Atlantic to Orleans - the Loire a velo

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April 29th 2014
Published: May 27th 2014
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Looking back to the seaLooking back to the seaLooking back to the sea

Wow, we discovered sand dunes can be really big and hard work to cycle up on little bikes. Taking a photo is a good excuse to stop and get your breath back.

Atlantic to Orleans

After successfully riding from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic (see last blog) we stayed at Lacunau-Ocean for 4 nights . Great little place, really good for cycling. We rode loops north and south through casuarina plantations, with views to the sea when on the coastal side and views over the inland lagoons when on the inland side. Sand dunes can be deceptively high, but without luggage they weren’t too bad. From there we rode back to Bordeaux, a long ride with some interesting company. Loved the cyclists who were travelling with their cat and dog in the cycle trailer.

Bordeaux is great, I particularly like the Bordeaux waterfront which has everything. Eg the skateboard park has three levels, one for little kids with the highest point only about 500mm high. Then there is one for the experienced, with drops from about 1.5 to 2m. Then there is one that is only for the truly insane, the half pipe is over 3m! The mirror pool varies between being only about an 2 to 4 cm deep to having fountains spray up in a grid pattern every metre or so. Kids, young and old, love it.
Cycle touring for the whole familyCycle touring for the whole familyCycle touring for the whole family

If you don't have kids, take the dog and the cat in the bike trailer.

We loved Bordeaux, the old buildings, restaurants etc. We were not that impressed with the train station. There is a lift down to the access passages under the different platforms, but none back up to the platforms. When you add to that the fact that no train station in France puts up the platform that your train will depart from until 15 minutes prior to the departure of the train you have a recipe for stress. With our bikes packed into their bags we have two heavy bike bags and two bags with clothes etc to get on to the train. The start line is under the monitor on which the platform info will be given, then a mad dash to the spot where the other person waits with the luggage, a hectic few minutes to carry the bags to the correct set of stairs, up the stairs and then a race up and down the platform trying to locate our carriage on the train. Then heavy duty weight lifting to get the bags on board and stowed in the baggage compartments (if there is space), followed by a huge sigh of relief as we sink exhausted into our
Saumur ChateauSaumur ChateauSaumur Chateau

This one had so many turrets and spires it is my belief it is the inspiration of many an illustration in children's fairy books
seats. To be fair, Bordeaux is not the only station that feels that if you can’t carry your bags easily up and down steep flights of stairs you shouldn’t be catching a train- this lack of lifts is common.

Well, we made it safely on to the train and hence to Nantes, our starting point for the cycle trip up the Loire Valley. The cycle path is beautifully marked and the scenery is amazing. Great villages, amazingly preserved, chateaus and castles that belong on the pages of fairy stories, vineyards and nature reserves- we loved it.

What we particularly like about cycle touring is the pace. We seldom have to be anywhere particular at a specific time and we allow lots of time to get there, so we have time to stop and chat, stay over in a place if we like it etc. We love cycling through the country side, through little villages with stone and timber buildings that have been there for centuries. Many of the Chambre d’Hotes we have stayed in have been hundreds of years old (with modern renovations, particularly with respect to bathrooms- thank goodness).

We enjoy the conversations with our hosts,
Typical cycle pathTypical cycle pathTypical cycle path

Just a relaxing pedal along tree lined pathways, bordered by fields or forests, canal or rivers. Always changing.
sometimes they put us to shame with the number of languages they speak, other times the conversations are aided by lots of gestures, sometimes with help from google translate on a phone or tablet, but all have in common a lot of goodwill and laughter, often at misunderstandings or mispronunciations.

Spring in the Loire is beautiful, flowers and blossoms on the trees, the grapevines coming into leaf, wisteria spilling over walls and fences. As we were never far from water we saw ducks, swans, geese, herons, egrets and on the farms the cows and calves would wander over to look at us. I think the pictures tell it better than I do.

Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 24


Lacanau Ocean pine forestsLacanau Ocean pine forests
Lacanau Ocean pine forests

Some of the forestry tracks have been upgrades to provide beautiful cycle tracks through the dunes between the coast and inland lagoons.
The Atlantic oceanThe Atlantic ocean
The Atlantic ocean

Taken on a ride north of Lacanau Ocean, the eroded beach evidence of the big winter storms
Lunch time, Bordeaux Lunch time, Bordeaux
Lunch time, Bordeaux

We don't usually have a big lunch, but in France the midday 3 course menu is the best - value and taste!!
The mirror pool, waterfront, BordeauxThe mirror pool, waterfront, Bordeaux
The mirror pool, waterfront, Bordeaux

Kids of all ages loved this huge shallow pool area, in this picture the fountains had just stopped and the water was being allowed to pool.
Bordeaux, view from the mirror poolBordeaux, view from the mirror pool
Bordeaux, view from the mirror pool

We loved the mix of traditional buildings and modern family friendly use of the public spaces.
Chateau in Nantes.Chateau in Nantes.
Chateau in Nantes.

This was the first one we saw that had water in the moat. It wasn't the last- the Loire is famous for its chateaus and castles.
Football in Europe means soccerFootball in Europe means soccer
Football in Europe means soccer

Anything about this give you the idea that football in the area is BIG?
Curious cowsCurious cows
Curious cows

I am not sure if it was the high visibility vests we wore on days we travelled on roads shared with cars, but these cows were not the only ones to come over to watch us pass by.
Lunch stop, somewhere on the Loire.Lunch stop, somewhere on the Loire.
Lunch stop, somewhere on the Loire.

Lunch on days we rode was mostly a fresh baguette, butter or cheese spread, jamon cru (like parma ham), cherry tomatoes and a piece of fruit.

The different boats on the rivers and canals ranged from modern holiday boats, old barges converted to house boats and little ones like this
Relaxing after lunch.Relaxing after lunch.
Relaxing after lunch.

Just enjoying the view, the serenity.

Looking back at the chateau, village centre and the bridge- and yes, our chambre d'hote was right at the top of the hill so we walked up and down a lot.
International Horse vaulting championshipsInternational Horse vaulting championships
International Horse vaulting championships

I missed the good picture, the one where the little girl is doing an arabesque on the shoulders of the guy standing on the horse cantering around the ring!!
Cave houses- not your old fashioned kind.Cave houses- not your old fashioned kind.
Cave houses- not your old fashioned kind.

Limestone cliffs offer caves with natural climate control, so they have been updated, renovated and stunning!
Another chateauAnother chateau
Another chateau

The designers of the cycle path route do not want you to miss anything, so the route invariably goes past the chateau, cathedral, church etc. Actually we loved that.
Name that flowerName that flower
Name that flower

Riding along we saw these strange flowers, the single petal is between 20 and 30 cm (8 and 12 inches) in height. Just emerging from the ground next to the cycle path.
View from Rue Chatelier View from Rue Chatelier
View from Rue Chatelier

Another steep climb up through the town, past more cave houses but the views from the top make it all worth while.
Alternative transport??Alternative transport??
Alternative transport??

Peter pondering my suggestion that we should just put the bikes on the boat, sit back, relax and let someone else do the work.
Orleans, Orleans,

Statue and topiary outside the cathedral.
Half timbered houseHalf timbered house
Half timbered house

This was the house that Joan of Arc stayed in while in Orleans. We saw this style of building in villages, on farms and like this one, in cities.

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