7: A Little Bit of Heaven on Earth

What a day – somewhere between heaven and hell! My knee was really hurting—riding on the flat was OK, but climbing hills, walking, and even getting on and off the bike was painful. Getting old is not for sissies.

The first adventure of the day was that I read the train schedule the wrong way (yes, even experienced travelers make mistakes) and rushing around when I didn’t need to. I ended up on the wrong train and then had to change and then cooled my heels for half an hour until the correct train was ready to go.

I arrived in Saumur at about 10 and spent a pleasant hour wandering through the town and enjoyed a coffee and pear tarte in a café located on a square with a very cool cast iron fountain. The next challenge was getting up to the chateau—pushing my bike up the hill (and carrying up a few steps) with my knee throbbing. Ugh. Lots of ibuprofen today.

Once up to the chateau I walked a bit around the grounds and enjoyed the views of the city and river then had to find my way down the other side of that steep hill. On the way out of town I stopped for a brief visit at the big pilgrim church Notre Dame des Ardilliers and took a few minutes to listen to the chanted church service that was taking place.

The next misadventure of the day was on the way to Candes-St.-Martin. For a distance, the route curved through the forest right along the river, which would have been fun except for the fact that the trail was composed of loose, very fine sand, several inches deep. Really not great with my fairly skinny tires. And of course, whoops, I took a slo-mo dive. It didn’t really hurt too much but it certainly injured my pride a bit and wasn’t exactly the best thing that could happen for my right knee (where I landed) or my back. Oh well.

For the next stretch I opted not to ride up the (short but steep) hill and ride through the vineyards but instead rode a few kilometers directly on the main road. The traffic wasn’t hideous, so it was OK.

Eventually I got back on the planned route – I had to go up the hill but it wasn’t so steep at that point – and found myself at the troglodyte caves. I stopped to take a drink and a picture and got into a chat with a retired German couple who were also on their bikes underway. Turns out that they had left Rosenheim (in Bavaria between Munich and Salzburg) at the beginning of June, ridden over the Alps through Switzerland, northern Italy and southern France, up to the Loire and were planning to visit Belgium and Holland before making their way back home. They were averaging 90km per day and were underway with fully packed bikes, camping gear included. Keep in mind; these folks were between 65-70 years old. Now that is something to strive for!

We rode together for a few minutes but it didn’t take long for them to leave me literally and figuratively in the dust. Shortly thereafter was the truly heavenly part of the day—I was riding along and saw a restaurant sign and decided it was time for lunch. When I stopped at the sign and looked to the restaurant terrace, the view was stunning! Directly to the left stood Chateau Montsoreau and directly ahead was the river—the sky was cyan blue with white puffy clouds and the temperature was a luscious 80 degrees. Sublime! My lunch was simple (steak-frites) but tasty and the service was friendly. What a perfect break.

By 2:30 I realized I’d better get moving if I wanted to see Chinon and make my 6:25 train (what a drag to be on a schedule!).

My second favorite part of the day was the 3 or 4 kilometers following Sauvigny-en-Veron. Lovely vineyards, sunflower fields, picturesque stone walls and forests more arid than those near Blois. I also passed a group of gypsies camping in the forest with their trailers.

Chinon was rather a letdown, or perhaps I just wasn’t in the right mood for it. My favorite things in the town were the playful black and white cat sticking his paws through the wrought iron gate and the funny signs outside the butcher shops. Oh, and the ice cream was good, too.

I got back to Port-Bulot to catch the train back to Tours with 10 minutes to spare. Somehow I had missed a sign along the way, but fortunately my map was good enough that I could find an alternate (and also scenic) route.

Spent another quiet evening in Tours, once again early to bed.

Day 7

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