with tips for cycling & hiking
consists of 13 bike rides covering some of the finest chateaux in France, Blois ,Cheverney, Chambord & Chaumont and the surrounding area, a total of 400km.
They are either off road or on very quiet roads and vitally they meet our criteria of level cycling.In a nutshell they represent cycling heaven.
Our starting point was the commercial campsite La Grand Tortue at Cande sur Beuvron:
which is a camping cheques site, www.campingcheque.com
though after our first cycle we discovered the municipal at Chaumont, so after a few days we moved down to this delightful site, right on the banks of the Loire, 11 euros, cash, with electricty and a great sanitary block.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with La Grand Tortue but whether I would say the same in high season, I am not sure but there was nothing to compare with the sheer simplicity and outlook of the municipal at Chaumont.
Our pitch at Chaumont, within walking distance of the chateau.
All routes are well signposted
There is a map, not surprisingly called, "Chateaux a Velo", which forms part of the larger Loire bike network.
All tourist offices and campsites have these.
Our first "quiet" bikeride was to Chaumont and when we started, we were suprised to see literally hundreds of cyclists coming towards us, and many in fancy dress.
A quick enquiry and we had come across "La Fete du Velo", where on the first Sunday in September, the locals go on a cycle ride "en famille", with lunch thrown in.
It was a fantastic occasion with some 2000 participants doing the simple things in life and thoroughly enjoying themselves. It was, also, the only time in my life when the gendarmes stopped the traffic(all 2 cars) to allow us to cross the road.
All in all, it was a great community event, the type of celebration that the French do so well.
The route also allowed us to discover the municipal at Chaumont and Chaumont Chateau(below) & the International Garden Festival
The Chateau is imposing and offers spectacular views over the town and the Loire below but its main attraction is the International Garden Festival.
In the 20th year of the festival, when we visited, there were 24 individual gardens laid out on the theme of "Gardens of the Future" or "the art of happy biodiversity".
There were over 700 applicants for the 24 plots and those that are successful receive 11000euros to develop their gardens.
Recycling is paramount and all the materials are incorporated and then owned and kept by the chateau for future use.
It could be described as a mini Chelsea but without the commercialisation. It is, however, extremely prestigious to compete and all potential participants must be prepared to be very adaptable, because even though their original submission may be based on a sunny aspect ,they may, actually, be allocated a shady spot.
The gardens were superb and many challenged us with their startling use of unlikely features. The festival set against the backdrop of the Chateau is a must see.
This water garden makes use of recycled pallets
There is plenty to see apart from the imposing chateau and for those that enjoy your food - the most gorgeous variant on a Pain Raisin we have yet discovered, that contained both prunes and apricots. There is the old saying" like a little boy in a sweetshop...." well this is matched by the man in a French Patisserie.
Blois with the Loire in the foreground
A Frenchman guarding his vegetables
This was our base on the eastern side of the area and we stayed at Les Saules campsite just outside of the town.
There is a direct path to the Chateaux a Velo cycle routes right outside of the site
A visit to Les Saules is well worth the visit just to meet the owner, Laurent Cherrier, who bombs around the site on his bike, delivering bonhommie to whoever he meets.
I have rarely come across someone who enjoys his job so much and he is an example to many a campsite owner.
Cheverney and its chateau(pictured below) is a short cycle away which is undoubtedly one of the most majestically furnished .
Chambord, below, which is one of the biggest, is a good days ride, as is Blois.