By Maggie LaCoste
Ten days and 500 km went by much too fast! These two bicycling itineraries are definitely among my favorites in France. The bike paths are peaceful, safe and well-signposted, there are many attractions to see along the way, and in between the attractions, the scenery is gorgeous. I think I enjoyed this summer’s ride even more than last year, perhaps because I was more relaxed, and more open to the adventure of exploring France by bike.
I have great memories of places like the Gardens of Villandry, the Chateau at Chambord, and the towns of Langeais, Orleans and Blois. But my favorite trip memories are the people I met and conversations we shared: people like Fabrice and Stephan, Anneli, Sabrina, Gilles, and families from across Europe who shared stories with us about their bicycling adventures with their children. This is what makes a bicycling vacation different from any other mode of touring, and it is probably one of the reasons why cyclotourism has become so popular among Europeans.
Communication. It’s such a simple thing, but we’re always so reluctant to start a conversation with a stranger. There is an openness, a friendliness among bicyclists in Europe, and if you take advantage of it, it will really enrich your vacation experience. It’s this communication and interaction that makes traveling by bike so different from any other type of travel, whether it is interaction with the environment, with people, with the dynamic history of the area you are visiting. So strike up a conversation with the couple next to you at lunch, offer to help a bicyclist who looks lost, interact with the owner of your B and B. You just might find that these interactions are some of your favorite vacation memories too.
The bicycle traffic on the Loire was visibly more than last summer, but this was only noticed in busier tourist spots like Villandry, Amboise and Beaugency, and, of course at lunch time in the prime picnic locations! News is spreading about this wonderful bicycling adventure along the famous Loire River, and people from seniors to families with young kids, to solo travelers come to enjoy one of the premier bicycle destinations in France.
I am busy sifting through about 1600 photos from my trip, and I will soon be adding some of these to my posts. Then I resume the process of working on my first guidebook on bicycling the Loire, which hopefully will be completed before next spring. In the meantime, I will smile every day remembering the people and places that made this summer bicycling trip along the Loire my best adventure ever!