Ride Day 8 – Muides-sur-Loire to Orléans – 47 km

We woke to a much cooler day. That heatwave appears to be over, so fingers crossed we get some cooler rides for a while.

We set off early, 8:30 and it was quite chilly! This stretch was quite lovely, very close to the Loire and through some very smart and pretty towns. Dozens of cyclists last us during the day – it really is quite a busy route but not enough to bother us. Very well marked route as usual. Love that when the route involves crossing a road, there is a cyclist “halt all traffic” button. Wish we had these in a few more places!

Beaugency was gorgeous. Found a coffee shop almost immediately at 10:15 and the best coffee so far – and the most expensive at €3.60. Orléans however, went up to €4.10. There is no getting away from it, the Loire is expensive (had coffee in Portugal for €.60 last year).

The scenery is refreshing with plenty of quieter stretches of river bank and then another town, such as the one below. Still, not much in the way of shops, toilets or any other facilities you may want or need. Back home in Dunsborough, with a permanent population of 5000 we have 13 coffee shops. Found only one on route open yesterday in 47km.

Passed a nuclear power station with only one tower puffing out steam. When all the French install an air conditioner soon, two may be going at full power next year!

Reached Orleans at 14:00 and checked into a hotel with aircon – 6 days after we needed it. Ensuring we have a good nights sleep for a change. Did a two hour tour of the city on foot – quite a handsome city and not crowded at all. Noticed the Sales were on but looking in Windows, a T-shirt at €42 was not going to do it, so hope our clothes last the trip!

We met Tony off the train at 18:50.

Quick change and out for a glass of wine while Tony got organised and then out for a rather good meal at a restaurant Tony had booked.

First ride together tomorrow into new territory and away from the Loire. We had realised when booking this trip late last year that accommodation was in short supply or very expensive along the Loire. Nancy suggested we try the Yonne River, so we will head across country over three days to join the Yonne at Auxerre.

Day off – Chambord

Worth noting that if you are on bike, it’s free to get in to the grounds and gardens, cafes etc., with bike parking. We did the whole Chateau. Pretty much spent most of the day there. It’s quite magnificent.

The Double-Helix Staircase (interior photo doesn’t do it justice), 365 fire places, 200 chimneys and 84 staircases. The video of the history, the way they’ve set up the rooms makes it a must visit Chateau. 500th Anniversary Weekend – we didn’t fancy the concert. We cycled in around the parking area on the way in – about five times bigger than Leeuwin! Big horse show Sunday so thankfully it has dropped to mid 30s. Due to heat yesterday it wasn’t that crowded.

The highlight for Julie are the 200 chimneys. You need a lot of fires to keep warm in that place. Nobody could stand living there for long; longest continued residency was 8 years. Freezing in Winter, mosquito infested in Summer. Thankfully, someone drained the swamp at some point. Good job the State took it on. The visitors will keep it going – it’s a well run and organised place now employing many people.

Easy 8km ride out and back and pretty fast with no panniers to carry. Duncan’s pannier rack broke yet again, the other side but luckily he had a bolt to fix it. Fingers crossed it gets us the next 2000 km. Great 3 course dinner at local restaurant- too far to walk but Fanny, our host drove us there and the restaurant called her to collect us. Terrible accommodation but really great host! Another hot night meant not much sleep but Duncan has stopped coughing and on the mend finally.

Off to meet Tony in Orleans tomorrow. We hope to be there by 2pm so we can see the city. Tony due by train at 18:50.

Oddity of the week – if you have a small apartment, why not get a combination hob/oven/dishwasher.

Ride Day 7 – Amboise to Muides-sur-Loire – 67 km

Well I guess we won’t forget riding on the hottest ever recorded day in France! It reached 45.9 somewhere South – I think we topped 40 but it’s the hot headwinds and no shade that stuff us up.

Had a day off in Amboise to visit Au Chateau due Clos Lucé to visit not only the Chateau but the gardens, where small scale models and full size replicas of Leonardo de Vinci’s genius and bonkers drawings have been brought to life. It’s the 500th Anniversary of his Death and he died here, age 67. We’ve seen his bedroom and his bed and the dozen or so paintings depicting it, so it’s true. Didn’t know he was a vegetarian. There are so many copies of the Mona Lisa but the original tapestry of The Last Supper is here on loan from the Vatican. Quite worth the traipse in the heat and the €42 entry fee.

We took way too many photos, so make do with this one – part of Leonardo’s studio.

