Today was exactly what we had been expecting of the Loire Valley, and promises to get even better over the next couple of days. We are finally travelling through notable wine country, and whilst vineyards are still thin on the ground along the banks of the river, it’s very obvious they are there as the ‘caves’ are starting to appear in number.
We took some time to explore the centre of Angers this morning before departing, rattling around the cobbled streets on our bikes, a circuit of the huge castle and church, before a pleasant run out of the city, and more of those very enjoyable cycle tracks down to the river. Much of today’s route was on roads along the bank, with plenty of opportunity to see majestic views of the river disappearing into the distance in both directions.
The chateaux are becoming more noticeable also, turrets sticking up above the trees and on hill tops along the route, and some to stop and see, either older tower fortresses or grander buildings. Some of the villages obviously have significant heritages, with much older buildings in evidence, and the style of building has become more sophisticated, with dressed limestone rather than the earlier rubble stone being used, so the buildings feature more crisp lines and detail.
We decided to keep the mileage low today and enjoy the countryside and what it has to offer, though were tempted to ride along with a couple of road cyclists out for training. We reeled them in in no time, even with the extra touring weight, and chatted for a few miles with them, noting that they allowed the pace to increase as we rode along (probably trying to get rid of us). We only broke off when we passed a huge medieval tower that was crying out to be photographed. The road surfaces here are just lovely, and without any kind of incline most of the way, it’s no effort to do any speed you care for!
Today was also our first wine tasting opportunity, as we approached Saumur there were several to choose from so we decided to take the plunge and rolled into Ackermans. Nice building and a chance for a tour of the caves, but we decided against and sampled a few of the wines. Unfortunately the staff were not enormously helpful, so we decided to roll on whilst we were still in command of all the senses. It only took a few minutes more to get into Saumur and then to the tourist office to find accommodation, only because we didn’t want to end up trudging around town to find a deal. In the end we plumped for a hotel right in the centre, not necessarily the cheapest but convenient. There is a Musee de Vin right next to the tourist office, which did tastings as well. I looks like it’s run by the local producers to entice the tourists into buying, but meant that we could try a number of the local wines conveniently. It turns out it’s unlikely we can ship back to the UK, so we’ll not be making any purchases. Still, best to make good use of the free samples!
Thanks to my neighbours Patrick and Judith, who are from Tours and brought a healthy supply of wines over with them, I did recognise some of the labels (I think!) and it was good to put them on context with other wines from the region. Châteaux de Beauregard “Cuvee Guy” and a Domaine aux Moines seemed familiar (?) but I particularly liked the Château Yvonne “La Folie”, but perhaps the name ought to tell me different! Anyway, it was very enjoyable.
Once watered we went to find a restaurant, and I persuaded Jones that we couldn’t go any longer without trying the Charolais beef. A Cotê du Boeuf was ordered (needs 2 people) and we munched our way through over a kilo of the stuff. Blood marvellous! Although somewhat blew the budget. Back to tinned fish tomorrow!
This is an outstandingly agreeable trip. I feel more at ease and comfortable with the environment than perhaps I ever have when travelling. Perhaps only to be matched by some of the longer travels I’ve been on in the past. Maybe just being away from home for longer is what is needed to put you completely in the mood (no need to worry about home and work when you are resigned to a longer stay away), or maybe it’s something to do with the mode of transport. I’ll ponder more on it no doubt over the coming days but for now this is working out to be a really special adventure.
Miles covered today: 39
Executive Summary: Easy Does It.