Wednesday, 1 September 1993

Loir et Cher

This tour was based from Chitenay, a small village just south of Blois. We travelled by plane to Paris, then RER and metro to the Gare d'Austerlitz, to catch the train via Orléans to Blois.

The Loire tour went via St Aignan, Montrichard (pictured, on the Cher) and Rilly, (on the Loire), for an 8-night tour, skipping one stop (it differs each year) for a 6-night tour.

August '93 we did the Loire et Cher tour, the shorter version going via Montrichard (right) on the Cher, up to Rilly on the Loire. This tour is geared to chateau visiting, and covers generally easy terrain (the only serious slopes are to be found as you leave the river valleys).

As this was out first tour - and done in a sudden burst of blazing weather at the end of August, we didn't venture too far afield on this tour. The free day at Montrichard we spent heading along the river to the chateau at Chenonceaux, the famous one built across the Loire. On the next day, as the leg to Rilly was only about 10 miles, we made the tour south to the chateau at Montpaupon (pictured) in the first part of the day, spent the heat of the day (3-5pm) on a cruise along the Cher, and only then made the trek to the next night's stay.

At Rilly, we did the obvious day trip to Amboise, where one can visit the house built by Francis I for Leonardo da Vinci on his retirement. The last leg back to base we headed along the Loire, skipping the chateau at Chevignon (we'd rather overdosed on chateaux by this point) crossing to the north through Chouzy-sur-Cisse and into Blois for lunch.

Tuesday, 22 June 1993

Cycling in France

On and off since the early 1990s, we've taken holidays in France, cycling in civilised fashion with Belle France, a Kent based holiday company doing walks and cycling holidays in France and elsewhere. The civilised nature is enhanced by the fact that they are one of the operators who carry your luggage from hotel to hotel, so all you have to do is carry lunch.

Above is the Chateau of Montpaupon, situated south of the Cher, towards the Indre. This chateau is one the many in the region that are open to visitors (indeed you can easily chat-overdose in the part of the world). To reach it from Montrichard, you can simply follow the main road south; but the route we used was to head west along the Cher to the next town with a crossing, taking the fairly steep climb out of the river valley on quiet (i.e. essentially deserted) country lanes. The picture was taken on our approach, as the side road neared the main road; we then took that route back to Montrichard. This was a quick side-tour from the Loire and Cher package.

Omitted here are short breaks from 2000 in Lille (at Easter - much rain; main sight of interest is the little art deco shop-front designed by the same chap who did the famous Paris Metro signs); and cycling in the Dordogne, based out of Souillac with a drop-off and cycle-back model. This was also wet - I made the mistake of going the week of Bastille Day, and after some rehearsals, the heavens opened for the public holiday, drowning the mass picnic along the Paris meridian (when the lift arrived, j'ai dit "Non!" ) - and the terrain seemed harder going than the Auvergne in terms of ups and downs. Plus poorly written directions and the interrupted construction of a motorway through the region contributed to getting lost enough to swear to take a GPS unit the next time. I never got as far as joining the queues at Lascaux. Overall, the region was too touristified - I could hardly find anywhere to at that wasn't just offering a menu touristique with the inevitable steak frites. But it does do good foie gras...

Our pied à terre for Paris stopovers was the Hôtel Flor Rivoli, in the Rue Deux Boules, just off the Rue Rivoli, close by the Pont Neuf, and the Tuilleries, including the Museum of the Louvre, with the modern glass pyramids. The queue for entry shows how popular it is. And it closes all day one day near the beginning of the week. Consequently, we've never actually ventured inside.