After a forgettable breakfast in a depressing breakfast room (looked like a basement rec room with a skylight), it was time to head out for the first day of the “official” tour.
I got away at about 9:30, pulling out at the same time as two other members of our group. On the way out of town, I almost took a wrong turn and when I stopped to reconnoiter the couple who had been behind me stopped as well and we found our way out of town together – and then ended up riding together the rest of the day. Very pleasant.
The skies were grey and the temperatures on the cool side (I wore my wind vest & jacket the better part of the day) and rain was predicted for later so we kept a fairly healthy tempo and didn’t dawdle too much.
After leaving Saumur, the first 25Km took us right along the “left” (south) bank of the Loire. The hillsides came right up to the river, so immediately to our right was the Loire and to the left the limestone hillsides, with the occasional village sandwiched in between, reaching up the hillsides with the building facades directly on the main road.
As we rode into the village of Cunalt, we saw that there was a farmers’ market taking place so we stopped and got some picnic provisions. I was luckily able to convince the very nice sausage vendor to sell me half a salami instead of the usual whole.
When we reached the big bridge where we needed to cross the Loire, it wasn’t first apparent to us how we were supposed to get up onto the roadway from our bike path. There was an abrupt end to the trail with a warning sign showing a bike going over into the water—we got off and walked under the bridge and found that indeed, the trail continued and the access to the bridge was from the other side. Really less than perfect signage!
Once across the bridge, we made a brief stop at a charming little terrace for coffee and then headed out for the second half of our trip. This leg took us through herbaceously aromatic farmlands and little villages on the right of the river. In one of the villages there was a picnic area, so we took the opportunity and shared our purchases and had a pleasant rest. The salami had a lovely nutty taste, the funny looking bread that I had bought was actually slightly sweet, the tomatoes full-flavored, and the melon perfect. Simple but good!
Since we were on deserted rural roads, I thought it was time to start trying out my click pedals a bit more. At one point when we slowed down to check directions (a signpost was missing), I slowed down so slow and didn’t release my feet. Well, the inevitable happened – plop straight over on my side. Nothing was injured except my pride, and I have a few black and blue marks to show for it. Live and learn.
As we approached Angers there was a stretch of the trail that was in a nature-reserve area and at one point we had to cross a little river on a self-propelled ferry. It was very cute – there was just enough room for four bikes and riders, and one person had to pull the chain to propel us to the other side. Elisabeth & I let Malte show his manliness and pull us over.
The very last stretch leading into Angers took us through the former slate-mining area, where there were small lakes in the old mining areas and, what I found most fascinating, the bed of the trail was covered with little pieces of slate. It made a very good riding surface! One sees why Angers is known as “the black city” – all of the roofs are made of black slate.
Major road construction (new streetcar tracks) in the area of our hotel made our approach a little more difficult than it might have been, but after a couple of wrong turns we arrived and got settled into our rooms.
While also a 2-star hotel, this one was oodles better than the previous night, mostly because you could tell that the young couple that ran the place really had their hearts in it – it had charm and character.
After I got settled into the room I set out to do a bit of exploring before dinner and just as I was about to leave the lobby it started pouring down rain. I waited a bit until it turned into a lighter rain and then put up the hood on my rain jacket and headed out.
Being that it was a Sunday evening, raining and a holiday to boot, the streets were extremely quiet. I was a short distance away from the hotel when it started pouring again. Oh my goodness, I got soaked! All of the doorways were full of people standing in them taking refuge. Eventually I made my way to the café in the Museum of Fine Arts and had a beer (unfortunately the restaurant wasn’t serving at that time).
The rain let up and I made my way to the cathedral and listened a while to the organ recital that was taking place (interesting modern music). Because of the weather and the time of day, the cathedral was somewhat dark, but even in the dim light I could admire the four huge carved male figures holding up the organ loft and the magnificent stained glass, much of it very old.
I listened and admired for about 20 minutes and then went in search of food, which was no easy task. All of the restaurants in the middle of town were closed, so I made my was back to the main street near to our hotel and found a place in a simple chain restaurant (La Boucherie / The Butcher). I ordered a hamburger (in Germany they’re terrible in restaurants, so I never order them) and it was excellent – made with ground steak, juicy and perfectly medium-rare. Yum. I was a very good girl and only ate half of my fries but all of the salad.
What really amused me about the meal is that in typical French style, I was served bread with my meal – a meal that came with a hamburger bun and fries! Oh well, I guess one can’t ever get enough bread, right?