Friday, November 09, 2007

Sunday September 30th - Loire

It was another cold morning, and again I had trouble getting out of bed. The day was a little warmer, although I think at this stage I had got far enough south to escape the mild and rainy oceanic climate of the north coast, but not far enough south for the warm Mediterranean sun.

I emerged from the tent to see a lovely red sunrise peeking through the trees, unfortunately I wasn't up quickly enough to see it fully before the day arrived.

It being Sunday, I picked up pain au chocolats and lunch baguette at the first opportunity, and headed out of town.

The landscapes started to change. I saw very few cows, lots more dead sunflowers, and the first grape vines. Men with guns and dogs were out in the fields hunting down rabbits for Sunday lunch. A scared-looking bunny rushed past me at the side of the road. One of the hunters flagged me down for a chat. It was windy, we were separated by a roadside ditch, and my ears weren't very well tuned into the French language at that point, so I couldn't understand much of what he said, but he seemed rather surprised that I was going all the way to Marseille, and asked me if it was hard travelling alone. I said not really.

The road to Langeais was long, straight, flat and not very exciting, taking me out of Pays de la Loire and into the Centre region (departement Indre-et-Loire). At Langeais I suddenly found myself at the foot of a stunning chateau, surrounded by a busy morning market, lots of expensive hotels and restaurants, and many American tourists admiring the chateau.

Crossing the vast Loire river felt like something of a milestone in my journey. Being quite close to Azay-le-Rideau, where I intended to stay, I took the long and scenic route down cycle route along the river, via another impressive chateau, Usse. I passed numerous fellow cyclists out for a leisurely pedal on hired bikes and laden only with handlebar bags. The Loire valley is a popular cycling destination, being flat and scenic (quite a rare combination) - it's not really my cup of tea although I can see its appeal to those who are looking for a holiday rather than a challenge! It reminded me a little of our non-cycling visit to the Danube last year, although the Danube was definitely prettier.

I eventually reached Azay-le-Rideau and stayed upon the campsite there, which was due to close for winter the next day.

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