What a tiring day! I got on the road at about 9:30, about an hour later than usual, and stopped at a fruit store and a bakery for provisions on the way out of town.
The countryside was fragrant and beautiful in the morning light. I had to stop several times to take pictures. An Italian group who had also been staying at my hotel left me in the dust. The map was slightly different than the signage, so at one point I pulled over and consulted with a pair of bikers who were also checking their maps. Turned out they were Germans riding all the way to the Atlantic.
We found our location on the map and soon thereafter I came to a cute little town (Cande-sur-Beuvron) where the route took off on a path by the little river (the Beuvron). I found a bench along the little river and took a break to eat my luscious nectarine and pastry. Yum.
Most of the routes for the past few days have been either small paved country roads or sometimes a gravel trail, but soon after Cande there was a stretch of trail that was so rutted and rough that I had to dismount and push about 50 yards. Luckily that didn’t last long and the rest of the way to Chaumont was ok.
I really enjoyed the visit to Chaumont. It is medieval / renaissance, which is more to my taste than the French high baroque. The informational brochure was nicely-written and there were several interesting contemporary art installations in the empty rooms. (And it wasn’t hideously crowded, either!) After touring the chateau I strolled through the park-like grounds and then grabbed a pate-de-campagne sandwich (yum) and sat on a bench enjoying my lunch, the architecture and the landscape.
After lunch I paid a visit to the huge garden exhibition on the ground of the chateau—lots of separate garden “installations” by different garden designers. Unfortunately it was very hot and there wasn’t much shade, thus my visit wasn’t as long as it might have been at another time of the day.
I got back on the road at 2:30 and experienced two extremely physically challenging hours. After a short stretch along the river the route took a turn inland and up to the plateau above the river. A couple of the hills were fairly steep and I pushed half way up one of them. It was hot; there was no wind and not a tree in sight.
On the positive side, I tried to appreciate the smells and sights of the countryside. Lots of sunflowers (unfortunately a couple of weeks past full bloom) and lots of vineyards—and have I mentioned that every farm has a name like “le Forestiere” or somesuch.
By the time I reached Amboise it was 4:15 (a VERY slow 17 km). I took a stroll through the old town and collapsed for a few minutes on the cool stone of one of the lower bastions of the chateau and stared up at the flags flying on the ramparts against the pure blue of the sky.
Getting onto the train back to Blois was quite an adventure—first, it was a model with skinny doors and steep steps, and then the “bike area” was compartment which they’d emptied of seats, but the entry way was so awkward the bike had to be lifted up and balanced on the back wheel to get it turned into the door from the narrow hallway. A nice young French boy helped me.
Dinner that evening was at the terrace of the restaurant directly in front of the chateau in Blois. The food was tasty and the restaurant dog was a charming old lab who visited with me during my meal (and he was very good, he didn’t beg).
The evening was crowned with a visit to the very fun son et lumiere at the chateau.