with tips for cycling & hiking
Despite many visits to the Loire, the town of Tours had escaped us, primarily because we could not find a campsite close enough to the town and this omission of the 15th & 16th century capital of France was in urgent need of correction.
The town itself was in grave danger of serious neglect and possible catastrophic reconstruction in the 1960’s, which has blighted so many towns but foresight led to a restoration programme which gives us today’s beautifully preserved medieval centre. The town is, however, not a museum and is very much alive with its numerous cafes, restaurants and bars blending in effortlessly with the medieval infrastructure.
We stayed at the campsite at St Avertin, though a few kilometres outside of Tours,it allowed easy access into the centre by cycling along the river Cher, before crossing it by the easily visible footbridges and then taking the main cycle route into town.
The campsite seems to be an older site which has been taken over by a group called Only Camp who have spent some money on updating the facilities. St Avertin is in itself a pleasant enough suburb of Tours with some fine floral decorations along the river and over the bridges. It has the basics and if you run out of money, I have never seen so many banks in such a small area.
As well as the attraction of Tours, the site is well positioned for the La Loire à Vélo, eastwards along the Loire towards Amboise and along the Cher towards Villandry.
The route eastwards is now complete as there was a gap in the route at Amboise which has now been completed. We chose to take the route along the Cher towards Villandry, simply because it follows the river for most of the way,is quieter and more attractive.
A short ride along the Loire can be had by crossing the suspension bridge and then turning right and cycling towards Rochecorbon and this can be easily combined with a visit to the centre of town.
The trip is about 21 kilometres each way so it can easily be done in a day, to include lunch and an obligatory visit to the chateau and via the charming riverside village of Savonnières.
Villandry Chateau is a classic and a reasonable charge gives you access to the chateau and to the equally impressive formal gardens.I am not a great fan of formal gardens but I must confess these blew me away.
The start of cycleway was easy to find, you simply turn right out of the campsite, up to the Cher and then follow the river but it does detour from it for a short way and on both the outward and inward journey we lost the official route a couple of times.We tend to find this often with cycle routes originating in large urban areas, the signposts either disappear or merge into the urban cycle routes. In reality this is not a major problem as you know the river Cher is on your right and eventually once you leave the urban area, you are enjoying the serenity of the riverbank and this cycle ride follows the river for the vast majority of its route.
There is a motor home aire at Villandry and toilets.