By Maggie LaCoste
Even though it was a dreary morning, Chambord totally glistened with the first morning light. We walked around the chateaux this morning before any tour groups arrived. I am still as amazed at Chambord as I was the first time I saw it. Love it or not, Chambord is one incredible place. Spending the night here was a very special experience.
We took our last pictures and started bicycling on Chateaux a Velo Itinerary 9 towards Blois. We expected that the path would be full of weekend bicyclists heading toward Chambord, but we suspect that the weather forecast must not be good as we pass very few bicyclists. The bike itinerary was so lovely that we barely gave any thought to the darkening skies. We had been skirting rain for the last three days and hadn’t gotten wet yet, so we hoped we would have the same luck today.
It’s only about 20 km to Blois from Chambord, so in almost no time we had our first glimpse of the majestic Blois castle from the other side of the river. This is a great city to arrive at by bicycle: with each pedal stroke, more and more of the city is revealed. When the full scope of the city is revealed, you really just want to stop on the bike path, just to take it all in! Blois is one of my favorite cities on the Loire, with a beautiful castle, incredibly steep and narrow alleyways and half-timbered houses. But today in Blois is special, it’s market day. The Blois weekend market is one of the best on the Loire, with food stalls that wind in and out of the streets and alleyways near the castle. As we come across the bridge, the streets are bustling with tourists, bicyclists and people on their way to or from the market.
We find a safe location to lock our bikes and start working the food stalls, looking for our choices for today’s picnic lunch. I am in charge of cheese, myrtilles and bread. My husband is in charge of wine, pate and avocados. The choices were staggering. I got in one que for cheese, with over 100 different local and regional cheeses to choose from. I compromised, buying one goat cheese for my husband, and one hard cheese for myself. The whole experience of the market is so much fun, people in front and behind me, making advice on what cheese to buy. I wish I could buy them all! As I go to check on my husband’s progress, it starts to rain. We dash to a covered cafe for some coffee while the rain showers pass.
Soon the sun returns, we finish our market purchases, and then head out of town. We decide to take the new route recently opened on the north side of the Loire from Blois to Muides-sur-Loire. A greenway with no cars for at least 10 km, and a beautiful view of the Loire. As we approached the town of Menars, my anticipation grew as we passed several kilometers of high stone walls. I knew there was a chateau behind the walls, but cruelly, it was not for the passing bicyclist to see! Interestingly, I have discovered over the last week that some of the best parts of a trip can be those things you cannot see. You simply use your imagination to create your own vision! So after I make my own mental picture of what the Chateau Menars looks like, I make a mental note to read more about it when I return home.
Just before our lunch stop along a beautiful stretch of the Loire, we pass a group of artists doing watercolor paintings along the river. They were as interested in our bicycling adventure as I was in their paintings. We wave goodbye and I tell myself that this was just one more experience in France that could only happen on a bike. For the rest of the day the bike route was a mix of flat, quiet country roads with little or no traffic, lots of sunflowers and vineyards. We had a bit of a good tailwind, a benefit of traveling west to east, so we seemed to be zooming along, and before we knew it, we had arrived at our destination for the night. Today’s mileage was almost 55 km. I am really ready for dinner!