The Psychopath driving the 40ft artic that careered past us whilst we stopped to change drivers, must have been partially blind and completely deaf. He swerved violently through the town’s 30kph chicane with the full height rear trailer doors flapping wildly, like a crazed scientist in a open lab coat hurrying along on his bike. The driver was oblivious to the van in hot pursuit, frantically flashing his lights and sounding its horn to attract the HGV’s attention. Soon after the chase passed us, further on we saw the lorry parked meekly by the side of road, the artic’s back doors now firmly closed. The red faced driver sitting quietly looking suitably chastened by the experience, contemplating the security of the large buckles on his re-tightened jacket!
Well, we’ve had a great few days exploring the Loire valley, which is the official demarcation line between the north and south of France. When I first read this, I thought whoever made that decision hadn’t been able to find an atlas! But I’ve checked the map and they’re probably right, so we’re now definitively in the north.
The Vallée de la Loire is famous for several things but most notably the river and it’s Chateau’s. It’s also known as the Garden of France due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards (such as cherries), and artichoke and asparagus fields, which line the banks of the river.
I would caution any men planning on going to France specifically to get their hair cut. I have been looking for weeks (in fact for the whole trip) to find a cut anywhere for under €22, regardless of town or region. So now desperately needing it cut and seeing a sign for €12, we thought ‘how bad could it be’. Well the hair cut wasn’t too terrible, but we hadn’t bargained for the fierce looking Islamic preacher holding forth on the large telly dominating the salon. Fortunately for us we didn’t understand a word he was saying, unlike the other waiting innocents who’d just come in expecting to exchange some hair piece material for a bit of chic ‘Tin Tin style…
For the last couple of nights we’ve enjoyed the uncertainty and adventure of what to expect when staying at a France Passion scheme location. Two nights ago it was a small scale biscuit producer, located in a now no longer used rural school. The proprietor was charming and the biscuits (a regional speciality made with wine) were ok too.
We arrived at the goat farm which is also part of the France Passion scheme, at 5pm just as the goats were about to be milked. It was interesting to watch, the goats knew the routine and apart from a bit of jostling for position they were quickly up the various ramps and connected to the milking machines. This is a family farm and the 3 youngsters 4-6 all played their part. There is no obligation to buy produce, but we bought some goats cheese which nicely complimented our tea.
Straddling the widest stretch of the river is Amboise, an inviting town with a fine old quarter below its hilltop château. Reading the guide it says a castle has overlooked the Loire from here since Roman times.
Leonardo da Vinci retired here…just one more of his many brilliant ideas.
The Italian genius came here in 1516 because it was the royal residence of French King François I. Leonardo packed his bags (and several of his favorite paintings, including the Mona Lisa) and left an imploding Rome for better wine and working conditions. Imagine his résumé and cover letter: “I can help your armies by designing tanks, flying machines, wind-up cars, gear systems, extending ladders, and water pumps.”
Another Leonardo site is the Château Royal d’Amboise — the historic royal residence partially designed by the brilliant Italian. The king who did most of the building — Charles VIII — is famous for accidentally killing himself by walking into a door lintel on his way to a tennis match (seriously).
Having spent too long organising our bike hire, we decided it must be time for lunch. Fortunately the bikes came well equipped with D locks and a barrel combination lock to tie them both together.
We came across this lovely street with lots of quaint old buildings which had been turned into restaurants. For a few days I had been in the mood for a galette with some Bretón cider and we found a perfect place. We opted to sit inside as although sunny we were really cold on the bikes. Lesley had a delicious ham cheese and mushroom galette – she was still raving about it days later
With only half a day we made up our own route, but in spite of a few wrong turnings we still managed to cycle 46kms.
We had a great ride out on the electric bikes but I can’t believe we have agreed to to put our backsides through it all again tomorrow.
It’s become a bit of a habit but as a reward for our hard days cycling we’ve once again chosen to stay at France Passion. This time at the winery Les Pierres de Aurèle near St George sur Cher. Aurèle the owner was lovely and once we’d parked parked Charlie, she arranged for us to have wine tasting straight away. After tasting 1 sparkling, 2 whites and 2 reds, we decided to take both the whites. Then a fizzy red was brought out and that was added to our basket as well.
Dave & Lesley