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Posts tagged ‘Loire Valley’

Blois-Amboise-Tours

loire_a_velo_amboise_Biking_in_France.jpgYesterdays we followed the ‘pays des châteaux’ cycling tracks from Blois to Chaumont-sur-Loire where the impressive château oversees the happenings of the tiny village, then continued on to Amboise and visited her marvelous majestic château, then crossed through the uniform vineyards of Montiouis, and 78 km later, arrived in Tours just in the nick-of-time to get Kitcat on her train back to Paris, and we hoped on to London. (Mais malheureusement, the Chunnel was closed due to a strike, so it appears she is stuck in Paris for the day…although there are certainly worst places one could be marooned.)

In any case, the day was filled with blue skies, beautiful scenery, tranquil moments, unexpected hills, friendly packs of cyclists, and a wonderfully warm reception from our delightful host at la Maison aux couleurs—who smiled and laughed with us, despite our rusty, basic French.

The highlights for me were:

  • cycling with my free-wheeling, happy daughter who is always up for a challenge and even a few steep hills,
  • a lunch of crêpes and cidre,
  • a quick mother-daughter stroll through the château Royal d’Amboise,
  • a golden, thirst quenching beer in Tours,
  • a surprise meeting with Amy L. from Paris,
  • and watching the late afternoon sun light up the vineyards and sparkle on the water.

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And now after eating too much ‘vrai’ pain perdu loving whipped up by our host, we are off to Azay le Rideau in the Indre Valley via Villandry.

Bye for now…à tout à l’heure!

Orléans to Blois: une histoire d’amitié

Our first day on the Loire à vélo was incroyable in so many ways.

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However, as it is late and I’m exhausted, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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The real story of the day lies in not what we saw, but with whom we saw it. It was a day to remember the value of friendship and importance of making time in our busy lives to spend with friends and family; because in the end those relationships make the ride worthwhile.

I was so touched that the French girls and my flexible and optimistic daughter, Kitcat found the time to ride 65 km with us along the wild riverbanks to the shuttered village of Baule, to the flower-filled city of Beaugency, to the country churches and finally to our friendly hotel in the shadow of the stately château in Blois.

The great thing about traveling with the French girls is, well,  they are French. And the French understand how to do a cross-country bike trip. They are really good at finding the beauty in the small things, and have no problem making a lot of stops along the way to make sure we see, smell and taste that beauty.

Bistros and cafés are key. They like their coffee (grand and with crème) and they like it in a sympa setting, preferably with some homemade crumble.

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They also will go up some pretty steep village hills (even if they have to walk their bikes) in search of the one fantastic restaurant open on a Monday afternoon. Plus, when they are on vacation, they insist on having wine with lunch, and are quick to remind you that, “No, no, it’s good for you (as) we need a little sugar.” And that they “never drink at lunch, but (they) catch up when they can.”

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And after a hearty, relaxing meal, they hop back on their bikes (“Oh! Mes fesses!”) and ride for another 3 hours, all without having trained a single day for the ride.

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Marie-Françoise and Hélène are nothing if not optimistic. They are total goofballs, and full of smiles and beans. Nothing like the awful French we Americans are so scared we will encounter as we travel through France.

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So, I am feeling like my Tour de la Loire is off to an awfully good start. And feeling very blessed to have such wonderful friends.

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No. 327: Grapes

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France’s Major White Grape Varieties

Grape Variety and Region(s)
Chardonnay: Burgundy; Champagne; Languedoc
Chenin Blanc: Loire Valley
Sauvignon Blanc: Bordeaux; Loire Valley; southwestern France; Languedoc
Gewürztraminer: Alsace
Pinot Gris: Alsace
Pinot Blanc: Alsace
Marsanne: Rhône Valley
Muscadet: Loire Valley
Riesling: Alsace
Roussanne: Rhône Valley
Sémillon: Bordeaux; Southwest France
Viognier: Rhône Valley; Languedoc

France’s Major Red Grape Varieties

Grape Variety and Region(s)
Cabernet Sauvignon: Bordeaux; Southwest France; Languedoc
Cabernet Franc: Loire Valley; Bordeaux; Southwest France
Carignan: Rhône Valley; Southern France
Cinsault: Rhône Valley; Southern France
Gamay: Beaujolais
Grenache: Rhône Valley; Southern France
Merlot: Bordeaux; Southwest France; Languedoc
Malbec: Southwest France; Bordeaux
Mourvèdre: Rhône Valley; Southern France
Pinot Noir: Burgundy; Champagne
Syrah: Rhône Valley; Southern France

Source: Grape Varieties Grown in France – For Dummies

No. 312-314: La Loire à Vélo, Bike Share Programs and Biking in Dresses

la_loire_a_velo_bike.jpgFor a Colorado girl accustom to always having to ride the hills, the Loire à Vélo is a gem of a bike trail. The 800km path spans two regions of France, the Centre and the Pays de la Loire, and connects six cities: Orléans, Blois, Tours, Saumur, Angers, Nantes. There are no hills, en fait, recreational and professional riders are faced with nothing more than minor “bumps” as they make their way to or from the Bay of Biscay. Hands down, it is one of the most enjoyable vélo paths in France. La Loire à Vélo was an enormous public works undertaking that took the better part of two decades and cost a whopping €52 million to develop and signpost. A favorite among the French and tourists alike, over 800,000 cyclists follow some part of the trail each year. Happily our family is a lucky addition to that statistic.

There is really no excuse not to give it a go, as the usually friendly (when not striking) folks at SNCF make it an extremely easy bicycle holiday by allowing you to take your bike with you on their Interloire-trains. Between Orléans and the bay there are over 20 train stations with quick access to the trail, which makes it very easy to cycle as far as you want and then hop the train back to where you started.

We have biked the Loire as day trips from Paris and as long weekends. I plan to celebrate the BIG 50 by biking the whole 500 miles in 2015. Even if you are not as ambitious as me, or don’t have your own bike, it still makes a super fun and undemanding afternoon outing from any of the cities listed above, because the French have made it super easy. If you only want to go for an hour or two, you can rent a bike for a few euros in most cities from their vélib or bike share programs. So even if you spend the morning visiting museums and lunching on the local cuisine, you can still hop on a bike (ladies, go ahead and bike in your dresses—the French are not the “gearheads” that Americans are), and enjoy some of the most beautiful landscapes in France…mais, bien sûr don’t forget your (chic) bicycle helmets.

Bon vélo!

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No. 311: Mornings on the Loire River

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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.