The Challenges of Traveling by Bike

We woke up Wednesday morning to the first sun we’d seen since arriving in France. There was still a cold wind to contend with, and it did drizzle slightly during breakfast, but at least the sky was optimistic. Indeed our first day by bike went very well, and we comfortably went the 40 km to Gennes before deciding to call it a day. We’re certainly not long distance riders, doubly so since we’ve done hardly any riding this spring since the weather has been so crummy in Edmonton.
The tourist office easily secured us a place to stay, though there was a nasty hill climb required to get there. Unfortunately, at the top of the hill, we got a bit turned around since the street signs here work a bit different. When they’re placed on the sides of buildings, they work much as they do at home, and indicate the name of the street that is parallel to the sign. However, when standing alone, they indicate the name of the street behind the sign. Not realising this detail, we thought we’d taken a wrong turn and went back down the hill. So we ended up climbing the hill twice, as we actually had been in the right place.
Our evening continued to be challenging, as the restaurant in Gennes was closed Wednesday night. Having left our bikes at our B&B, we kept walking until we got to the next town, and found that 3 of their 4 restaurants were also closed Wednesday night. The walk had been further than expected, so after eating, we asked to have a taxi called…there is a taxi in town, but not that evening. The restaurant ended up calling our B&B to give us a ride. It was much appreciated, but we certainly felt bad when our host came to pick us up.
We had discovered in our walking adventure that the bike route that ran along the North shore of the Loire was flooded, so we stuck to the south shore route, which took us away from the river and into the hills. Our legs were not up this, and we only (barely) managed to make the 15 km to Saumur, though we’d been hoping to go another 10 further, to Turquant or Montsoreau. Our wimpiness was driven home to us, as we ran into a group of British cyclists (who inquired what part of Wales we were from) on the way into Saumur who were headed all the way to Nantes on the same day. Still, we were glad for the chance to rest and visit the Saumur chateau during the afternoon.
Which brings us to Today, Friday. We’ve finally had our first day of positively good weather, so our ride this morning was lovely. We stopped at the chateau de Parnay, which is mostly build underground. It’s now used as wine cellars, so while we had the chance to check out a couple of the caves, we also did some wine tasting, and ended up with a bottle of red.
Since there’s lots to see in this area, we’d decided not to bike far, and spend three nights in the Turquant/Montsoreau/Candes-St-Martin area. Unfortunately, it turns out it’s a long weekend (we both thought we’d checked before we came, but apparently we missed one of the movable holidays). It’s the closest I’ve ever come to paying for my no-reservations style of traveling, as everywhere we called was fully booked. After 7 or 8 failed calls, we were bailed out by a cancellation at a hotel that’s only a little above our target price range, and are now settled into a lovely spot above in the country, just outside Montsoreau. And we’ve been assured there’s no more holidays this month.
After checking in we rode another 4km to the Abbaye de Fontevreau, a medieval abbey that’s supposedly the largest in Europe. While famous as the burial place of two English kings (Henry II and Richard III), it was sadly hard to get a feel for it as a living place. All furniture was sold when church property was confiscated during the first Revolution, and the building was converted for use as a prison, so it’s mostly large empty rooms, though the scale is still impressive.
So that’s it. Hard to believe it’s most of a week already, but I guess it has been. The next couple of days should be fairly light as we rest and enjoy the area. We’re hoping to check out some of the mushroom-growing caves in the area, and see what else there is to see, but have dedicated Sunday to sitting around and reading.

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