By Maggie LaCoste
Langeais is definitely one of the most under rated towns on the Loire. It doesn’t even rate a mention in most guidebooks, but after my short stay here, I can say it is definitely one of my favorites! Charming, meticulously clean, bursting with fresh flowers everywhere, very welcoming residents and one spectacular castle are just a few reasons to consider making a stop here. Perhaps one of the best reasons to come here is L’Ange est Reveur, our home for the night. With a million dollar location at the foot of the castle, this elegant Gite de France is definitely worth a trip to Langeais. Fabrice and Stephan are perfect hosts and definitely made our short visit to Langeais one to remember.
Langeais Castle looks just like the castles from the storybooks you read as a child, complete with a keep from the 10th century and a working drawbridge. The town has just enough restaurants and shops to make it a perfect place to stay on the Loire. But unfortunately for us, it’s time to move on. It was raining when we woke up, but by the time we get packed and ready to go, it has stopped. With dark skies but no rain at the moment, we say au revoir to Fabrice and Stephan and head for Villandry.
As we head east, we pass a lot of bicyclists in full rain gear….not a good sight. The bike path along the river was flat, so we were able to make good time. A few miles outside on Villandry we came upon a cobblestone section that was about 1 km long. We laughed as we tried to bicycle on this impossible surface. Then we tried to imagine the professional cyclists who ride the Paris to Roubaix race that is mostly on this surface. We arrive at the turnoff for Villandry with skies looking very threatening. We arrive at the Chateau and are shocked to see such big crowds and a bicycle parking lot that’s full to capacity! We’re not the only ones undaunted by the threatening skies.
The Villandry Gardens are nothing less than spectacular. Nothing that I read prepared me for the size, beauty or fragrances of the gardens. These gardens are definitely a must-do on a bike trip along the Loire. The most special treat of the day happened when we arrived at the Sun Garden: the sun broke through the clouds, the dark skies disappeared and we had yet another glorious day on the Loire a Velo.
Soon we were back on the Loire a Velo, riding right along the Cher River on a voie verte or greenway all the way to the outskirts of Tours. We got pretty lost heading into Tours as we missed a turn, our GPS got us even more lost, but eventually we picked up our route again. We rode right through Tours, connecting to the pedestrian-only bridge which crosses the Loire.
Since we have ridden the southern Loire a Velo route, we opted to take the northern route to our destination for the night, the famous wine town of Vouvray. Not officially part of the Loire a Velo itinerary, the northern path is a bit spotty in quality, but what it lacks in quality, it makes up for in spectacular scenery. At times, it was hard to keep focused on the trail because the cliffs were full of troglodyte dwellings and chateau. The last 10 km the ride was on a moderately busy road with the river on the right and more incredible scenery on the left. Chateau for wine tasting were everywhere. Even though traffic was moderately busy, we felt comfortable on the road, and quickly we were in Vouvray where we happily stopped for wine tasting before heading on to our hotel for the night. Another day of biking the Loire has ended, and I am amazed that our experiences just keep getting better and better. We finally arrive at our hotel for the night and before long, the rain that has held off all day arrives, making perfect weather for sleeping!