Thursday, 5 November 2015

On into the Loire Valley

On into the Loire Valley

Tuesday 3rd November 2015

We left out muddy camp site at Les Ilots de St Val yesterday with high priorities to get fuel and food. The T4rdis had about 100 miles worth of fuel left but the fuel gauge needle was dipping into the red zone, so a little planning had been done as to where we could find the nearest garage.  We set off confidently - only to find that the first one had a height barrier which prevented us from going in - and the second, and the third!  This was a tad worrying, so by the time we spotted a fourth garage - one that we could actually access, we weren't bothered that the fuel was super expensive - we just let it glug into the tank with huge sighs of relief!  (1.26 euros instead of 1.06 but that was still only about the equivalent of 90p per litre)

Next it was shopping - at home we had nearly always shopped at Aldi or Lidl, and as these stores are plentiful over here, we saw no good reason to change.  John had found an Aldi at Chartres, and this had the added advantage of allowing us to at least catch a glimpse of the Cathedral rearing up above the town in the distance.

Shame about the post and the pylon!

Anyway, we parked up and did our shopping and it was easier than I expected - and although they didn’t quite have as much choice as at home they had lots of ‘different’ things for us to choose from, and by the time we'd done our cupboards where full to bursting.  We choose some very smelly cheese, some pate en croute (that looked a bit like pork pie but was much nicer) and of course a drop of vin rouge and cider!

Once the shopping was stowed we headed for an Aire at Chateadun where we found ourselves parked in the shadow of the huge imposing 12th century Château along with 5 other vans, 3 of which were British.  

Off course, we got chatting with the owners of a couple of them which took quite a long time, hence a late lunch in the T4rdis but we diligently hoovered up some of the goodies we'd acquired earlier.  

Then later we wondered up and up and up into the village - to get there we needed to climb more than 200 decrepit old crumbling steps that lead from our Aire up to the village square, and we hadn't been there more then a couple of minuets before we bumped into the neighbours to whom we'd been chatting earlier!  

They invited us to go for a little aperitif, so we were all soon settled at one of the many pavement cafes with ‘un pichet of vin rouge’ to share!  They'd spent the last 6 weeks down in the South of France but were now heading home for a wedding. However they'd been motor homing for many years and had travelled in France on numerous previous occasions, so were able to provide us with info about Aires and Campsites that they'd used and could recommend - so hopefully we'll be able to try some of them on our travels.

Once the wine was drank, we had a little meander around the village and then headed back to the T4rdis, but to get back down we needed to traverse a path with several ‘hairpin’ bends, and that was in an equal state of disrepair, as the staircase up. 

And right at the top we saw this War Memorial and then at the bottom we found  ‘Les Grottes du Foulon’  - a group of caves that we'd planned to visit but it turned out they were only open at weekends so not this time.  

History has it that the caves were hewn out by the Loire River over 300,000 years ago, and even from the road side it was possible to see little caverns that were being used for garages, storage and even a wine shop from where it is said the Queen obtains her champagne! La Cave des Fouleries)

We didn’t go in because it looked very expensive but we later found out it was founded back in 1890 and it has a huge selection of wines from the Loir and the Loire valley - many of which are available to taste if you make a booking!  Now, although we didn’t enter the said cavern  to sample their wears we did indulge in a nice little red that we'd purchased earlier, and this accompanied our tea of wild boar steak!

Thursday 4th November 2015

Today we left the Aire by about 10.30am and headed into the Loire Valley to a camp site near Sully-sur-Loire, and our pitch is just a stone’s throw away from the massive River Loire itself.  The weather had been on and off rain, but the afternoon brightened up so we went for a walk into Sully to see it’s Château and also to explore the town and the peaceful footpaths that meander alongside the river. 

This imposing 14th century moated fortress greets you as you enter the town, and from it’s surrounding grounds there are the origins of numerous footpaths where you can walk and watch wildlife as you go.  We chose one and set off walking through the multi coloured autumn trees along a path that closely followed the course of the river, and as we went, we spotted a Kingfisher as it flitted by, as well as loads of swans, ducks white herons, and fish jumping out of the water, presumably to catch insects. On the way back John warned me that I needed to walk on his left side because he was going to deaf-con 1! He meant his hearing aid battery was about to give up the ghost in his right ear - thus reducing him to deafness on that side!

A Bridge leading to the Château 

Just some of the wildlife

On our return to the campsite we called in at the Reception to pay and the very kind owner (who spoke excellent English) provided us with a book outlining the many cycling paths that are available within the area.  Therefore, tomorrow will definitely be a cycling day!

Friday 5th November 2015

No fireworks here - just miles of lovely tranquil meandering cycle paths. Apparently, there is a trail that runs mostly along the banks of the Loire for about 155 kms and it ends at the Atlantic Ocean - we didn't go quite that far today!

We joined the track just across the road form the camp site and followed it for about 30 kms - mostly all off road and on well surfaced paths.  

John wanted to swap his bike but he couldn't quite get his leg over!

Our goal for today was the Château at Chateauneuf, but to get to it we had to leave the cycle trail and make our way through the town, and even though everything was closed for dinner it was still quite busy, which along with it's narrow streets, made it quite hazardous for cycling. We eventually found our way but it didn't turn out to be anywhere near as grand as the previous 2 châteaus we'd seen, and it definitely lacked any wow factor! Therefore, instead of having our lunch there we quickly retraced our steps back to the river and found a lovely spot a bit further along where we could enjoy our picnic.

Now it was time for our return journey (I think we did about 60km altogether) and along the way we passed over an ancient suspension bridge


and also lots of bee hives in the woods

and we found this little cottage for sale - maybe our next home will be something similar!

If the weather holds our plan is cycle in the opposite direction tomorrow, if not we may move on - either way, that will be another story.

Finally, just a few more pics!  While we were cycling we  had several WhatsApp messages to say Baby Evelyn (the newest addition to our family) was on her way to meet Great Ma (John's Mum) , and a few days ago we had received some very cute pictures of our other Grandchildren as they celebrated Halloween.

Is it Thomas or is it Harry Potter
I'm sure Jack is in there somewhere!

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