We took the day off and spent a quiet and relaxing day in Ancenis and Oudon in the Vallée du Hâvre. Both are teeny tiny towns and designated Ville Fleurie (Flowering City), with medieval towers and châteaux. If you like French butter and forklifts, Paysan Breton’s beurre moulé doux et demi sel is packaged here, along with Toyota’s industrial equipment. Aside from taking in the view and strolling along the riverbanks or canoeing on the Hâvre, there is not much of anything to do, which is exactly what we needed…plus I even got to cycle in a skirt and straw hat. We are staying at bed and breakfast très charmant with yet another affable hostess. The always-smiling Delphine speaks in rapid, animated French, that somehow is easy to understand. She bakes homemade breads and cakes, tends a beautiful garden and has made us feel at home. Today we have a short (40 km) and scenic ride to Nantes to rendezvous with Nicola and check out the capital city of the Pays de la Loire, Jules Verne’s stomping ground, the castle and tower of the dukes of Brittany, and hopefully the giant marionettes of Royal de Luxe. À tout à l’heure…
Posts tagged ‘Biking in France’
It looks like I am back in business and able to post again from our laptop. I will have to go back and fill in the days I missed, but will catch you up on yesterday’s ride from Angers to Ancenis. By nearly all accounts, it was another fantastic day on the Tour de la Loire. I say nearly all accounts, because we had just hit day seven, and frankly, Superman and I were starting to get a little annoyed with one another. I was still frustrated about the computer not working, and some blogging censorship, and Superman was a bit worn out from doing things the French-way; meaning stopping (a lot) to see the sights and eat good (sometimes expensive) food. I was taking it out on him, and he was losing his patience.
The thing about doing a trip like this, is that even though you are on your own bike, and often in your own head, you still have plenty of time together. You are each other’s only company, except when friends drop in, and your have to be in basic agreement about how you want things to go. Most of the time we are, but sometimes we get a little passive aggressive.
When you have a hot 75+ km cycling day and you start off angry, it takes awhile to regain your optimism…like maybe, 3 hours or so. That’s a long time to sit on your bike and think negative thoughts. Sometimes it is better to have a little distance, say, a half-kilometer or so, between you and your spouse.
As we cycled away from Angers, paradoxically I was not quite ready to let go of my anger (although it’s not pronounced that way in French—it still seemed a bit ironic to me). I wanted to ride away from my cantankerous self, but I needed some time and space to be perturbed. The path out a town starts at the foot of the Angers castle, and winds through the huge Parc du Maine—Angers answer to NYC Central Park. Lush and green and surrounding a large interior lake, the trail should have been perfect. But, it was Sunday late-morning in France, which means everyone in a 10-mile radius was out and about and using the path too.
I cycled on sullenly and Superman tried to make things better. I didn’t want thing to be made better. I wanted to be mad for a bit. Harsh words were exchanged and we ended up cycling in silence and at a distance. After a good long hour or two of being mad at my computer, mad at my husband and mad at the French, I decided enough was enough, and I resolved to turn things around and remember that our differences are actually what make us strong as a couple. While I am 110-percent, do-it-right-the-first-time-perfectionist, Superman is a 75-percent-and-its-good-enough type of guy. While I speak French softly and thoughtfully, Superman speaks loudly and without fear. While I like to slow down, and taste and explore everything, he likes to compete and go for the goal. He likes a homemade picnic, and I like the gourmet meal. I’ll eat a greasy hotdog, and he’ll eat a healthy veggie burger. I’ll wash my biking shorts daily, and he’ll wait an entire week.
But I love all these things about him, and I love how he supports me with all my quirks. I love that being with him forces me to do things his way sometimes, and that makes me better in quite a lot of ways. I love that we complement each other and that we can compromise. I admit, I do love that guy…now if I could just get him to wash those bike shorts a little more often…
While flipping through my Food & Wine magazine in Colorado, I came across an article entitled The Ten Best New Restaurants in France. Much to my delight, one of the restaurants happened to be situated directly on our planned cycling route. Too good to be true, I knew it was meant to be. I decided to splurge and booked a table for two at Fontevraud le Restaurant, in the Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud not far from Saumur.
