Previously we managed a 2-day bike ride in Australia, so while not complete novices, we are beginner riders.
Answer: choose a UTracks introductory level, 5-day self guided trip (the Loire Valley Castles Cycle
), based each night in the same cute 3-star hotel in the village of Chitenay, paying a little more for an E-bike, and choosing day trips with a length of ride that suited our skill level. We loved it.
Day one we arrived at Blois-Chambord railway station, and transferred with a half hour taxi ride to Chitenay. We explored this small, historic village after settling into our comfortable hotel room which looked out to the bakery, Le Denis Papin pub and cafe (named after the French inventor born in Blois), and the historic Notre Dame de Chitenay Church.
A 3 course meal for dinner at the hotel was included in our tour price as were 2 more dinners and 5 continental breakfasts. Beautiful, French cuisine and we added a glass of local red wine; delicious.
After dinner we planned the next day re-visiting the Guibo travel app we had already downloaded -and scrutinized -which gave us all the information we needed about each of the day trips including distance, elevation, sight-seeing stops with detailed descriptions, and food stops along each cycle path. We chose a 24 km trip for day one so we could get used to the bikes and learn how to use the map on the app...and to visit our first Chateau.
Our Ebikes arrived the next morning and off we went! I had been a bit anxious about how I would manage, but after some early hesitancy, one wrong turn (the app was open on the handlebar so easy to see soon that we needed to turn around), one wobble (but remaining upright) it didn't take long to start looking at the fields of crops, then vineyards before we headed into a forest on our way to Chateau of Fourgeres-sure-Bievre.
Local signposting was helpful but the app was the best in guiding us along the way. The chateau closed at 1 PM-always good to check opening times before the start of the day- but we had enough time to explore this interesting castle dating from the Middle Ages. Following a shared pizza lunch beside a waterlily-filled stream gently tricking past the walls of the Chateau and-feeling confident now-we meandered back to Chitenay.
More yummy croissants for breakfast the next day before we headed off on a 26 km trip, stopping first at Troussay chateau, privately owned and one of the smallest chateaus in the Loire dating from 1450. We arrived before the gates were due to open at 11 AM so we chatted to some German bike riders as we waited. Catherine, the Chateau's current intern from a university in the UK, supported by the resident pooch, gave us a great tour. The present owners are continuing renovations but there is still plenty to see both outside and inside the castle.
A short distance later we arrived at Chateau Cheverny, one of the best known castles of the Loire: it has been in the care of the same family for over 6 centuries. If you have seen the Versailles palace in Paris, while not as big, Cheverny is just as exquisite. It is surrounded by beautiful manicured gardens, extensive lawns, kennels, a maze and a 'love' garden of beautiful sculptures surrounding a canal. The Cafe de L'Orangerie is a sumptuous eating area with a restaurant and cafe. Inside the chateau are many beautiful rooms and furnishings...and the crowds were much less than Versailles (although this was May and the high season would no doubt be busier).
Our final day of cycling and we chose a more challenging 34 km ride to Blois, even though the app advised there would be busy traffic sections. Made sense as Blois is a thriving city rather than the quaint villages we had become accustomed to riding through without much traffic-even a tractor or two. Very glad we did as this is a pretty, picturesque town dating back to the 6th century, on the banks of the Loire River.
We left our bikes securely chained and crossed the Pont-Jacques Gabriel bridge to explore the historic centre. Up the Denis Papin staircase-stopping to look back at the magnificent panorama- around some narrow streets, past the 14th century timber framed Acrobat's House, and into the impressive, gothic building that is the Blois Cathedral. There was so much more to explore including the Blois chateau, but we needed to head back and we set off along the river path toward Chitenay.
Our last evening meal was a special treat with a 4-course dinner from the superior menu: the tender steak and homemade ice cream were outstanding. The next morning our taxi arrived to transfer us back to Blois...what a trip! We are experienced riders now-well better than we were at the start of this experience- and we will be back to try a more challenging ride in another fabulous part of the Loire Valley.
Wow! Were you inspired by Merilyn's wonderful experiences? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.