Coffee pots, Vouvray and arriving in Tours

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.

Cycling along the coloured top of the wall caught my eye, and I wondered what it was decorated with
It was only when I was close up that I recognised the colourful additions as coffee pots, each and every one of them
And there was some serious collecting going on as they stretched the whole length of the wall

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.

we cycled past vineyards too today which kind of made us thirsty

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.

Our unscheduled stop in Vouvray where we decided to buy and try some of the wine of the same name

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. 

The view from our room in Tours

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.

the stunning light fitting in the hotel stairway which sadly my photo doesn't do justice too

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.

They'd made the most of getting light into the space with these glass blocks forming the balconies above
A small outside space for guests which was an oasis of green in the city

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!

A fine farm for florists and regal roses

Today I'm taking you to another part of the Chateau de Chenonceau estate, and a part you might not have heard of before, the farm. Yes I wasn't expecting to find one here either, and it was a lovely discovery. Especially as it was so pretty. And so French. We approached past the duck pond who, as you'd expect living so close to such a grand chateau also had some rather plush duck accommodation.

The 16th century farm buildings at chateau de chenonceau
Could this farm at Chateau de Chenonceau look any more French

The farm is a group of 16th century buildings and includes Catherine de' Medici's stables. One of the buildings houses a floral workshop where two florists work all year round creating the stunning flower arrangements which I've already shared. And it provides easy access to the vegetable and flower gardens nearby. But before we go there, just look at this honeysuckle I spotted. It's huge, and was lovely and fragrant when we visited, but growing in a way - like a cordon - that I'd not seen before.

honeysuckle at chateau de chenonceau grown as a cordon and in a way i've not seen before

Moving through one of the farm's arches, I got my first glimpse of the productive part of the garden. And I wasn't surprised at how orderly it was. I loved the grass between the crops - which is a similar approach I have in my allotment, it's just that in my allotment the grass is almost knee high!

My first glimpse of the orderly flower and vegetable garden at chateau de chenonceau

The cordoned fruit trees were in fruit too. And I promise when I took the picture below I was still on the right side of the path.

looking down on the miniature fruit trees bordering the vegetable and flower beds at chateau de chenonceau

There's twelve square plots each of them edged with apple trees and Queen Elizabeth rosebushes, hence the regal roses reference in the title. And lots of alliteration throughout this post. The whole space covers more than a hectare and like many of the potagers we visited is pretty as well as functional. 

Throughout the garden there was added interest, with wicker ornaments and metal wells. The sunflowers were growing tall and strong. And straight. Take a look at how thick their stems are. 

An archway with flowers growing over it at chateau de chenonceau
strong sunflowers growing straight, tall and in a line in the flower garden at chateau de chenonceau
the garden at chateau de chenonceau was interspersed with some intriguing items like this well head

And we were there when the peonies were out. They are still a June favourite of mine and were part of my wedding bouquet too. I always wonder at how they stay upright with their heavy blooms, and it seems they don't always. I think if I were a peony I'd be like this too.

the peonies in the flower garden at chateau de chenonceau struggled to stay upright

Actually if I was a peony I'd be more like these fuschia ones!

it seems the cerise peonies at chateau de chenonceau were heavier than the lighter coloured counterparts

What struck me about the roses - apart from the sheer volume of bushes in flower - was the supports they were growing up and against. Most were growing against quite humble wire fencing. But how it transformed it.

the regal roses growing in the flower garden at chateau de chenonceau
And white lilies also grown in abundance in the flower garden at chateau de chenonceau

In other parts of the garden there were bushes of lilies growing like I've never seen before. But if you've a house the size of Chenonceau to keep in fresh flower arrangements then it makes sense. These also look like they've got their own irrigation system too.

The heritage greenhouses are also hosts to roses, these ones were the palest of peach which complemented the stonework so well.

climbing roses on a wall at chateau de chenonceau making a pretty entrance to the working greenhouses


Close to the greenhouses I spotted an extra pot similar to those around the wall in Diane de Poitiers gardenalthough here it was planted with some spare santolini, rather than geraniums. Well, I assume it was spare. I guess using as much as they do in the formal gardens, it's always worth having some spare. 

some spare santolini at chateau de chenonceau no doubt for emergency use in the formal gardens

And it's a plant that is going on my plant list. I've been stalking it for a while so next year, is the year. Remind me if I forget!

Before I go, a puzzle. In the squash bed there were several of these wicker baskets on a stick (that's my name for them) and I've no idea what they're for. We've considered all sorts, but each of our suggestions seem just a little too odd, but maybe our ideas aren't quite as far fetched as we think. 

and a puzzle too, what are these wicker baskets amongst the squash plants in the vegetable garden at chateau de chenonceau for

If you know why the ten gardeners, who keep the gardens at Chenonceau so well kept, have "planted" these wicker baskets, please leave me a comment and let me know. And if you don't know for sure what they're for, I'd love to hear some of your wacky suggestions too.

Soon we'll be back on the bikes and back on the Loire a Velo cycle path heading towards Tours, which was the last stop - and biggest town - on our trip. I've mixed feelings about Tours. I love a big town, but had been enjoying the smaller countryfied towns and villages. I was pleased to get to Tours as I was keen to visit Villandry, but equally being in Tours and visiting Villandry meant our trip would soon be over, and that was less pleasing. But all that's for another day, until then let me know about those wicker baskets on sticks!

Through the windows at Chenonceau

Today I thought it'd be fun to look out the windows of Chateau de Chenonceau and in doing so make the most of it's unique selling point, which is of course that it's a chateau that spans the river. Which makes for some unusual and unexpected views. On our visit it was an overcast day and light rain had just started as we locked up our bikes. It held off, but just imagine how spectacular the views over the River Cher would have been on a gloriously sunny day, and equally how they might be on days much worse than when we visited.

Looking over the River Cher

There are windows on every level, even in the kitchen which is on the lowest levels. The windows do get more fancy, as you'd expect, as the rooms get grander. The simple window above gives a great view over the river, but the patterned window below is much prettier to look at.

leaded windows at chateau de chenonceau
a close up of the leaded lights at Chenonceau

In the Gallery the windows are much more grand. And arched into alcoves. I like how the panes here pick up the pattern of the classic black and white marble floor. Simple but very effective and demonstrates how repeating patterns just works.

An arched window in The Gallery

As we entered the chateau, I'd spotted people standing on a small balcony above the front door and made a mental note to find our way there. And that happened just as we finished walking through and admiring Katherine Briçonnet's hall, and from the small balcony you can look down to the entrance and over to the Marques tower. The forecourt in front of the tower traces the medieval fortress.

Standing above the front door

Katherine Briçonnet was the wife of Thomas Bohier, who in the 16th century demolished the fortified castle in order to build the chateau. The fortress belonged to the Marques family and all that they left was the keep, the Marques tower, which they renovated in Renaissance style.

Looking towards the Marques Tower

From other parts of the chateau there are great views of Catherine's garden on the left, and Diane's garden on the right.





And before we leave, there's just one more window to show you. Remember that grand front door? Well above it is an arched stained glass window, which as we left we got a great view of

The impressive stained glass above the impressive front door at Chenonceau

So plenty of windows, with great views and lots of detail. I hope you've enjoyed a closer look at this pretty chateau.