Then a rest and off to the Chateau. We stayed in the smallest house we’ve ever been in – neither of us could actually go into the toilet and close the door – smaller than an airline loo but it was so convenient to walk to everything. We had to sleep on the sofa bed downstairs as it was close to 50 degrees upstairs and no aircon.

There is only one benefit to it being 40 degrees – there aren’t many people about. Practically had the place to ourselves. Everything has been Spring Cleaned for this year, to the point of it looking new! Loved the gardens and the view and the robots mowing the lawns.

The next morning, we set the alarm for 6am. We left as early as possible with a packed lunch. First 40kms were bearable. We met two cyclists from Switzerland/France and swapped the usual stories. They said the best ride ever was in Brittany north of Nantes, which Tony loved too, so we will put that on the list.

We had some shade and the scenery was just lovely most of the way. We stocked up with water in Blois after a picnic. It was only 19km to ride but the water was hot after 30 minutes and the last 10 km unbearable with no shade whatsoever. We stopped to ask a lady at her gate if we could refill our bottles from her tap and she blankly refused. In over 40 degrees this was an unexpected response. Julie regretted pouring some of the cold water we had bought over her head.

Stopped for fresh baguette to go with our chicken pate and salad.

We arrived at our accommodation at 4.30. We chose this place for its close proximity to Chateau Chambord. It’s a small duplex townhouse “Maison Fanny” on a busy road, fairly basic and no aircon again. We were so exhausted, after a cold shower, we got a takeaway pizza and collapsed. Duncan slept downstairs on the single sofa, Julie upstairs in the hot box. A good nights sleep seems a far off dream!

Day 6 – Vendôme to Amboise – 32 km

We were lucky today to be able to stay in our accommodation until we needed to ride to the train station, a 5 km slow slog up a hill. Interesting experience this train lark with bikes. The tickets said coach 16, the TV screen told us where to stand. Train ( 5 min late due to heat) approaches and the Station Guard leaps forward saying we cannot put bikes on and demands to see Duncan’s ticket, which Duncan finds on his phone. He says no bikes are booked, Duncan insists they are. It’s stressful enough but we are then told we need to be at Coach 2 – so we have to run down the platform (everyone else meanwhile is already on board). We have to remove all bags to get the bikes on as these are trains with small doors. Talk about nerve wracking. This was it for trains, so if we missed it, it would be pretty catastrophic. However, at €1.30 each per minute, probably the best money spent so far as we sped by field after hot field. 50 km in 20 minutes.

We are now on the officially longest off road bike route in the world (or so the various websites tell us). All we can say is, within the first ten minutes we are on normal roads and then there is a track which runs alongside a major highway with trees between and the Loire. After fifteen kms we are quite a way inland. we get a bit of river at the end but overall, scenically, it’s not as nice as where we’ve been so far. Below our first view of the Loire.

We pass through a small town and they have a bar, so a beer grande is ordered for Duncan and we sit in the shade. It’s 39 degrees but feels like 45 as the wind is hot off the Sahara. Would we cycle into Dunsborough in +40 – no, I don’t think so!

Below, front and back of our accommodation (green door). Looks average and hearts sank on arrival. Trouble is this is American tourist central. I guess if we had paid $500 a night we would have a view and aircon but we didn’t, we paid $80 but we have two months and not 7 days.

Back. It however is quite nice and interior is up to the minute IKEA!

On looking upstairs where the main bedroom is, the temperature is close to 50, so we make up the bed settee. Cold showers before heading out across the river to a bar with a view of the Chateau. Julie had an enormous G&T which was spectacular and very cold. Dinner at a very nice Bistro where we sat inside for the air conditioning and lack of smokers. Excellently cooked cod and duck. Day off from riding tomorrow.

Ride Day 5 – Bonneval to Vendome – 74 km

Second attempt as first disappeared or melted like we did yesterday. There is a heatwave here. We woke in air conditioning, had an early and very good breakfast and left at 9:30. It’s harder to leave earlier when breakfast is involved as most places do 8:30-10:30. Here was our hotel but we were in one of the units out the back as the main hotel had a plumbing issue. We got upgraded for no extra cost.

Quite delightful ride between Bonneval and Chateaudun, cool with breeze.

Chateaudun is well worth a visit – a well preserved town of many grand houses and a quite spectacular Chateau. Unfortunately, due to our long day and no tours in English, we skipped the interior. The view from the river on the way out was fantastic.

