Cycling Week 2: Olivet to Palinges

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Wineries, Canals and (even more) Medieval Villages

Olivet to Palinges
23-29 May 2018
377 km

We set off early from Olivet, bidding farewell to Dan and Brigid and the peace and beauty of the Olivet campsite. We felt great after a day off the bikes and found our way easily to Orleans and onto the trail. We managed to quickly lose the trail after Orleans which started a trend for the week. Even though the trail is well-marked, we managed to lose our way 3 times. I tried to tell Paul that when travelling you are never lost so try to enjoy it. But anyone who knows Paul knows he would not be happy, especially when it adds hours to the day and we are chasing rain clouds. It was always a bonus  when this sign appeared on the path.

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The scenery has changed a little. We left the Loire river in the middle of the week (which is quite sad), but enjoyed the Canal Lateral A’ Loire and the Canal du Centre, as well as the farmlands we cycled through.

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We also rode across three ‘pont canals’ (canals that run over the river) and enjoyed wine tasting in the beautiful Sancerre region.

Here is a summary of our itinerary. Feel free to skip ahead to the highlights section.

Day 8, 23 May (Olivet to Jardin-sur-Sully 60km)

Day 9, 24 May (Jardin-sur-Sully to Cours-sir-Loire, 65km)

Day 10, 25 May (Cours-sir-Loire to La-Charite-sur-Loire, 55km)

Day 11, 26 May (La-Charite-sur-Loire to Decize, 77km)

Day 12, 27 May (rest day in Decize)

Day 13, 28 May (Decize to Bourbon-Lancy, 60km)

Day 14, 29 May (Bourbon-Lancy to Palinges, 60km)

A few highlights along the way

  • Visiting the oldest church in France in Germingy-des-Pres, built in 806AD (day 8).IMG_1261
  • The Chateau-de-Sully in Sully-sur-Loire. We camped just across the river and were wondering how much we would need to save to call it ‘home’ (day 8).
  • The amazing village of La Charite-sur Loire, a UNESCO heritage listed city which is just gorgeous. The campsite was also great just across he river. We enjoyed our first dinner out at a pizza restaurant right on the river. What a treat!
  • On our way to La Charite-sur Loire, we cycled through vineyards and popped into Sancerre. The hill climbs to get there weren’t fun, and even though the photo may look otherwise, I am still beating Paul up the hills.  After the hills we enjoyed a coffee followed by a couple of wine tastings at Chateau Sancerre and Maison Du Sancerre which made it all worthwhile.* We learned about the history of wine making, soils of the region and that they are famous for their Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. They needn’t have bothered, they had me at ‘bonjour’ (day 10).
  • After a long day cycling along the Canal Lateral A’ Loire we happened across the town of Decize (day 11). We didn’t know much about this place but were pleasantly surprised. It was here that we decided to have a rest day and it is also where we met Klaus & Almer (from The Netherlands) and Daniel and Mimo (from France). Refer below.
  • After another big day cycling and getting lost we camped in Bourbon-Lancy. The medieval centre is amazing and different to other villages we have seen, with its mosaic brickwork and wooden beams. This place is definitely worth a visit. We thought so and celebrated with a coffee and a pain au chocolat of course* (that routine has not changed).

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    Bourbon-Lancy
  • We enjoyed cycling along the canals watching the boats pass through the locks. Each lock has a ‘lock keeper’ and their houses adjoining the locks are very quaint.

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  • Once we left the Loire the villages became less frequent and a number of villages seemed empty/closed. This meant we were not always able to find suitable cafes or boulangeries and needed to be a bit more prepared with snacks. We still had a few good stops this week, our favourites being in Gien (day 9),
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    Morning break in Gien

    Sancerre (day 10), La-Charite-sur-Loire where we met the French cyclist group; and our lunch stop in Digoin (day 14) where we ran into Klaus and Alma and Daniel and Mimo again. We had a great lunch together in the town square in front of the church*.

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    Church view from Digoin lunch stop
  • Yet again we met some great people this week. A few standouts include Jerome from Belgium who we met in La Charity-sur-Loire on his way hiking to Spain, the group of French cyclists we continued to run into on our way cycling to Decize who were amazed we kept up with them in our little bikes, Daniel and Mimo who we met in Decize and ran into for the next few days. They could hardly speak English and we are proud that we managed to converse with them in our basic French and lots of hand signals*. And then finally Klaus and Alma, a lovely couple who we met up with across 4 days. We shared lots of laughs, red wine and cheese and had such a great time with*. I was even able to bring out some of my Afrikaans, dit was ‘baie lekker’. Thank you both for helping to have an early birthday celebration with Paul on our last night together in Palinges. Such a fun night at the campsite bar enjoying charcuterie and a few drinks. They say the best thing about travelling is the people you meet. This is true, but then a not such great thing is goodbyes as you are never sure when you will see each other again.

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    Paul, Mimo, Alma, Daniel & Klaus when we ran into them all in Digion.
  • We are still finding French people to be so friendly. We find it funny how they always call out ‘bon appetite’ if they catch you eating, be it your baguette at lunchtime or sitting having aperitif at your campsite. The campsite managers have also been so great and speaking French slowly for us and enduring our basic French to help us practice.
  • There was some rain this week but we managed to avoid it while putting our tent up or down or while cooking, so that didn’t bother us much.
  • We managed to break a tent pole while in Decize but Paul found a way to fix it and we think it will last the trip. Let’s hope anyway.
  • France seems to have a lot of nuclear power plants, we keep finding them in the most unexpected places, in beautiful farmlands near to the river. They must get a lot of their power from nuclear energy.IMG_1276
  • Gaston and Belle are getting a lot of attention and people can’t believe how far we are hoping to cycle on them. Let’s hope we surprise them and the bikes continue to get us from A to B (which just happens to be the ‘Atlantic’ to ‘Budapest’. Convenient).
  • Best purchase this week: €2 comb for Paul to brush out the insects flying into his beard and sticking to his arm and leg hairs (EEEW)!

My weekly reflection:

We are taking each day as it comes, only planning our route each evening for the next day, with back up options depending how we feel. I love this. We turn up to towns having no idea what to expect…and mostly this has worked out so far. This is quite a challenge and an accomplishment for two control freaks and we are really enjoying it. Good on us!

* Finding Wilson

“Wine is inspiring and adds greatly to the joy of living.”

Napoleon Bonaparte

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