Peter and Rosemary in the Loire
After much discussion our ten days in France were planned. Not too much driving and time for a little light cycling, exploration and general R & R.
We set off on Monday October 7th for our first overnight stop at the Chateau de Sarceau, just outside Alencon. An enormously long drive finally revealed a pretty chateau set by a picturesque lake. On arrival, Madame la Marquise set us down on the terrasse for English tea. A delicious evening meal followed. We decided we liked the aristocratic way of life.
The next day we received full instructions, not only to find one of the beautiful villages of France, St Ceneri le Gerei, for lunch but also a disused railway line for a short cycle ride. This was not up to the Tarka Trail standards but pleasant enough and enabled us to make sure the bikes had survived the journey.
On Wednesday we left the chateau to travel south to Amboise for six nights. A little confusion in finding the hotel, but once there a good dinner and a warm welcome. Next morning we were given instructions for finding the cycle route to Chenonceau . They were exact, but our understanding was not. We found ourselves cycling down the route to Amboise. Oh well, wrong direction, but we might as well see the town. Fine until we hit the route barree and the deviation which threw us out onto the main, heavily trafficked road down into the town. Not a nice experience and coming back was worse, uphill and confusing. Having just about avoided divorce proceedings, we did admit that the town was impressive but decided to use the car for any further excursions.
The next day we finally found the Chenonceau route, well signed through the forest, on minor roads. We gave the chateau a miss, very expensive, very crowded and we have seen it before, preferring a very nice lunch in the local hostellerie. We then returned back up to the hotel only to eat yet another large meal, not sure 17 kilometres justifies two large meals in one day!!
Saturday the weather was cold and misty so rather than brave the bikes, we set off for the chateau of Chambord. This was new to Peter and amazed him in terms of its size and flamboyance, not to mention the immense hunting park all around. We admired- the double helix stair case which ensures that people going up don't bump into people going down and the grand terraces on the roof which allowed the ladies to watch the gentlemen hunting, without having to get down and dirty themselves. By lunch time the sun had come out so we returned to Amboise for a ride along the cycle route along the Loire.
This proved really good and the route a velo which runs from the Black Sea to the Atlantic was well signed and surfaced. On this occasion we only cycled a short distance as we had to be back for dinner. Just as well, as we had a parking ticket not having understood the signs. More confusion as to how to pay it, which we finally sorted out. Who would know you buy a stamp from the tobacconist and send it to the Town Hall?
Another damp cold morning so we decided to visit Loches, another chateau, but this time surrounded by a very picturesque fortified town on the cliff above the river. A stop at the well laid out town museum was well worth while. The stop for lunch at the Gerbe d'Or even more agreeable. The sun having emerged we got back on the bikes at Mont Louis sur Loire and explored a little more of the route along the river .
Monday it rained hard and after a wet walk around Amboise to do some shopping and have lunch we returned to the hotel. By late afternoon the sun had re-emerged and we walked through the forest, admiring the beech just changing colour and the sun sparkling on the still dripping trees.
By the next morning the rain had set in harder than ever and we were not sad to leave. The deluge that greeted us as we drove back north towards Rouen, made us very glad that we were not on bikes.
By evening the skies cleared. We walked from our hotel the Clos des Fontaines in Jumiege to the local gourmet diner, by the light of a full moon reflected on the ruins of William the Conquerer's Abbey.
More deluge on Wednesday but we were meeting friends to celebrate a birthday in Wimereux so were not really concerned. A delicious meal, plenty of chat and farewells for another few months at least. Thursday home again, encore deluge in France but amazingly sun and warmth back at home.
Next time we hope more cycling and a little less dining might be possible, but both continue the Ragstone's tradition !!