190kms from Orleans to Loches
After taking a mid-morning train from Troyes to Paris, we biked to another Paris train station, a bike ride we dubbed “Paris in 45 minutes,” because it seemed like we passed most of Paris’s top tourist sites. We then took a train to Orleans. It was an old-fashioned train, the carriages were divided into individual compartments. In Orleans, our tour of the Loire began!
Our plan was to cycle a route recommended in the Lonely Planet’s “Cycling in France,” from Saumur to Blois. The trouble was, we were doing it backwards, and starting a day’s riding past the end of the Lonely Planet route, in Orleans. It seemed to us that we would barely need maps and the roads would be straight and directions clear; as always, we were overly hopeful. We reached the tourist office in Orleans and got a map of the town. Even with a map we got lost for half hour trying to find our couchsurfing friend Etienne’s house. It was then that we realized that the Loire would be much the same as the Champagne region. We would get lost, a lot.
After a short night at Etienne’s in the suburbs of Orleans we headed down to the Loire and made for Blois, by way of the Chateau at Chambord. The Loire was beautiful, the road clear, curving along the bank of the river on a raised flood embankment. We hit a difficult sections of sandy unpaved road, along which we had to push our bikes, but we reached Chambord with only one major wrong turn and had a very tasty picnic lunch in the grounds of the Chateau.
The chateau at Chambord we found to be quite ugly, but in a fascinating and amusing way. We spent a long time in the maze of rooms, exploring and getting lost. We then biked to Blois. In town, we wandered around looking for wi-fi, and found some on a random street corner. We found out that someone had accepted us for couchsurfing that night, so we spent the afternoon and that night with Florian, a german who moved to Blois to oversee production at the Pantene sticker factory. He was also a part time DJ. We were happy that he had a couch that was large enough for us both and we left later in the morning.
Our ride from there to Ambois was the start of the Lonely planet tour and it was a well planned and pleasant ride. We cooked lunch out side of Orzain and decided carrots didn’t saute well, later we found we couldn’t boil them either. While cycling that afternoon, we met Heidi, a very cool elementary school teacher from Amsterdam who was doing a tour from Paris to Santiago de Compostela. Although we admired her quality touring gear we couldnt imagine having to do at least 90km every day to make it in time. We prefer a bit more freedom, or laziness, whichever you call it. We rode together for a while and parted ways outide Amboise. She has plans to cycle next year from Patagonia to Canada, so we wish her well on that trip as well as to Santiago.
In Amboise we our first night in a “real” campground (one we had to pay for). We were both horrified and happy. Although the campground was a massive stretch of ground full of huge motor caravans, it was on an island in the Loire, and it was nice to set up and dismantle the tent in daylight and not worry about being kicked out, or anything weird (like birds kept in cages in forests). We made some more pasta with vegtables for dinner which is turning out to be a good combination.
Our next day was away from the Loire, over hills to Loches. We bought an enormous amount of groceries in the morning, and made more than a 1kg bag of trailmix. The ride was a little hillier than we were used to, but it was not bad and only 50km. We finished with a section in the national forest, full of large hills and straight roads. We had planned to camp there, but after a couple km down hill to Loches and wi-fi at the campground, we decided to stay. We had an oily but tasty dinner of pasta and vegetables, lots of time on the computer and a nice sleep.