreau (day 3) – day 3 was a good day.

The Chateau d’Usse straight out of a Disney movie. I can’t believe we cycled past and didn’t stop or take a photo (can you believe it, day 4); the historic town of Blois (day 5);IMG_1248 and the campsite in Olivet (day 6 and 7) which was our haven for a few days.IMG_1483.JPG

  • We met some great people this week. Mimi from Quebec we met in Montsoreau. We made a cup of tea for her in the evening and then her morning coffee as she had run out of fuel in her camp stove.  She must be in her 60’s and is cycling solo for 2 months. Warren who we chatted to in Savounniers who was on his lunchtime run and showed us where to find drinkable water. He had previously lived in Northcote in Melbourne so we had lots to chat about. Dan and Brigid from New Zealand who had just worked for 2 years in Paris. We spent a couple of days with them and shared a few beers together in Olivet*. They helped us with ‘Finding Wilson’ and are now somewhere along the Mediterranean coast in their van,  Gary. The retired Swiss couple in Olivet who gave us lots of tips for our trip. And finally the young Iranian couple in Olivet who reminded us that it doesn’t matter if we don’t get to our destination, it’s all about the journey.
  • We even managed to help a couple of cyclists this week. A man just before Tours who needed a bike pump, and a Dutch lady just after Tours who needed help reconnecting her pedal.
  • It was my niece Rachel’s 18th birthday this week so we made a video call to her. We got to speak to, and see my brother Graeme, his wife Sandy, Rachel and Abbey. We missed seeing Pippa as she was out. It was so lovely to see them and it made me a little homesick for a short time*. I still can’t believe you are now 18 Rach, happy birthday!
  • We learned that we loved the smaller campsites and smaller villages to spend our time in, and that rest days should be for resting – not full of sightseeing.
  • We keep being reminded that shops are not open on Sundays or Public Holidays (which there was one this week). We continuously forget to plan for this even after being in France for 3 public holidays already.
  • From our research and chatting to people we were expecting tailwinds along the route but have found headwinds each day. Perhaps it’s too early in the season (either that or everyone lied).
  • It’s been pretty quiet along the path this week with not many cyclists. We are enjoying the freedom this brings with not needing to book ahead but wonder what July (the high season) will be like.
  • We love having all our gear with us, it feels such an achievement and we realise we really can live quite simply. We are proud to have cooked all our meals in camp this week.
  • We were fortunate with the weather and had only sunshine, no rain.
  • Paul got rid of Gaston’s chain guard as it was making some noise. But other than that the bikes are still going strong.
  • Best purchase of the week: my €8 long sleeve t-shirt to keep off the morning chill and afternoon sun.

After our rest day in Olivet where we caught up on some admin, re-stocked on Primus gas canisters in Decathlon (the only shop that seems to stock them) and visited Orleans. We should have done more resting but we are now ready for week 2.

A few reflections following our first week

  1. I have been wondering how I can avoid getting a cycle short tan which I won’t be able to lose for ages. After overuse of 50+ sunscreen and still not winning, I have decided to give up on this concern and just enjoy the cycling.
  2. My brother Shaun has often teased me of having thighs that can ‘kick-start a Boeing’, after many years of sport. I have pondered if after 2 months of cycling I may prove him right. Let’s hope not!
  3. Life on the bike and logistics of living on the trail is not as hard as I had expected. With excitement building I realise I may just be able to do this trip.

* Finding Wilson

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”

Charles de Gaulle

 

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