It's been a while since I've shared a cycling post and I'm aware that in our Loire Cycle Tour I've left you hanging around at the farm at Chenonceau. Not a bad place to hang around, but there's still plenty more from our trip. So as this week I'm contemplating pushing my bike over the threshold, I thought it would be as good a week as any to resume our trip.
So today we're cycling onto Tours and taking an unscheduled detour to Vouvray. Our detour was entirely swayed by the fact it's a wine we recognised! Our route on this trip wasn't taking us near any of the other recognisable wine towns like Chinon or Saumur, so we decided to make the most of the town that was almost on the route, and stop there.
It was a shorter cycle than some of our 'moving on' cycles, so adding a detour, and one that involved wine, made sense. And what made even more sense was heeding the packing offer from MOH for our longer journeys. That meant I packed most of the heavy stuff, and actually most of our stuff in his panniers.
We stopped off in the town of Amboise to buy some lunch to store in my basket and promptly found a whole new, bustling part of town we'd not discovered before. Oops - so if you go there, check out the town properly before you leave, unlike us...
We left Amboise along the river and enjoyed a quiet, peaceful and ambient ride with nods to cyclists coming the other way, the ones that overtook us and the ones we overtook too (yes, there were some!)
As we cycled towards one house my eye was caught by something brightly coloured decorating the wall. I couldn't work out what it was as we approached the house, but as soon as I did, I knew I had to stop because you'd never believe me otherwise, just look.
The whole wall was topped with coffee pots. And mostly they were enamel coffee pots, and made quite a sight. Too many to count, but definitely something to marvel at, and wonder if it was a household that liked coffee, as much as its coffee pots!
There were some hills too, and as usual I was slow up them. I was surprised to be overtaken by a speedy pensioner on one of the hills, until I realised she was on a motorised bike, it was even more of a surprise for MOH when she sped past him too. It actually wasn't the last we'd see of this group of older riders, and they were the only cyclists we met on the whole trip that soured our experience, and not just because they overtook us.
The gents were dressed head to toe in lycra, which is fine, we saw other cyclists who were, but most weren't. It's a leisurely route and unlikely ever to form part of the Tour de France, so it was a bit OTT, as was tagging onto the back of MOH and I as we cycled along, cycling almost on my back wheel. It was quite disconcerting, and in the end we pulled over to let them past so they could cycle how they wanted to without annoying us.
Of course, as is always the way, then they stopped in the next town and so we were ahead of them again. And sure enough, they had to get past us again. We'd nicknamed them Grandad Pelaton by this stage and once again stopped to put some distance between us and them, and if I'm honest I was glad we were doing that detour to Vouvray, as it meant there'd be no further encounters with them; they weren't unpleasant, just pushy.
It was clearly our day to encounter cyclists. Out next encounter was as a couple of cyclists stopped to let us past. Well she did, he cycled on, and again this was fine. Only thing was he didn't realise her chain had come off, we did and so stopped to help her and eventually her OH returned to see what was going on. We are experts at chains on step-over bikes now, which was lucky as her OH was convinced, like we were to start with, that the chain cover didn't need to come off to put the chain back on. But it does, as I said we're experts!
We reached the point of our route where we needed to cross the river to detour into Vouvray. We weren't quite prepared for the size, or busyness of the bridge and seriously reconsidered the alternative route when we saw it. It was one of those large metal structures, without a segregated bike lane and with one of those huge roundabouts to get onto it.
As we'd passed the Grandad Peloton, who'd stopped for a picnic lunch, we decided to continue to Vouvray and hope that wasn't their plan too. So over the bridge we went, and into Vouvray.
The only thing is, it was pretty much shut. But not all of it, it was a small town and what I'd call functional. We popped into the Grands Vins Du Val De Loire (above) and were treated to a fantastic welcome by the proprietor, who was keen to share his wines with us and of course sell us his wares. We tasted a few, bought a bottle of sparkling Vouvray to have with our lunch, which was promptly replaced with a chilled bottle after we shared our plans.
In the end we didn't have it with lunch, but that's because we cycled up the road and found a bar instead. I mean to have a glass of Vouvray in Vouvray, because we could, was an opportunity not to miss. We had second thoughts about buying another bottle we'd tried and so cycled back and bought a second bottle. That gave me a bit more of a packing challenge though, but I managed to find enough space in MOH's panniers for that second bottle, the chilled originally-for-lunch bottle had already been safely stowed in my wicker basket.
The trickiest part about our detour was finding our way back onto the path. We knew we weren't going back over the big bridge and it looked as if there was a route through the town and along the river again. It started off well, and then we missed a sign and ended up cycling along a pretty main road parallel to the river. After a few rather large lorries rattled past us and worried for our new purchases, we realised we could drop down the embankment onto a much safer, and more relaxing route.
So we did, and we finally stopped for lunch too. And didn't drink the bottle of wine.
Our next challenge was to find our hotel in Tours, it was a pretty town to arrive in and by far the biggest town we'd been in for a while, so big it's actually a city and that was a bit of a shock, but not unpleasantly so. As usual I had the address of the hotel in my panniers but no actual directions to find it - that happens a lot, with the bikes and without - but this time we got lucky.
Somehow by following our nose (well, mine actually) we'd found ourselves on the same road as our hotel. It was a wide boulevard with two lanes of traffic either side of a tree lined walkway that was almost as wide as the space for traffic and so very French. It was ideal for cycling up and down looking for the hotel, and we couldn't help but wonder why we don't have something similar for cyclists and pedestrians back home.
With the bikes parked in the garage around the corner, we arrived in our room to find we had our very own view of the boulevard outside. Actually it was a pretty stylish hotel, with plenty of modern touches alongside the classic French decor you imagine you'll find. This light - which turned out to be really hard to photograph - looked great, in that effortlessly French chic style.
And as well as the classic view from our window, the breakfast room provided its own oasis of calm, stealing light from the balcony above with the clever use of glass bricks - that's definitely something I'm storing away in case I ever get to do something similar. I probably won't ever get the chance to, but it was so clever and very effective.
Just imagine how fab it would be to have breakfast out on the terrace surrounded by the lushness of the garden? Sadly it was a little too damp and chilly for that to be a viable option for us, but all wasn't lost as this is the place that introduced me to chestnut spread, which I happily slathered all over my toast and went in search of in the supermarket, so I could bring some home.
Actually that reminds me, it's in the cupboard unopened. How on earth have I let that happen. I'll be right back, I've a jar of chestnut spread to find... and some bread to toast!