Cycle tourism in France is becoming a massive industry. With a network of ‘greenways’ throughout the country you can now cycle almost entirely on traffic-free roads and paths.
Having cycled in France several times before, I decided to take a quick break to Nantes with my girlfriend to cycle along the Loire Valley. Normally I take my own bike and arrive via ferry or train, but due to timing and the location it wasn't very feasible this time around. So for the first time I rented a touring bike for two days.
We arrived in Nantes and straight away jumped on a train and headed for Saumur, a small town further inland along the Loire River. We arrived there with plenty of the evening still to spare and after locating the path which we would begin our cycle on the following morning, we sat down to fuel up for the next days ride.
Normally I would camp when cycle touring but this time we decided to stay in Airbnbs along the way as it was more convenient. We checked into a lovely flat overlooking the river and made sure we were well rested for the following days adventure.
We woke up early(ish) the next morning and went to our cycle hire shop, Detours de Loire. This cycle hire company has created a great niche along the Loire Valley cycle route having several shops in various towns along the way, where you can pick up and drop off your bike.
Everything went very smoothly on collection and the bikes had even been made-to-fit based on our measurements which they had asked for prior to our arrival. With the panniers strapped on and our water bottles filled up we set off and started cycling...
Five minutes later we were sat down and enjoying a well deserved breakfast and café au lait. After an hour or so of procrastinating, we left the lovely town of Saumur and set off, for real this time.
Our first days cycle would take us along the River Loire to Candes-St-Martin before heading slightly north-east to Rigny-Ussé. Theoretically this was our end point for the day, but we decided to push on to get to a lovely Airbnb i’d found on a equine farm in the middle of nowhere.
The day’s cycle was glorious, with the sun shining and the path taking us through green forestland, inbetween vineyards and quaint towns and, of course, alongside the lovely Loire River. We stopped first at Candes-St-Martin for what was the most overpriced cheese sandwich we’ve ever had and to fill up our water bottles. We watched as many other cycle tourists sped past us, some just out for the day, but others who were carrying enough provisions for several weeks.
The second half of the day much the same as the first; scenery which makes you question why you live in a built up area, air so fresh you could feel yourself getting younger by the minute and the odd ‘bonjour’ to fellow cyclists (Or ‘alright’ as some of the less worldly tourers spurt out).
65 kilometres later we had arrived, a little later than planned, at Jean-Philippes ranch. The house was called the ‘tiny house’ for a reason. If you’re into peace and quiet and love a sunset, then this is the place for you. Although, if you watch a lot of horror films and have a vivid imagination you probably won’t make it through the night with all the noises around you.
As it turns out I hate horror films and i’m relatively vacant when it comes to an imagination, so there was no scaring me…
After a great nights sleep, and the hard part of the cycle completed, we set off for what was a fairly straightforward cycle to Tours, where we’d drop of our bikes and spend the night. I’m not sure what it is they say about ‘too much of a good thing’, but whatever it is, it doesn’t account for cycle touring. Another day of beautiful scenery and glorious weather awaited us and I was topping up my t-shirt tan line just in time for pool season.
We stopped in a small town called Villandry for lunch and a coffee before the final stage of our 35km day to Tours. More river, more countryside, more lovely French towns… you get the point.
We arrived at the bicycle shop in good time and dropped off our bikes, retrieved our deposit and went to our next Airbnb, before heading out to eat some well deserved moule frites.
The best thing about this cycle route was how family friendly it was. Add to that the organisation and location of the cycle shops and all the hard work is done for you. You can camp, stay in an Airbnb, book a hotel or even stay in a treehouse! It’s well signposted along the way too so you’re unlikely to get lost (which has happened to me before on the Velodyssey cycle route).
My next cycle trip is Porto to Lisbon in September, so watch this space for more cycle related content!