Cycling Holidays France - Courleon France

Cycling Holidays France – Discovering Loire Valley by bike (Part One)

Cycling Holidays France – Experience the Loire Valley Discovery Cycling Holiday 2013

For cycling holidays France offers too much choice!  With so many holiday providers in so many regions of France it’s difficult to see how french cycling holidays differ and what the holiday experience is really like.  We are cycling holiday specialists, only offering holidays in the Loire Valley, France.  Six years of practice(!) have enabled us to offer a unique centre-based cycling holiday – the only one of its kind anywhere in the Loire Valley.  The easiest way to get a flavour of how we operate is to follow recent guests as they spent a fantastic September week on our Loire Valley Discovery Cycling Holiday!

Loire Valley Discovery Cycling Holiday – Day 1 – Arrival at Saumur

Cycling guests this week arrive in France from the UK and Australia.  Four arrive by train at Saumur station and others head to us by car.  One couple from the UK have travelled to France by train – Eurostar from London to Paris and then Paris to Saumur via Tours.  They were amazed by how straight forward it all was and it shows how accessible the Loire Valley can be!

A real mix of cycling abilities with some regular cyclists who have brought their own bikes, some leisure cyclists who cycle regularly, but not far and some guests who are fit, but don’t do much cycling at home.  This week’s Loire Valley Itinerary will cater for everyone!

Saumur Brut

Welcome drinks at Gue de Ray

On arrival it’s time to enjoy coffee, relax and unpack.  Those hiring bikes are fitted out with their kit and the bikes adjusted to suit.

Around 7pm we all have a glass or two of ‘Saumur Brut’ – the local sparkling white and say ‘Cheers’ to a good cycling holiday in the week to come.  (Many in France would buy this ahead of Champagne for regular bubbles!)

Tonight it’s warm enough to have the aperitifs outside on the terrace, but we retired to the dining room for the meal.  The menu was a homegrown beetroot, feta and potato salad to start, Tartiflette with green beans and salad following as the main (a favourite in the mountains of France), a cheeseboard which included a local ash covered goats cheese and home made lemon sorbet to finish.  All served with a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc red from Chateau de Petit Thouars and a dry Loire Valley Chenin Blanc white from Thierry Bossard at Azay-le-Rideau.

A very relaxing evening and a good start to the cycling week!  Evenings are always finished off with a run through the cycling route for the following day.

 Loire Valley Discovery Cycling Holiday – Day 2 – The Loire Chateaux

A cool September morning and after a continental breakfast of cereals, fruit salad and pastries everyone is cycling towards the river Loire by nine thirty.  Lots of excitement to finally begin cycling our part of the Loire Valley and discovering what makes France such a popular tourist destination.

With differing abilities within this week’s cycling group everyone is planning to ride somewhere different.  For the morning at least, all guests cycle to Langeais arriving at the medieval town in time for coffee.  One guest decides to spend the entire day at Langeais, exploring the Chateau and having a relaxing lunch in a restaurant, generally chilling out until the mini-bus pickup at five pm.

A couple and one other guest have hooked up for a cycle along the Loire to Villandry and its Chateau with stunning gardens – one of the best in all France.  They then return to Langeais and use whatever time is left to visit the Chateau there.

Loire Valley Discovery Cycling Holiday - Day 2 - Villandry

Loire Valley Discovery Cycling Holiday – Day 2 – Villandry c. jonlethbridge@loirelife.com

The remainder, more experienced cyclists and previous guests, cycle to Villandry, then ride on to Azay-le-Rideau before taking a planned detour to Chateau la Chatonnierre – lovely gardens but not on the huge scale of Villandry.  From there they ride back to Langeais via Brehemont and the Loire a Velo cycle way.

By four in the afternoon the temperature has hit 35c in the sun (so thats 25c more than at nine in the morning!) and everyone without exception is grateful to load their bikes onto the mini-bus and relax for the journey back to Gue de Ray.

Before the evening meal there is time to use the pool (now at a lovely 26c) and the hot-tub (a soothing 37c) and generally relax.

A great day by all, with people surprised by the lack of traffic, the general beauty of the area and the fact they didn’t get lost once!  Evening meal of Pear and Roquefort Salad to start, Tray baked Chicken with Creamy Spinach for mains and Iced Berry Dessert, using our own fruits of course.  Stuck to the Azay white, seemed appropriate as that’s the area cycled through today, but changed to a Cabernet France Red from Bourgueil – destination for Day Three!

 Loire Valley Discovery Cycling Holiday – Day 3 – Bourgueil, Market & Vines

Everyone on their way by nine thirty, cycling to Bourgueil via a long shaded forest road, before dropping into the town itself through its Cabernet Franc vineyards – some of the best Cabernet Franc vineyards in France.

Tuesday is market day, so until lunchtime our cycling guests enjoy the various tastes, sights and smells on offer and pick up something for a picnic lunch.

A couple of guests take advantage of a pickup and only cover the 18kms to Bourgueil and spend the rest of the day by the pool.

The remaining guests cycle the entire 50kms route, which includes a cycle to Chouze-sur-Loire on the banks of the Loire itself.  From the river the cycle route heads back through the vineyards to Gue de Ray via the pretty lake at Les Loges.

Another very hot afternoon, more like early August than early September so by three thirty our guests can be found throughout the grounds of Gue de Ray.  Some reading books in the shade, while others cool off in the pool.

Dinner is taken on the terrace and it’s Charentes Melon to start, followed by Chicken and Seafood Paella wih fresh Chouze-sur-Loire strawberries.

 Loire Valley Discovery Cycling Holiday – Day 4 – Rural Anjou

Almost a rest day!  (It can be if you want, just put the bike away and your feet up!)  For those wanting to cycle (and everyone did) this is a 35km route, which can be split up into smaller chunks.

The full cycle route also has an optional Menu Ouvrier lunch stop (basically a menu provided for workers offering amazing value and quality).  So today there is something for everyone.

It’s still hot for the time of year so everyone decides to breakfast early and get their cycling completed by early afternoon.  Without exception all our guests have decided to cycle the full circuit, but not stop for the restaurant lunch – I think the evening meals have been quite sufficient so far!

So everyone experiences the Parc du Lathan in Breil – a designated ‘Jardin Remarquable’ and the Chateau de Gizeux.  Both these Loire Valley Chateaux are in complete contrast to those seen on Day 2 of our Loire Valley Discovery Cycling Holiday.  Still lived in by ancestors of the original owners, they have a charm and authenticity that the larger Chateaux in France cannot match – plus they don’t appear on many guide books so are a real surprise!

Cycling Holiday - Parc du Lathan, Loire Valley, France

Loire Valley Discovery Cycling Holiday Day 3 – Parc du Lathan, Loire Valley, France. c. jonlethbridge@loirelife.com

Guests take a break from cycling and picnic at Le Lac du Rille, having purchased supplies in the Boulangeries in Parcay-les-Pins and Breil.  With picnic tables on hand and shade in the trees it proves to be a great spot to stop.

Now in the 30’s the afternoon sees all the guests in the pool, hot-tub or shady parts of the garden reading books and relaxing!  Evening meal is Courgette rolls with Ricotta to start, followed by a Goats Cheese Salad (with delicious red and green tomatoes from the vegetable garden) followed by a very naughty Frangipane dessert!

Already halfway through our week of cycling in France and still to come the Troglodyte dwellings of the Loire Valley and a unique experience at Le Tasting Room – so much to do and so little time!

Part two will follow next week…until then!