Reflections on Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem 2016

Big smiles from the "old gal" when she saw how flat the cycle paths were!

Big smiles from the “old gal” when she saw how flat the cycle paths were!

tdf-wine-september-5x7During the week of relaxation and recuperation further north at Port-en-Bessin, near Bayeux in Normandy, there was plenty of time for Team Tandem Ecosse to reflect on what was an incredible Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem – and an amazing sense of achievement in completing the route.

Although it was hectic, and very full-on, the “old git” and the “old gal” are already missing their days of togetherness in the saddle while on the the quiet cycle lanes and back roads of the beautifully scenic Loire with its chateaux and vineyards.

This shot really sums up the "We're here for the ride ... and the wine" message on the dayglo shirts!

This shot really sums up the “We’re here for the ride … and the wine” message on the dayglo shirts!

The scenery was fabulously eye-catching and a real joy to experience and provided real brain food with stunning images as we  tandemed along – experiencing an incredible contrast between the serenity of the vineyards to the bustling towns along the route – while all the time being at one with nature.

Before we set out we always said that “the journey” was going to be the holiday – not racing from place to place – and sticking firmly to that agenda Team Tandem Ecosse all enjoyed long warm sunny days on the road giving a fantastic in-depth experience of the vineyards and chateaux of the Loire – and the area’s friendly people.

Selfie time for my dynamic duo overlooking the ornamental love garden.

Selfie time for my dynamic duo at an  ornamental love garden at a chateau.

That journey was so much more satisfying for my dynamic duo being self-propelled at the slower pace of a tandem, rather than travelling by car. Every view of a vineyard or eye-catching chateau lasted so much longer – as did the picnics and wine tastings en route!

Travelling by the relatively fragile mode of transport that a tandem is certainly exposed us not only to the warm sunshine – and one day’s biblical rain! – but to the physically demanding exertions of progressing from place to place.

Ready to ride again - Team Tandem Ecosse in their official matching ponchos!

Team Tandem Ecosse posing as drowned rats in their official matching ponchos!

It also brought us into close interaction with lots of local people, many of whom tooted their support and issued friendly “bonjours” as they passed Team Tandem Ecosse – unmissable in their multi-lingual day-glo cycling shirts. Many enjoyed pointing out our tour tag line of “We’re here for the ride … and the wine!” And of course the other cyclists we met along the way – with whom we shared a special bond, even if some had those pesky e-bikes! – and not forgetting our saviour ‘Saint Michael’!

'Saint Michael' - the man who came to Team tandem Ecosse's rescue with his divine intervention!

‘Saint Michael’ – the man who came to Team tandem Ecosse’s rescue with his divine intervention!

But perhaps the most important thing is that my dynamic duo of the “old gal” (aka Diane) and the “old git” (aka Colin) did it as a real team – laughing and smiling all the way even when frustration levels increased as energy levels fell! And that was the case even when pedalling back on ourselves to the previous junction to take the “correct” turning; or when we emerged from the trauma of the holy trinity of our triple puncture; or when we left the maps behind and had to go back and retrieve them; or when neither could see an inch in front of their face for the monsoon-like rain!

After all my dynamic duo believe in the twin mottos of: “It’s the Smiles that count, not the miles!” and “Its always better when we are tandeming together!”

The route passed through a number of tree tunnels in the forest with the sun rays shining through.

Having a laugh – showing it is the smiles that count, not the miles.

Here is a video montage of our amazing Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem back in September – featuring lots of pictures of the trip set to music. It brings back wonderful memories for all three of us  in the sun-kissed French countryside, tandeming through vineyards against a backdrop of fabulous chateaux, going from wine tasting to wine tasting, and of course our now infamous Team Tandem Ecosse cremant picnics! (And don’t forget that 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.)

In conclusion, this “old lady” is proud to say they resolutely supported each other every pedal and every kilometre of the way – and emerged from the experience even more together, and in love!

And even after 260 kms and 18 hours in the saddle all three of us on Team Tandem Ecosse experienced another fabulous adventure – and we wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

Now where is that brochure to start planning next year’s trip!

Cheers! End of Le Tour toast for my dynamic duo after xx hour sin the saddle!

Cheers! End of Le Tour toast for my dynamic duo after 18 hours in the saddle!

LV Cyclomundo logo

Finally here’s the review that Team Tandem Ecosse posted on the website of the French holiday company Cyclomundo. You can also read it on-line on their website here  – (scroll to October 15 2016 if necessary). It also appears on TripAdvisor under reviews of Cyclomundo here.

Incredible journey on two wheels – cycling, chateaux and cremant in the Loire Valley.

We cycled the Fairytale Castles along the Loire River tour from Blois to Angers on our classic tandem – called Matilda – which really did offer double the fun on a bicycle made for two!

This trip is based in the majestic beauty of the Loire Valley with spectacular scenery every day. The route involved tandeming a route through amazing French countryside which provided an ideal contrast from the serenity of vineyards and forests and scenic villages to imposing chateaux and the bustling main towns. I mean – what’s not to like!

Selfie time for the "old gal" and the "old git" at Chateau de Villandry.

Chateau de Villandry and its wonderful gardens was one of the stops on Le Tour.

Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem was made all the more memorable by the warmth of the sunshine – and the friendliness of the many locals we met along the way who – despite our lack of French – were understanding and helpful and enjoyed the spectacle of our tandeming efforts.

