Monday, July 12, 2010

To Saumur and Beyond! (France Trip Series)

Our bikes were waiting patiently in a small stone courtyard 237 kilometers south of Paris, and our stay on Risico was coming to an end. The next week we would embrace the nomadic lifestyle in the French countryside. Our goal was full immersion in local culture, so we had made all our own arrangements (route, motels, bikes, meals, luggage, etc) rather than relying on a tour operator. What better way to make contact with the locals than getting hopelessly lost on your bike on a country road in rural France with no bailout options?

We used Detours for our bike rentals and to provide luggage transfer between hotels. The bikes were great quality and well maintained, and the luggage transfer was flawless. We left our bags in the hotel lobby each morning and - voilà - they were waiting for us upon arrival at our next destination. Panniers gave us ample capacity for carrying water, wine, baguettes, and gear each day.

We hopped our train from Paris to Chenenceaux to pick up our bikes and unwind before our morning departure. If all went as planned, the ride would finish six days later in Saumur, with overnights in Azay-le-Rideau and Chinon. The train dropped us on the outskirts of Chenenceaux, about a 100m walk past an ancient stone church to the Hostel du Roy. After the hustle and bustle of Paris, the solitude of this tiny town welcome...and the full size bathroom was a real luxury.

The next day - our first one on the bikes - was to be our longest at 45 miles. This type of milage was
frickin' insane for the first day of a family touring vacation
probably a little aggressive for our first day (remember this is a family trip) but in six and a half hours in the saddle we saw some incredible countryside and had many excellent interactions with the locals, for example:
  • After two laps through the town of Athee sue Cher and a few unplanned miles, Katey leveraged her rudimentary French skills in a local bar (it was 10:30am) and we were promptly back on course.
  • Two very nice ladies, one riding a mountain bike on a farm road south of Tours and the other strolling outside of Mont, were very patient with us and probably saved us another 10 miles of needless miles.
  • The fellow in the 3rd floor apartment somewhere east of Azay who saw me wandering around the park with 4 empty water bottles in my arms searching unsuccessfully for a spigot. He shouted and waved to me from his 3rd floor balcony, came running down the stairs, and showed me to the spigot in the basement.
Finally on the home stretch 3 miles from Azay we stumbled into a small troglodyte shop that sold ice cream, juice, and local honey. Did I mention it was unbearably HOT and that we had ridden 42 miles at this point? We were ON IT hit it off very well with the very friendly proprietor Sebastien.

In my next post, we'll meet Marité and Philippe at Troglodelice where we will sleep in a cave for two nights!

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