The first of our cycling adventures on our Loire holiday had been hastily replanned so to avoid the extraordinary flooding at Orleans. Instead of cycling from Orleans to Beaugency, we set out from Blois and followed the Loire à Vélo path in the opposite direction to which we'd planned. And the opposite way to the detailed route in our guide book.
On paper it made sense to do it, but as we started out on our first ride we weren't sure how easy it would be. It turned out we had nothing to worry about as the path was easily signposted and easy to follow.
We left our hotel - the Hotel Le Monarque - after admiring their TinTin memorabilia. I tell you, if you're going to theme your decor you can learn a lot from this hotel. It was tastefully done but didn't overwhelm either the space or its visitors. As I said in my round up post I wasn't sure of the TinTin connection, but just by walking through the hotel, I knew there was one!
As we checked out we saw the sign for "Panier Pique-Nique" and immediately wished we'd seen it sooner. No sarnies in sight for this deluxe lunch and I was particularly intrigued as to what the Creme caramel would be like...
And then I noticed there was wine included too. How very civilised I thought. And by now doubly regretting my lack of attention to detail on arrival. We were only taking one pannier each to Beaugency (having dumped our extra clothes in our car in the station car park), so we - that's the Royal we there - would have had room to accommodate these.
The idea was banked for another day. Back to the cycling.
We headed down the hill in Blois - phew - and across the bridge, then headed left along the river. We soon got into the hang of looking out for the path and were happily cycling along until bam!
Yes, there was no way past that. So we backtracked half a kilometre or so until there was easy access to the road above which runs parallel to the river, and cycled along the road until we reached St Dyè. The road was relatively quiet, well surfaced and easy to ride along. There was some traffic but it was far from cycling on the roads in London.
We were making good progress and decided food was needed. Our pique-nique was nowhere near as grand as the one advertised in the hotel, but fresh baguette, local cheese followed by some just ripe apricots wasn't so bad. And nor was our view.
I think this is the prettiest - and most enticing - set of steps I've seen in a while. And while I was itching to pop up there and explore, but less keen to bump the bike up there and back. But what if it was just a housing estate up there? Unlikely, I think, but I chose not to explore liking instead the intrigue and leaving it to my imagination.
The rest of our cycle was uneventful, the gorgeous scenery continued and it was easy to find Beaugency - it was clearly signposted and once off the path we headed towards the centre of the town and started what would become our customary end of cycle routine - finding somewhere to enjoy a refreshing beer!
And I needed one as I made a bit of an entrance into Beaugency. As we were deciding which way to go, I pulled into the kerb and completely misjudged it and parted ways with my bike. I've no idea how but I did, and it seemed to go in slow motion and I ended up on the pavement. Quite embarrassing really, but no damage at all not even a scraped knee.
We found our hotel by cycling around a bit, well it was a small town and I was confident I knew what it looked like. And I knew I'd know it when I saw it. MOH was less sure of this approach but sure enough, it was easy to find - just don't ask me how! I went inside and we were soon being led into the secure garage come courtyard garden.
This was full of shabby-chic style items for real, and it was fab! I think there's a whole other blog post on my findings, and how by having a bike you see places you might not otherwise see, so I'll leave that for another day. We opted to leave our bikes just by the trailer and in front of the bins and the armoire. They were undercover and secure and safe in that knowledge once we'd taken our things to our room and freshened up, we set about exploring the town on foot.
Need to know
Hotel Le Monarque in Blois
Great breakfast, tastefully TinTin themed decor, Panier Pique-Niques available and covered bike storage in the courtyard car park. Free wifi and friendly on reception. It's located at the top of the hill in Blois - so I was glad we were leaving, not arriving - but well placed to wander into town of an evening; there's some good restaurants nearby - we tried two of them - and there's a restaurant in the hotel too (untried).
Le Relais des Templiers in Beaugency
Another great breakfast in this traditional French hotel. Our room was simply decorated, but no less comfortable for it. It was another well located hotel and the owner recommended two restaurants close by. After a walk around the town we tried one of them and I had the largest piece of Bavette steak I've ever had - it was a hit! The bike storage here was in the garage and it's one of the places where you get to see behind the scenes all because you've got a bike.
This is a well signposted and ever growing route which links the towns of the Loire Valley. There are plenty of accredited hotels all of which are located within 5km of the path. There's also a special Loire à Vélo train which runs between the towns, although we were a couple of weeks too early for that, and there's much more information to help you plan your trip on the site. Thoroughly recommend the site and the trail.