Breakfast was very French—a croissant, a piece of baguette and café au lait. I wasn’t quite sure that it would be enough sustenance to get me though the morning, but I did just fine.
Got on the road at about 8:45 and headed up the west side of the Loire. As it was fairly early on a Sunday morning, the first stretch was fairly empty, just an occasional jogger and a few bike riders. In the last stretch before I crossed the bridge at Muides I started seeing more riders underway. And the riders are all so friendly—nearly everyone that you meet says a friendly “bonjour” or at least nods and smiles.
My first Loire crossing of the week was at Muides-sur-Loire. When I got to the town center I stopped at a bakery and picked up some snacks and an extra bottle of water. The day was already starting to get warm.
The bike route took me along the river towards St. Dye. I kept my eyes peeled and found the signs that took me away from the river on the route towards Chambord. First I crossed fields and then after just a few kilometers I reached the edge of the forest and came to the wall designating the official start of the forest of Chambord. All during the day I kept re-meeting the wall—it runs around the entire perimeter of the estate, over 20 miles. I decided to put off my approach for a bit and took the long way around and approached the chateau from the “back” side.
What a fantastic place for my first pique-nique, in the shade on the cool grass with the Chateau directly in front of me. I relaxed, enjoyed my more-than-ample repast and then eventually wandered a little closer for a few more photos. Since I had spent plenty of time inside in 1989 (we gave a concert there) I opted out of taking a tour.
When I got on my way again it was really starting to get warm—it was easily 90 degrees (32 Grad) and not a breath of air was moving. And although I was often riding through the forest, the trees cleared away from the sides of the bike rout and didn’t cast any shadows. And in spite of the dense undergrowth, when I stopped to take a drink, I found the shade of the trees was not much cooler than the sunshine. Yikes. So I just kept riding…
As I was riding towards the next little town (Bracieux) I kept having dreams of a cold Coke. Generally I avoid soda, but on a hot day when I’m all sweaty a Coke is just what I want. And this time I really had a stroke of luck. In Bracieux there was just one little shop open (and it was air conditioned!) and there it was, Coke in a cooler—and really cold, not the luke-warm stuff that passes for cold in Germany. I took my prize and rode a few blocks to the city park where I found a shady, if not exactly cool, place on the grass and treasured every sip.
The following 15 kilometers were the toughest of the day. Open fields, blazing sun, no breeze, and 3:30-4:00 in the afternoon, my low point of the day. But then I came around a corner and there was a charming stone bridge over a little river (le Cosson) leading to a village (Nanteuil). I stopped to take a drink and took off my shoes to stick my feet in the water and smiled at the somewhat mature couple that was standing there. They explained to me that the water flowing down the side of the bridge into the river was drinkable fresh spring water and indeed, not only was it cooling to the feet, it was refreshing to drink. After a 15 minute foot-cooling break, I filled my water bottle and started on the last leg of my trip.
The next stretch went fairly quickly because the last 5 or so kilometers I was riding through the outskirts into town. On the way back to the hotel I stopped for an ice cream and enjoyed it while sitting in the park in front of the St. Vincent de Paul Church. As I arrived back at the hotel I met a German couple sitting on the terrace and we drank our mineral water and swapped biking stories for a while.
Dinner that evening was a rather mixed bag. First I had to wait 15 minutes just to get a menu, which irritated me. (But at least the restaurant was air conditioned, so I was cool.) The first course, terrine de lapin, was very tasty, but the accompanying salad was lackluster and the bread was as soft as Wonder Bread (“pampig”, we would say auf Deutsch). The rest of the meal was ok, but basically the restaurant didn’t live up to its pretentions.