Loire Valley Self-Guided Bike, France – May 2018
We decided to visit the various Chateau in France’s Loire Valley (The Valley of Kings) on bikes and to enjoy all the great wine in the area. We booked the Loire a Velo’s trip : https://www.biketours.com/france/loire-a-velo-orleans-lecroisic/ and chose the middle section option which started in Orleans and ended in Angers over 9 days of biking.
Most of us flew into Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport and took the trains to Orleans, the starting point of our bike tour. The trains to Orleans proved to be a bit of a hassle as we first had to transfer from our Terminal 1 arrival to Terminal 2 where the train station is with lots of walking and connecting via airport shuttle rail. After a fairly spacious first train ride, we had to change onto a smaller crowded local train with no space for our luggage. My recommendation is that you should explore all other travel options such as Flixbus, or even rent a car and return it in Orleans. If you decided to rent a car, it would be worthwhile to arrive Paris a few days ahead of the start of the bike tour and do a short road trip to explore nearby areas such as Burgundy or Champagne regions before heading to Orleans.
We arranged this trip in May to get gorgeously cool dry weather and before the Summer tourists arrive in later part of June. The one main disadvantage of this is that most of the shops owners have not returned from their vacations in the tropics, so food was a bit hard to find in the small towns that we visited during the rides.
Fortunately along the way, there were plenty of wine shops and bars that seem to always always be open. We fueled up with great wine and snacks and had plenty of fun with the local owners and bartenders. They rarely get bike groups from the orient and as we also had several lady friends from the US who have some of the loudest laughs, so the locals seemed to be more amused by out gang than offended.
After we left Chinon, there is a small village of Candes-Saint-Martin, on the south bank of the Loire River about half way to Saumur, we found one of the cutest well stocked wine shop name “Enfin du Vin” ( https://www.enfinduvin.net/ ).
It happened that the owner was in the shop at that time and he gave us tips on the wine and told us all the local lore of the region. We drunk so much wine that it took a while before we could get going on the bikes again.
A few kilometers later, we visited Domaine des Amandiers ( http://www.domaine-des-amandiers.com/ ) wine cellar which is dug into the face of a cliff in the town of Turquant.
We met with the owner and after trying several wine we ended up buying 6 bottles at about 7-8 Euros each.
By the way, we kept telling ourselves that it must be perfectly legal to ride bicycles while intoxicated in France since wine was cheaper than water along our routes.
With all the wine in our bike panniers, we decided to try something different for our dinners. Instead eating a restaurants, we bought baguette, salami, and cheese for the local stores and gathered in the hotel’s garden.
We enjoyed this light and casual dinner so much that we ended up repeating it pretty much every night. What we realized is that most of the B&Bs in small towns tend to have a really pretty outdoor space (either a garden or a porch) that we can have this fun dinner.
One important thing that we found out on this trip is that the French takes extreme pride in their wine, especially in small villages. One should never ever ask them if the have wine from another town, especially towns in the same area.
A friend of mine who is a wine snob (expert?) told me that when we are in Loire Valley, we should not drink wine that are available globally. We should ask for very local wine and he gave me names of wine that we should try, like from the town of Chinon, as an example. When we got to Chinon we drank their wine and enjoyed it so much that when we got to the town of Saumur the next day, we asked for Chinon wine again.
You should have seen the looks we got from all the people around us. I am sure that if they did not think of us for being “ignorant tourists”, they would have run us out of town right there and then.
This is a case of “Think Local, Act Local” 😀
My Big Foot Tour Grade A-