One of the highlights for us was undoubtedly cycling through some of the most famous vineyards in the world which were literally groaning with grapes ready for harvest and into beautiful wine villages keen to offer tastings in their caves – which allowed us to sample many of the local wines and Cremant en route! It more than lived up to our own tour t-shirts which bore the logo: “We’re here for the ride … and the wine!”

Cheers - The "old git" at the wine tasting in the trog cave.

A great tasting of  Saumur wine in a troglodyte cave at Turquant.

The organisation by Cyclomundo was exceptional – all hotels knew of our impending arrival and the luggage transfer was brilliantly easy. Our bags were actually waiting for us in our rooms when we arrived at our accommodation each day. And each hotel was a joy to stay in – more than living up to their reputation for being cycle-friendly.

Special mention for the Hotel Plantagenet in Chinon where the owners went the extra mile to dry out all our cycling gear and make us warm and comfortable when we arrived looking like drowned rats after a day of cycling in biblical rain!

The "old git" in her fetching poncho! To say it was unseasonably wet would be a huge understatement!

Arriving at Hotel Plantagenet in Chinon like a drowned rat! But the hotel went the extra mile.

As regards the directions and cue sheets and maps we would recommend a thorough read-over of the day’s route before leaving each day – including double checking it on the maps provided  – as some of the directions can be ambiguous and open to interpretation … and result in “discussions” between couples – especially when, as we were, on a tandem!

We got badly “lost” on the last leg from Saumur to Angers due to unclear directions which resulted in us taking an alternatively signed route to our destination – disappointingly missing out on some of the key attractions of the final day.

Unusual road sign targeted at cyclists - does it apply to us tandems?

Just before we got “lost” – an unusual road sign aimed at cyclists, but does it apply to us tandems?

Also you need to be aware that the detailed directions provided are only to/from a central point in the towns where you stay, like a railway station. This therefore requires a bit of self-navigation on departing and arrival in order to find the route out of town, or your hotel – which can be a bit stressful. This is one aspect which could be improved upon as we have travelled with other tour operators in previous years, who provided individual tailored instructions direct to and from accommodation.

With most of the route along designated cycling paths – including the wonderful Loire a Velo – it felt very safe and the area is perfectly set up for cyclists. Coming from Scotland – where there are very few dedicated cycle paths – it was amazing to see the cyclist being given such a high priority. The paths themselves were mostly flat and well surfaced which made tandeming a real joy and easy to cover the distances required.

The cycle paths of the Loire a Velo were mostly flat and included many wonderful tree tunnels.

The cycle paths of the Loire a Velo were mostly flat and included many wonderful tree tunnels.

Another key element of our enjoyment of our tandem tours is our picnics and the comprehensive route notes contained several good suggestions for picnic stops – follow these and you will have wonderful venues for alfresco lunches.

We were easily able to stock up on supplies of local bread, meats and cheese from the boulangerie, charcuterie and fromagerie in towns before heading off for the day on our tandem. And of course there was a bottle of local Cremant to wash it all down with!

My new "bon appetit" sign completed the decadence for the Tour picnics.

The “bon appetit” sign added to the decadence for Le Tour picnics – complete with Cremant!

In conclusion this tour was one of those rare occasions when you wish you could award six stars in the ratings!

Doing a trip like this really is a fantastic experience and will provide a wealth of great memories!

And if you do it on a tandem – like we did – it does bring you closer together!

You owe it to yourself to do it!

We wrote a blog of our adventures on our tandem – called Matilda’s Musings – where our tandem (aka Matilda) gives her in-depth account of Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem. You can read our adventures here: https://matildasmusingsdotcom.wordpress.com/

Have a bite! Delicious fresh apples straight from the tree!

Have a bite! Delicious fresh apples straight from the tree!

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8 thoughts on “Reflections on Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem 2016

  1. So Matilda this is it, the end of your French musings. Am sure you will have some more next year, and in the meantime hopefully you will keep us all amused with a few Scottish musings. Thanks for the stories.

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    • Ah Jane, mais non, we still have the Musing from week 2 in Normandy including a couple of outings sur le tandem! And rest assured, when back home en Ecosseland there will be many a Musing to come!

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  2. Bonjour Matty. Les vacances sont finis – bonjour tristesse ! Now plan next year and start saving your pennies ! By the way I see the troglodytes found their cave ! Did you spirit them there pretending it was on the sat nav? Very clever of you. At least they are speaking though!

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    • Ah Dot, you still have to await the adventures of my dynamic crew in Normandy … and yes the planning phase and “discussions” will start soon for 2017! But I really do think they need to get me a new tandem friendly sat nav for Christmas!

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  3. Congratulations on your grand Tour de Loire, you must be chateauxed by all that cycling! We are all jealous of your fresh-air-and-fine-wine adventure…the only saving grace is that we did enjoy some lovely weather back in Scotland during your trip. Despite the occasional soaking and some ‘anger in Angers’ it’s clear you all had a wheely wonderful trip – c’est magnifique!

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    • Ah Skelbo Cyclist – you have been clearly waiting until the last installment to give your witty comments! It was a truly fabulous trip … and yes some days the word “chateauxed” doesn’t begin to cover how tiring it was. But all fantastic fun. I think Team Tandem Ecosse could have done without the rain … and I see there is no pulling the wool over your eyes as you were able to read between the lines and were spot on with your interpretation of “Anger in Angers”!!

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