By Maggie LaCoste
It is a beautiful day here in Angers! We are off for our first day of biking on the Loire. Since we already had the chance to explore the bike paths south of Angers, we opted to take the new eastern route through the slate quarry near Trelaze. This route to the Loire was fun and unique; the slate landscape actually made it seem as if you were bicycling on the moon!
No sooner had we left the slate quarry area, we came to the Authion River and a really unique crossing, a pull-it-yourself chain driven boat crossing. On a boat just large enough for two people and two bikes, you literally pull yourself across to the other side of the river. So much excitement and it wasn’t even noon yet! But still no Loire as the Loire a Velo path runs inland on this part of the route.
We continued inching closer to the Loire through fields of corn and sunflowers. For about 15 km, the area was perfect for daydreaming or just enjoying the silence of the peaceful paths. Finally at Saint Mathurin-sur-Loire we get our first glimpse of the Loire. Saint Mathurin was the first town since Trelaze where you could buy water, snacks or lunch, so if you bike this route, plan ahead.
Saint-Mathurin-sur-Loire is a great little town with restaurant possibilities on both sides of the bridge. There is a museum of the Loire there which provides almost any kind of information on the Loire you could want.
The route from Saint-Remy-la-Varenne east is really fantastic, running right along the Loire with fantastic views. Within just a few miles you are treated to some very special attractions: Saint Remy with its 12th century Benedictine priory, the Abbey of Saint-Maur and the 15th to 17th century houses in Le Thoureil. Great bicycling and great attractions, what a perfect combination!
At Le Thoureil, we left the river for our destination of the night, the small village of Saint-George-Des-Sept-Voies. I chose to make this deviation from the Loire for the opportunity to stay at La Sansonniere, home to chef Jean-Francois Delanne. Unfortunately one challenge lay between the Loire path and La Sansonniere-about 5 km of uphill biking! I understand that good things are worth working for. I said this incessantly biking up the never-ending hill! Finally we reached the top of the hill, the inn was in sight, and it was as perfect as I imagined. The auberge, made of tuffa stone, is part of a 17th century manor in an area full of troglodyte caves and remnants of it’s prehistoric origins. This was a perfect place to end our first day bicycling the Loire!