It is after this that we started to wonder why we had mapped such a long day. It’s not easy finding anything between large towns.

Photo above over Le Loir, the actual Loire starts at Tours for us now.

There was no shade on the ride for 90% of the time today. The wind was hot and strong, so cycling uphill into a strong hot wind and over 35 degrees was exhausting. We stopped for water and long rests. We could not have cycled any further today.

Tonight ‘s accomodation is a little odd. We’re in a small building in the back corner away from the chateau, because we wanted self-contained with a washing machine. Bought food from L’Eclerc, just down the road- pate, cheese, bread, apple tarts, wine – perfect. No air conditioning- not so perfect!

With the heat predicted higher on Wednesday, we are now going to take the train to Tours and cycle the Loire to Amboise. Duncan’s cold is not good. Without this, hay fever (Dust and Dander it seems to be called here), very hot temperatures, we could have probably done another 75 km but with the tar melting on this ride, we weren’t game to try it.

All in all however, the signposts for this route are outstanding, not to mention the logos on the road. It’s impossible to get lost. In lower temperatures it would be perfect.

Ride Day 4 – Chartres to Bonneval – 59 km

Pretty much 2 km out of town and we are in farming country. Wheat being the main crop. Julie recalls Rick saying France produced more than Australia – she may have got that wrong, but for 60 km, that’s pretty much all we saw, interspersed with Broad beans, French beans and corn.

Here is the route, which was the official route but very much around the houses.

Peaceful lanes, nothing much to look at other than the small farming villages and not a Patisserie in sight. Just as well we found a huge out of town Super Marche to buy tissues, biscuits and the all important inner tubes, with a cafe that did excellent salads – perfect for lunch. we’ve also picked up colds – no doubt from travelling on public transport !

About 10 km out of Chartres, we bump into these two. Is it only mad Australians who do these long trips? They started in Porto the same date we did last year and they had cold, wet weather for quite a while too. They followed the EV1 as we did last year – just under 2000 kms and camping! Everyone has a tip. The Sydney siders said that a $5 note is the best insulation in the tyre if you are doing a repair – they had four punctures yesterday.

We reached Bonneval town early due to a strong wind behind us, more than the occasional head wind. A quick look around the town – Church, medieval centre and then a few kms to our accommodation. A rather Grand old place run by the same couple of thirty years. Was a five star restaurant once but they are semi retired after an accident and no longer run the restaurant. However, when we booked, they agreed to cook us a meal. Their cellar is amazing. Duncan said it’s like a bottle shop with a hotel attached.

Very large, quiet room with patio. I think we are only the second people staying. It’s on the market but as Tony confirms, it’s not easy to sell French property.

Ride Day 3 – Rambouillet to Chartres – 54 km

We are reminded today why we love doing this so much. The changing scenery, quiet lanes and roads, well marked cycling paths, convenient places to stop for lunch, the politeness of drivers. When all this is combined with great weather and an exciting destination, the sore backsides and legs, punctures and other little irritations (the non existent public toilets), quickly fall away. Punctures are fixed with great efficiency, pants are dropped for a quick piddle and humour exchanged to forget the sore bits.

We are following Scenic Velo Route 40. Signs at every junction. Plenty of forests again, small towns and villages, getting quieter as we move further away from Paris.

Like last year, we are cycling on The Way, but this time we are 1600km north of Santiago de Compostella.

We have to use a lot of restraint when choosing lunch as the Patisseries have such a fabulous selection. Our excuse not to buy one of everything comes from the fact we only have a small cool bag in which to fit it!

Arrived in Chartres around 15:30 – our host was expecting us. Nice apartment in the grounds of what can only be described as an old mansion with eclectic interior. We think they must have been antique dealers and just kept everything they couldn’t sell. It’s lovely however and after cleaning up we walked into the centre. We just happened to time our visit with the 25th Anniversary Breast Cancer run with about 10,000 people ready for the off. It’s light until 22:30 so they run at night. Needless to say it was a little busy. We had a rather healthy dinner of fish and quinoa it the. Ruined it with cheese!

Today was a day off, so after breakfast we went on a walking tour of the town. It’s Sunday and surprisingly quiet. A delightful city, well worthy of a visit, the highlight being the Notre Dame Cathedral. We spent considerable time in there – the original stained glass from the 1300s is stunning. 176 windows with 12,000 scenes. The carvings are stunning too. We took a lot of photos, so here are one or two.