Located in the cloister, and one time prison, of Europe’s largest abbey, young chef, Thibaut Ruggeri, (only 34-years-old), and winner of the 2013 Bocuse d’Or (an international gastronomic competition), serves up extremely stunning haute cuisine in an intimate and peaceful setting. The tables surround a courtyard filled with fresh and colorful herbs where the very kind and attentive wait staff trim and pick fresh ingredients for each course.
No doubt about it, Chef Ruggeri is an artist. Visually his plates are exquisite. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such beautiful and creative plating. Our dinner was like an edible trip to a fine modern art museum. In addition to the freshly picked herbs, the chef uses local ingredients, like honey from the abbey’s bees and mushrooms grown in the limestone caves surrounding the abbey. While not every plate was a homerun on the palate and flavor sometime took a back seat to art, it was an unforgettable evening.
MENU ABEILLES \ 20€
Layers of fresh goat cheese
Chicken with mashed potatoes and lemon
Chocolate and nuts
MENU MENU \ 58€
Including wines in keeping with the meal \83€
A springtime revolution
Pollock, and pots herbs
Chicken from Racan, Swiss chard end goat’s cheese
Goat cheese and basil
A symphony of lemon and black olives
GRAND MENU \ 95€
Including wines in keeping with the meal \ 130€
The Paris mushroom at Fontevraud
Fario trout marinated, pinewood
Poached monkfish with shellfish and striped with squid and squid ink with a braised fennel bulb and a dill and red wine sauce.
A pigeon fillet with almonds and covered with a cognac marzipan, honeyed carrots and giblets with 4 spices.
Cheeses from the length and breadth of the Loire
A little sweetness without butter or cream
A symphony of lemon and black olives
We’ve had an impossibly slow internet connection on Wednesday and Thursday, and now I’m completely locked out from laptop blogging. Boo! (Working on a solution…) Here are a few pictures of Thursday’s journey from Chinon to Saumur. We only rode 48 km, but it felt like 84. The saddle sores are still settling, but we are happily transitioning into the rhythm of the cycling lifestyle.
I knew I should have brought my own computer. Instead we agreed to bring one, the lighter, and thinner one. The one that doesn’t belong to me and is thick with firewalls. So my blog is locked out of cyberspace — for the foreseeable future. I will try my hand at posting from my phone, but not really my cup of tea to write on such a tiny device.
Rats. Makes me sad, ’cause I have some fun stories to tell and pictures to share.
But tonight I’m just crabby and cross, so I’m gonna hit the hay and wake up happy. We are leave Angers early morning for a 70+ km ride to Ancenis and hopefully lunch on Chalonnes Island in the middle of the Loire River.
Bye for now…
After many months of silence and lots of interesting happenings in Colorado and beyond, I am back home in France and back online. We have spent several days in Paris and London and are now on our way to Orléans to start our Tour de la Loire. We arrive late this afternoon and pick up our bikes this evening, in hopes of an early start tomorrow morning.
All in all, our route from Orléans to Saint Nazaire is just a little shy of 500 km (310 miles).
Along the way, friends and family will be popping in to ride with us and follow the river past: a château built for a kings, a church as old as Charlemagne, a bridge inspired by Eiffel, an inland lighthouse, extraordinary cave dwellings, an open-air art gallery, and of course gourmet restaurants, gorgeous vineyards and artisanal fare.
I am planning on posting daily (fingers crossed for consistent WIFI), and share our adventure with you. Donc, jump on your virtual bike and follow along on what is sure to be a memorable journey…
À toute à l’heure!
The Loire River, the longest river in France—flowing north and west for nearly 350 miles and spilling into the Atlantic Ocean south of Bretagne, is one of our favorite places to spend a morning.