I arrived late morning in Tours after an early start in London and picked up the car then drove straight for Chateau Chenonceau. We were going to be staying in the other direction from Tours so I thought I best go and explore the most famous Chateau in the Loire Valley. The grounds were amazing and the rooms done up with the most amazing flower arrangements. I drove back to Tours for a bit of an explore before picking mum and dad up from their train. We set off for our gîte (cottage) near Saumur which was lovely and much more spacious than the photos suggested. We picked up some dinner from the local supermarket and had an evening in with our French Methode Traditionale provided by the owner of the cottage.
We went into the city of Saumur to collect our bikes and dropped the car back at the cottage before setting off on our adventure. Most of the cycle trails were along the River Loire but we were around 9km north of this so decided to do a loop around the local vineyards and up to the national park. Some of the cycling was lovely although at times the rain was threatening and the breeze picked up into a bit of a head wind. Being the off season there weren't many places open for lunch but we found a pub with a small shop attached so bought some bread, meat and cheese and a few beers then sat down in the bar (at this stage it was a bit cold to be eating outside). The cycling was a bit more challenging in the afternoon with a few hills and the weather not on our side but we persevered and totalled 53km with enough time to pop back down to the supermarket after the ride for some well-earned pizzas for dinner in the cottage and an early night.
We decided to head to the river and cycle west along it so had to ride into Saumur to get onto the river trail. We made it there but unfortunately the river trail was rather flooded. There was also cycle signs absolutely everywhere so we thought we were cycling west on our cycle trail but we were actually heading south on a different trail. The weather wasn't very nice and the scenery quite bland so we headed back to Saumur to the Chateau Saumur. We had a hot chocolate and some crepes to warm up then decided we should go back to the cottage to warm up before exploring the castle, rather than in our cycle gear. So we cycled back, got changed, had lunch then headed into town. The chateau was more set up as a museum rather than with the furnishings of the time as most are so not that exciting.
On Friday evening Darin arrived in Tours. We all went along to the airport to pick Darin up and then went to dinner on a lovely little restaurant on the hill next to a blue windmill. The clouds were lifting throughout our dinner so the view improved looking down to the river (and the local nuclear power station). The food was great and nicely presented, sometimes we were guessing what we were eating but surely that is half the fun.
The weather again, wasn't that great on Saturday so not the best for walking and biking around but we preserved anyway. We all drove into Saumur and visited the Saturday market before heading out to a 'Mushroom Museum' which consisted off several caves and hundreds of variations of mushrooms being grown. Along the road a little way we found a restaurant in a cave so went in and was treated to an amazing meal of mushrooms, black sausages, beans, bread, cheese and spreads along with a jug of wine of course. In the afternoon Darin and I headed off for a bike around St Nicolas de Bourgueil where we visited a few wineries (with none speaking English so didn't really find out too much about the wine!).
The weather finally decided to come out on Sunday so we headed off early-ish for a bike rided. There had been a lot of rain recently and there were therefore quite a few parts of the Loire which had been flooded and a lot of the bike paths were actually under water and couldn't be used. Heading off from Saumur we went to Montsoreau, stopping for a coffee break, and then travelling into Chinon where we grabbed some wine and stopped for a picnic lunch up near the castle. On the way back to Saumur we encountered some of the worst flooding and all ended up with some drenched shoes, socks and feet. Having done a decent 80km ride across the day it was then time for some relaxing.
After dropping our bikes back and leaving the cottage we started making our way back to Tours but stopped off first at Veuve Amiot, a sparkling wine producer where we did a tour. The tour was really good showing us a mix of both traditional and modern wine production. Our next stop was Villandry Castle and Gardens. We skipped the castle and just walked around the gardens which were magnificent with 7 different themed gardens. It was then back to Tours for the flight back to London.