Sunday, July 24, 2016


Day three of following the Loire down river - how hard can it be? But coming out of Suevres I did my old trick of going the opposite way to that intended. I think it is to do with the sun being in the south and my direction-finding brain saying if you are facing the sun, east is to your right, but it's not, because this is the northern hemisphere isn't it, so get used to it or get lost. I keep getting lost. Except if you head off in the morning with no destination in mind, there is probably no such thing as lost.

This day turned out to be a ride from Muides to Chaumont and it might be one of the best on the whole Loire, but heck, they were all so good it is impossible to choose one day above the others. Villages, old stone arch bridges, some hilly stuff, woods, quiet shady backwaters riding along levees, a bit of gravel and some sand just to keep things interesting, riverside mansions. Mostly I was grateful for shelter from the head wind. This was the only day I rode in showers. It was actually cold most of the day, and the cold sank into my joints. 

Lots of other cyclists along the way, everyone calling out 'bonjour' as we passed. In Blois I stopped and had a pretty disgusting bit of quiche sitting in the street, chatting with an English couple cycling in other direction. Blois is hilly. I set off pushing the bike up a steep shopping street towards the Tourist Office and just came around a corner to find this in front of me. With the Orangerie off in a little park on the other side of the road. Chateau de Blois.

Now a national monument, it was home to King Louis the Seventh and several other French kings, and was also the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before she departed with her army to drive the English from Orléans.

Blois has a lot of medieval buildings but in the end it is another busy town and I prefer the smaller villages, so off into the peace and quiet along the river.

Now wouldn't you love to live in this riverside mansion?

With it's own 700 year old church? 

Maybe something a bit smaller? 

In one of the villages I passed this day - which I can't say.

I rode on through the wheat fields into the evening, and had begun thinking seriously about a stealth camp in the woods off the path. I had just picked a suitable bit of woodland when a snake crossed the path. The fourth snake I had seen in France, and the biggest. I know they are harmless grass snakes, but it seemed like a sign so I kept cycling. A tiny little campsite turned up and I got the tent up just before another shower. As it got dark I sat under a shelter with a Dutchman cycling on up river to join with the Rhine. How is it that you meet some people who you just feel you have known all your life? One of those amiable and meaningful conversations that flow so easily. 

In the night I had to put all my clothes on - I mean ALL, but I was still cold. 

Here's something good - I had bought all my camping stuff in Montpellier in a cheap warehouse called Decathlon that Nicholas took me to. Decathlon has a chain of stores across France, and a few days later I went to the one in Saumur to buy a heavier sleeping bag. A young shop assistant came to help, said, I can speak English if you would prefer. I would, I did, and for the sake of a ride back to the campsite on the other side of the river, was able to exchange my 3-week old used sleeping bag for a warmer model and only pay the difference. 

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