Notre Dame Cathedral with sample of stained glass below

Quiet back streets. They light the entire lot up from 22:30 so it’s going to be a late night!

Ride Day 2 – Orsay to Rambouillet – 41 km

What a difference a day makes … 24 little hours!

We woke to clear blue sky. Despite being on a main road, we heard nothing and slept as the double glazing worked it’s magic. Our host prepared a lovely typical breakfast, which her daughter and boyfriend shared with us. They live in Clovelley in Sydney and were here for her sisters Wedding last week. Gorgeous house with a curved oak staircase. They waved us off.

Before we start, below is a photo of our two rescuers from yesterday, Philippe and Dominique, without whom, we wouldn’t be going anywhere today.

As you can see from the route below, it’s mainly through green stuff.

Village, small towns, quiet roads, patisserie after patisserie – Julie wanting to stop at all but we resisted. This is a wealthy, upmarket area where a basic house will set you back half a million but with its close proximity to Paris, it’s no wonder. The shops here close at 13:00 and reopen at 15:30, so we managed to just reach a village with a delightful patisserie around 12:50. Cheese and ham baguette followed by a tart citron for €5.50 for the two of us.

Once we joined the managed forests and their smooth linked straight roads, it was a dream ride with the only sound being the tyres on the surface and bird song. The weather was warm in the sun but still cool. Overall, there couldn’t have been a more perfect ride.

Arrived in Rambouillet at 4pm. After washing all the gear from two days, we visited the Chateau – literally opposite our hotel. The gardens are the draw here with many acres of paths and 60km of the managed forest tracks on the doorstep. Marianne Antoinette lived here and had a little dairy in the grounds, leading her to believe she was farming. Thanks to her “let them eat cake”, the French rule of baking twice a day and setting the price for bread seems to still be successful.

Much nicer town than we anticipated- again, very upmarket. The food shops were spectacular and if we were self catering for a few days we could certainly eat extremely well – for a price. What was €1 in Sicily was €4.50 here (small melon). We were so tired that we ate at a bistro just outside the hotel and had a very good three courses and half a bottle. We went to bed while it was still very light outside.

Ride Day 1 – Asfordby to Orsay – 30km

We have always been nervous about this first day as there were too many things we couldn’t control such as trains, bad weather etc. We set off from Asfordby at 8.25. It wasn’t raining, so that was a bonus.

As we were riding into Melton, just 3km down the road, Duncan noticed the rear of his bike was wobbling. Turns out a bolt had sheared off the pannier rack. As we had no alternative but to catch the train, in a sequence of three, we carried on, with slight panic setting in at the train station.

Cursing we didn’t find this when we had Dads workshop at hand. Tricky with bikes on trains but we got through to Gare du Nord. To put it mildly, Paris was heaving, it was rush hour and people wandering aimlessly on our cycle lanes. Totally nerve wrecking and Julie swore again she wouldn’t attempt a further arrival or departure in a Paris Train Station. Duncan swapped his heavier bags with Julie and carried his backpack.

Going by Notre Dame on a nice bit of path and the roads and tracks got easier but it was very slow. The bike rack was getting worse and the mudguard was now rubbing on the tyre. A voice called out from behind and another cyclist joined us. Duncan explained he was having difficulty. The cyclist said he lived not far away and had some bolts, drills etc., so, off we went with Phillip to his apartment building and for the next 2 hours, he and Duncan set about fixing the bike. this involved a lot of work and Phillip even removing bolts from his own bike! We had called our accommodation to let them know we had a problem and to hold the room.

We were about 14 km from our destination and it was now gone 9.30pm. Phillip called his friend Dominic who turned up with a large Citroen, removed the seats in the back and we loaded in the bikes and all our bags. Quite honestly, without the help of these two strangers, we would have been totally stuffed. Phillip will be following our blog and he is welcome to visit us in Yallingup anytime he wants.

Our hosts greeted us at 10.20 as they had waited up for us. We dumped the bags in the room and as luck would have it, the only restaurant (gourmet Moroccan) across the street was still open. We went straight over in our gear, having worn it for 16 hours and ate a delicious but fast meal, returned at 11.30 for a shower and sleep, except 30 mins at 2am for work. Totally exhausted.

Breakfast in 30 minutes. A short ride to Rambouillet today and as Tony has written to say it’s the first time in a long time he has woken to a clear blue sky. Fear not Tony, the Sun and rescue team are here!

Now, to find alternative gear today as there was no washing last night.

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