It is Tuesday morning and after a sound night’s sleep after the long drive, the “old git” and the “old gal” were raring to go on Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem – taking in the majestic fairytale chateaux and vineyards of the area on a near 200 mile trip from Blois to Angers.
Breakfast time at the La Maison de Thomas – our luxury Chambres d’hôtes – saw Team Tandem Ecosse and Team Yukon wearing their new multi-lingual dayglo lime green cycling tops for the first time! Let’s just say that the group of four cyclists are going to get noticed along the way.
Pouring over the map over a double espresso revealed that yesterday’s decision to visit the iconic Chambord chateau by car was definitely the correct one. The route outline for the direct stage 1 route to Amboise is measured at 42 km, while the option of an initial detour cycle to Chambord would have added some 48 km to the day. This “old lady” thinks that trying to tandem 90 km on the first day would have been a cycle too far!
So the two teams were in boisterous spirits as we met the representative from the French-based cycle touring company Cyclomundo who explained the itinerary of the self-guided tour and handed over the hired solo bikes to Team Yukon riders John and Nancy.
I was retrieved form my cosy overnight safe spot of the inner courtyard, and after a quick photo call, it was time for Le Grand Depart. But before we headed out of the beautiful town of Blois there was the important job of procuring supplies for the first picnic of Le Tour!
Now you know the “old gal” and the “old git” are connoisseurs of the grand picnic and the first key ingredient was the purchase of a couple of bottles of the local Cremant de Loire – a locally produced fizz which is effectively their version of champagne, but with a little less fizz. So the prosecco picnics, much enjoyed when back home in Scotland, will now be known as Cremant picnics for the duration of Le Tour!
Then some nice hams, cheese and grapes were purchased – along with a freshly made baguette. All was safely packed away in my shiny blue and white stripped cool bag – complete with detachable freezer blocks. Very cool!
We headed out of town over the landmark long stone bridge – the Pont Jacques Gabriel which dates from the 18th century – before turning on to the cycle track which runs along the banks of the river. This was our first experience of the much anticipated Loire à Vélo – an immense 800-kilometre cycle tourism route. It is a véloroute like no other in France – running along the banks of France’s longest river, the Loire, through a valley dotted with countless treasures.
And my dynamic duo’s immediate impressions were very favourable – being highly impressed at the smooth surface of the cycle friendly paths and all the clear signposting.
You can check out the details of our route on the first day of our Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem from Blois to Amboise on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!
We soon picked up a good steady pace of 15 km/hr as we headed out into the countryside, hugging the Loire, before heading slightly inland and crossing the Cosson river and tandeming through quaint small villages of Chailles and Cande-sir-Beuvron. This included some lovely tracks through a forest including a scenic tree tunnel, which required the “old gal” to dismount and take a quick selfie!
In what seemed like no time we reached the half way point, the village of Chaumont-sur-Loire – the venue for our first Tour picnic, against the backdrop of the fabulous Chateau de Chaumont right on the banks of the Loire. The “old git” had even thoughtfully got me a new “Bon Appetit” sign to add to the decadence of the occasion.
A suitable picnic area was found in a park, and with temperatures reaching a somewhat toasty 30C corks were popped on the bottles – with the cold Cremant was a welcome way to rehydrate!
The French bread, ham, cheese and grapes were all quickly devoured in a bid to restore energy levels.
At this point we met up with an American family, who lived in Saudi Arabia, who were doing a similar Loire valley ride. The Mum and daughter (Sarah and Grace) were on a parent-child tandem while the Dad (Mark) was on a solo bike hauling all their luggage on a cart. My French horn proved to be a great attraction to Grace and it was dutifully parped several times before the obligatory photo.
After our alfresco picnic was enjoyed by all, the “old git” and the “old gal” decided to seek some shade from the fierce sun for a little rest. And of course they couldn’t resist playing up the effects of the Cremant with a couple of silly photos!
After lunch it was time to visit the Chateau de Chaumont, which hosts a feast of artworks in its lavish grounds as well as hosting an annual International Garden Festival.
One of the many artwork installations is an infinity platform looking out over the Loire – giving impressive views.
Every year, more than 400,000 visitors flock to Chaumont-sur-Loire, which has hosted the International Garden Festival since 1992. This year it was celebrating its 25th anniversary with a “Gardens of the Coming Century” theme.
It was a fascinating showcase of garden designs which addressed the big questions of our time – such as climate change, rising sea levels, “floating gardens” and the link between habitat and gardens. One garden – called Frankenstein’s Nature – caught the eye in more ways than one with an interesting double mirror set-up.
After enjoying the gardens in the heat, a recuperative soft drink was required before setting off on the final 20km to the next overnight stop in Amboise. My dynamic duo decided to pick up the speed for this leg and pushed along at about 20km/hr, at times hitting a top speed of 36km. I must say I was impressed with their fitness, and the pre Tour training regime has certainly paid off as I was fair flying!
With a few undulations and the temperature rising further the “old gal” thought it would be a good idea to stop at a bar for another cool drink. And would you believe the place they stopped at – called Volupia Cave – was indeed a bar but also a wine cave and deli offering tastings of locally made wines and goats cheese. The “old gal” who is an expert in both, thought she had died and gone to heaven!
The “old git” amazingly even found a local red with the his name on it! So a bottle of Chateau de Colin was duly purchased, along with some cheese for tomorrow’s picnic.
We arrived at our residence for the night, Maison Blanche, set in a beautiful private grounds about 2km on the outskirts of the town. After a quick inspection form the “old gal” in her role as “Chief Engineer” I was locked up safely for the night after a successful first day tandeming with no mechanical problems. Let’s hope it stays that way!
After a ritual tasting of the Chateau de Colin – and a nice vintage it was! – Team Tandem Ecosse and Team Yukon headed into the old town centre and enjoyed a savoury galette (pancake) meal washed down with some cider while discussing events of the first day of Le Tour and planning the second stage from Blois to Tours.
And after the exertions of the first day sleep soon followed – with everyone very glad we had not gone for the 90km option!