A cycle in Kent in the sun

It's been a while since we've headed out on our bikes and so with a good forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend we found ourselves trying to choose the least warm day for a bit of cycle, not often that happens is it? Usually on a Bank Holiday we'd be trying to guess which day would be least wet... 

Indeed.

We opted for Sunday for our ride and while it was warm, Monday was expected to be warmer. I've had a bit of a wobble with my bike lately, since I picked it up from its service. The brakes have been readjusted and are super efficient, I think I'd got so used to them being much looser than it gave me a bit of a surprise!  

I've also struggled to get the saddle height right since then too. When we left the shop it was too high so coupled with new brakes and not being able to reach the ground (that's not so good) the cycle home was trickier than it should have been. We readjusted the saddle height but then it was too low and I felt as if my knees were reaching my ears as I cycled, and it was painful too. 

We did get it better, I think it still needs some adjustment but I need to regain my confidence with it before we adjust it again. So when MOH suggested a cycle this weekend, he must have been wondering what he was letting himself in for.

He did the sensible thing though and suggested we started with food, and so we found ourselves ordering a cooked breakfast at the Riverside Tea Room in Eynsford seventeen seconds before they stopped serving breakfasts - not bad going - and I'm glad we did, it was a great breakfast. 

Full of poached egg, sausage, beans, bacon and toast we set off following one of the routes in the Lost Lanes book, which I've had for a while and which we've often looked at but not cycled any of the routes until this weekend.  As we left Eynsford it was uphill and I overtook a walking cyclist in full lycra and if I'm honest, he seemed as shocked as I was.

My bike was the only one with a basket I saw all day, and it did get some looks from those with road bikes and the lycra, but I did ok. I tired towards the end of the ride, and it was only when we got home that MOH let on that there was some debate online about this ride's rating as moderate, some suggesting it should be marked strenuous. Hmmn.

The map of our route
the stats from my cycle

There were a couple of hills - around Shoreham - that I struggled with. My seven gears simply weren't enough. I've discovered I'm better with hills that are more gentle, even if they're longer than those that have a steeper incline. There were two of those that I ran out of gears for and so opted to get off and walk. It was hot too, and the two bottles of water I took were later supplemented by an extra bottle of water, and still wasn't enough. 

After Shoreham I really had had enough and made the decision to cut short the second part of the ride and head along the A225 on the more direct route back to the car. It was a busy road, but not that busy, and I was done with hills.  There were some of those gentler incline hills on our way back to Eynsford station, but given the road we were on I knew I needed to keep going, and so I did.

Along our route though there were plenty of pretty Kent villages - and considering we were something like twenty five minutes and fifteen miles from home - it was a world apart from our South London streets:

THE MILL TOWER IN SOUTH DARENTH WHICH APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN "CLING FILMED"

THE MILL TOWER IN SOUTH DARENTH WHICH APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN "CLING FILMED"

 
ADMIRING THE ARCHITECTURAL STYLE IN FARNINGHAM

ADMIRING THE ARCHITECTURAL STYLE IN FARNINGHAM

 
THE LION HOTEL IN FARNINGHAM

THE LION HOTEL IN FARNINGHAM

 
THE KENT COUNTRYSIDE

THE KENT COUNTRYSIDE

 
LULLINGSTONE CASTLE

LULLINGSTONE CASTLE

 
SOMEHOW, THIS DIDN'T LOOK OUT OF PLACE

SOMEHOW, THIS DIDN'T LOOK OUT OF PLACE

So a successful ride, if not a slightly shorter one than MOH hoped for, and a slightly hotter one than I'd hoped for too. And I think I've overcome that wobble I mentioned too, so it's likely that I'll be using it at least a couple of days to get to work this week.

And the rest of the day was spent recovering on a sun lounger in the garden... It would have been rude not to!

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Arriving at Chambord by bike

After looking around the pretty town of Beaugency we were back on the bikes and cycling towards Blois. Rather than take the same route as the day before we decided to head inland once we reached St Dyé towards Chambord. We'd seen the Loire à Vélo signs the day before and were confident it wouldn't add too many miles onto our journey. 

But first we had to get to St Dyé. I hadn't taken many photos on this part of our cycle so I planned to put that right. Starting with this quaint little building. I'm sure it had a practical use but it looked pretty too.

Heading to Chambord by bike from Beaugency past picturesque fields

As we cycled close to where we'd had lunch the previous day we agreed to stop and slap on some suntan lotion as we could start to feel it burning through the clouds. We've caught the sun on cloudy-but-warm cycles before and didn't want to get caught out again.  And this pretty setting for a bench made the perfect place for that. The hedgerows behind were covered in elderflower and their scent was starting to make itself known.

A bench with a view and scents of elderflower
The hedgerows were full of elderflower - a shame we couldn't pick any to make elderflower cordial!

On the move again we cycled steadily along to St Dyé and paused to admire the full river.  And it was hard to imagine this pretty, sleepy village as the former river port for Chambord, where all of the building materials arrived. It's hard to believe now isn't it?

On the banks of the Loire - and a full river at that
The quai at St Dye where all the building materials passed through
The village of St Dye is pretty and holds a history you wouldn't imagine

My plan was to wander around the village and take even more photos, a plan that had the approval of MOH too. But after heading past three Swiss cyclists and stopping for a beer, when we left the bar the photographs were forgotten as we didn't want to be overtaking them again. And so it wasn't long before we found ourselves at the entrance to the estate of Chambord and this rather charming lodge. 

The Lodge at the entrance to the Chambord estate

The stag between the first floor windows made me smile and I hoped was an indication of the grandeur that awaited us. And well, I wasn't wrong or disappointed.

our first view of the chateau de chambord

We cycled around the edge of the main grounds to get the shot above and cycled much closer for the shot below. The week before our visit the chateau had been shut as they fought to keep the rising waters away from it, so it was really good to see it open. In fact it was a relaxed type of place and one that didn't object to people cycling around the grounds, even close to the outer wall.

Getting a bit closer to Chambord and looking at the detail

After posing for some photos and then taking even more we found a bench with a view to eat our baguette and cheese of the day. Not a bad view was it? 

So today we had our first glimpse at a proper chateau, just from the outside. We would go in, but not today as we still had to get ourselves to Blois, 11 miles or so further on. The other reason for not going in today was I hadn't been organised enough to buy my chateau-multi-ticket - or the Pass Châteaux de la Loire (see below) - online and that was a job for tomorrow in Blois.

Need to know

Loire à Vélo cycling trail

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.

Chateau de Chambord

it's probably one of the most well-known chateaus in France and work started in 1519. Amazingly it wasn't built as a permanent residence.  It was included on the first historical monuments list in France in 1840; the forest and wall were listed in 1997. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

Pass Châteaux de la Loire

I'd love to say that I found this with my extensive pre-holiday research, and I did find it before we went but just not in enough time to buy online, so luckily the tickets were also available from the Tourist Office in Blois.  If you're visiting the Loire and have chateaux in your sights then take a look at the many options to buy a multi-ticket. 

Cycling to Beaugency on the Loire à Vélo path

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.  

a small part of the memorabilia in our hotel in Blois

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! 

pannier picnics

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! 

image.jpg

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.

lunch with a view and just look at how blue the skies are

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 most enticing steps

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.

the secret garden at our hotel in beaugency

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.

secure bike storage in beaugency

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. 

Loire à Vélo cycling trail

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.