Monday, 30 June 2014

Cycling in France

Maldwyn and I, and three other Sustrans rangers from Derby and South Derbyshire, have been doing a ride in May/June every year since 2009, when we pedalled the Lôn Las Cymru from Holyhead to Newport. Since then, each year we have been alternating between a region of the British Isles and France. This year, our third French ride, it was the Loire à Vélo from Orléans to Nantes - about 260 miles over 5 days. This is a fabulous cycle-route, forming part of Eurovelo 6 which runs from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. We followed for the most part the mighty River Loire, which the routes crosses several times, but also the rivers Cher, Indre and Vienne, passing by several famous châteaux (and visiting a couple) and stopping at many equally famous towns: Blois, Tours, Saumur, Bouchemaine (near Angers). We slept in 3 Formula 1 hotels, a youth hostel originally a tobacco factory, a mobile home on a campsite and, on our penultimate night, in bunk beds on a traditional Loire fishing boat! Most of the cities mentioned have modern tram systems, and in Tours in particular trams are the only vehicles allowed in a busy bike- and pedestrian-friendly area in the city center.  The Loire à Vélo is not unlike a Sustrans route, with some excellent stretches of purpose-built greenway, but it also uses minor and quiet roads. The weather was kind to us: mostly sunny intervals with a bit of rain on a couple of days, but less than was predicted before our ride started! Click here for a link to the Loire à Vélo website. Zoom in for very detailed maps. Pictures: (1) Europe Bridge, Orléans (2) the old bridge at Beaugency (3) château de Chambord (4) coffee pots on a wall (5) central Tours (6) Tours cathedral (7) useful bike shop and café at Bréhémont (8) château d'Ussé (9) tyre-pumping station at Bouchemaine (didn't actually work, as we were there out of the high season!) (10) our floating hotel - traditional Loire boat called a 'toue' at La Possonnière (11) official LàV signage - Eurovelo 6!