Day five for Team Tandem Ecosse and the first thing to be done today was to retrieve the cycling gear from the laundry room. And good to their word, the staff at the Hotel Plantagenet had dried everything after yesterday’s soaking it received when the monsoon-like rain hit.
In fact the very first thing the “old gal” asked when she awoke from her slumbers was: “Is it raining?” The “old git” made her very happy when he reported that the biblical rain had disappeared completely overnight – as had the clouds, leaving a bright blue sky with warm sunshine forecast for the day ahead.
After a somewhat difficult – and indeed uncomfortable – day in the saddle the three of us on Team Tandem Ecosse were looking forward to getting Le Tour de Loire Valley du tandem back on track with stage five from Chinon to another wine city of Saumur. The “bible” promised a 30 odd km canter along the Vienne river, through beautiful villages, to join the Loire again – with a wine tasting in the troglodyte caves before arriving in Saumur dominated by its chateau. Sounds blissful! Oh and the paths are flat most of the way which is a bonus for this “old lady” who is feeling a bit creaky after all the water got into my joints yesterday!
You can check out the details of our route on the fifth stage of Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem from Chinon to Saumur on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics! (Note no operator error again today!!)
Today was deemed Canadian day in honour of Team Yukon, so after breakfast it was time for a joint picture with John and Nancy who had kindly presented the “old git” and the “old gal” with maple leaf-design cycling shirts.
The huge Joan of Arc statue in the square that bears her name provided an inspiring backdrop for the photo. In 1429 the teenage Joan of Arc came to Chinon to meet the Dauphin Charles VII, who was holed up after losing most of his kingdom. Joan succeeded in inspiring Charles to reclaim his kingdom, after which Chinon became his capital and enjoyed a century of prosperity.
A quick stop for picnic supplies and we were off, immediately crossing the impressive Quai Danton bridge over the Vienne river. The “old gal” was so traumatised by the rain yesterday that she had to take a photo of the sun on the bridge – just to prove it existed!
We then tandemed along some beautifully flat cycling paths along the side of the river before heading through a forest area including some wonderful tree tunnel sections – which with the sun streaming through were just demanding photos.
I have to say here that despite the rain yesterday this “old lady” was in fine form today. It was one of those brilliant tandeming stretches where the “old git” and the “old gal” were pedalling in total synchronicity and with the ultra flat paths we were moving along without any real effort at around 30km/hr, reaching a top speed of over 40km/hr at one stage. It really was one of those moments when my pilot and stoker both felt they were part of a finely tuned machine – that’s me we’re talking about incidentally!
A rather amusing aside here was that John from Team Yukon was always looking for ways to shave a few km off the journey. Today he decided that he would take what he saw as a direct route to where the Vienne and the Loire rivers meet – while Nancy joined us in cycling through the forest. So he headed off on his so-called shortcut, allowing Nancy to cycle along at a faster speed than normal with us – even taking the time to carefully photobomb one of the “old gal’s” photos.
The funny part came when we arrived at the bridge where we were to meet up with John again – only for there to be no sign of him! Several minutes later a rather flustered and somewhat out-of-breath John arrived from behind. His planned shortcut had in fact hit a dead end and he had to retrace his route, before taking the path we had cycled. The “old git” had to be careful not to snigger under his breath too much!
After a brief stop at a farmer’s market to add some local goats cheese to the picnic supplies – we pedalled along the Loire a Velo into the idyllic adjoining villages of Candes-Saint-Martin and Montsoreau – officially classified in the list of most beautiful villages in France and featuring picturesque small houses built in white limestone as well as troglodyte houses dug into the cliffs.
The highlight of Candes-Saint-Martin is the fortified church and the Chapel Saint Martin, which dominates the village. The church was built in the 12th century, although much of the decoration was added three centuries later. It is especially known for the many statues that decorate its facade, and for the stained glass windows tracing the story of the relics of Saint Martin.
A coffee pit stop was followed by a tour of the impressive chapel before tandeming through the charmingly quaint cobbled streets of Montsoreau which lies at the foot of the imposing chateau immortalized by Alexandre Dumas in his novel La Dame de Montsoreau.
Montsoreau is a former fishing village and the small harbour is now home to a variety of houseboats and restaurant boats built along the lines of the traditional gabare boats.
The next stop – on what was a truly fabulous day of tandeming – was a Saumur wine tasting at Domaine des Amandiers, one of the small family run businesses in one of the original and fascinating troglodyte caves at Turquant. The owner, Marc Rideau, took lots of time to ensure my crew tasted everything they wanted, which had been produced directly on the premises.
The “old git” tells me he felt sure the atmospheric surroundings added to the taste – but he assures me the wines were among the best sampled during Le Tour!
Some purchases were obviously made – including the obligatory bottle of Cremant de Loire for the picnic and a 3 litre wine bag which was duly strapped to my frame for ease of carrying!
Just before our picnic the “old gal” got Nancy to take a video of us tandeming in our matching maple leaf cycling tops for posterity! You can watch the video by hitting the play button below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)
Team Yukon and Team Tandem Ecosse then found a picnic table and the bottle of Cremant had one of the shortest ever “wine miles” trips – being consumed within a couple of kms of the cave during a sun-kissed picnic! As the “old gal” said: “What a difference a day makes!”
Revived after the picnic goodies, it was an easy tandem the last 5 km of the day along the banks of the scenic Loire to our base – the Hotel Saint-Pierre in Saumur.
This very stylish hotel had a perfect place for me to park, in a beautiful inner garden courtyard – even if it did raise a few eyebrows as I was was pushed past reception.
Since it was so sunny and it was early afternoon Team Tandem Ecosse and Team Yukon decided on a relaxing toast to Le Tour’s self-proclaimed Canadian Day – just to ensure that the earlier bottle of Cremant was as good as this one!
After a shower and change, there was time to explore Saumur – with a look at the local market and some of the interesting shops.
One of the things the “old git” and “old gal” couldn’t resist was a present for me – a bright shiny red la Bouclée, which is a cleverly designed leather wine carrier which safely holds a bottle and neatly attaches over my handlebars, mainframe or panniers. It has “Les Vins de Saumur” tastefully engraved on the front – and the red colour perfectly matches my frame. It is going to look so cool back home in Scotland. I am fair chuffed! My dynamic duo really do look after me you know!
After a bit of retail therapy my dynamic duo took to another form of transport – the local tourist train which went around the city pointing out the sights including the wonderful Chateau Saumur.
Saumur is a major cycling centre and a the guide on the tourist train said it was a real hotspot on the Loire a Velo – being at the crossroads of a number of cycle friendly routes which criss cross the region.
The city is also host to the famous retro cycle festival, called Anjou Velo Vintage, for two days every June. Thousands of retro fashionistas and vintage bike lovers descend on Saumur for a weekend of rides and partying.
The “old git” and “old gal” were really taken with the potential of attending the Anjou Velo Vintage in the future – and with me already being a classic tandem then Team Matilda is perfectly suited for such an event!
The tourist train disembarked my crew right at the door of Les Vins de Saumur which were offering another wine tasting, which of course they felt duty bound to sample – picking up another locally produced Cremant for tomorrow’s picnic!
The evening ended with a tasty dinner with John and Nancy in a busy square in the city while discussing the final 66km stage to Angers tomorrow. Yes you read that correctly – a 66km final stage for Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem!
And after such a fabulous day’s tandeming in the French sunshine it was soon time for sleep!