Bicycling the Loire: New Friends, Majestic Castles and Perfect Bike Paths

By Maggie LaCoste

Life just really doesn’t get much better than our journey today on the Loire.  The day began in one of my favorite towns, Chinon.  I’m always amazed when I walk the street of Chinon near the castle as I know that I am walking on or near roads that Joan of Arc traveled, and that leaves me feeling rather awed.  The first sight of Chinon castle as you approach by bike on the other side of the river is one of my favorite Loire memories, and fortunately passing Chinon castle at the top of the town is my last memory as I leave town.

Our stay at the Hotel Diderot was perfect as always, and breakfast was a treat of many of our favorite Diderot home-made jams.  Certainly the sugar from the jams we ate will help power us through the few hills that we will ride to reconnect with the Loire.  Our favorite treat of the morning though was a new friendship that we made with Sabrina and Stefan, two young bicyclists, she from Canada and he from America.  Actually Stefan is the only American that we have seen so far on our journey, but he has been traveling so long in Europe that we almost couldn’t consider him “American”.  Sabrina is a tour leader for Backroads, one of the premier bike tour companies in the US, and Stefan is a trip leader for Trek Tours.  We exchanged stories of our love for biking through France, and how biking enriches one’s travel because of interactions just like ours.  We think that we made an impact on their lives, and I know they did ours.  We can’t wait to share trip experiences with them when we return home.

Traveling by bike is different.  We often feel as if we are a sort of goodwill ambassador, because everyone we meet is amazed that two Americans would take the time to explore the backroads of France.  I guess Americans really have a reputation for the 20 cities in 20 days type of vacation, with no chance to ever really experience the essence of France.  Well, there is no chance that anyone could ever accuse us of not savoring every experience that comes our way.  We have met families from Switzerland, Germany, England, Sweden and more, and each of their bicycling experiences has enriched our lives, and we hope that our stories have made some impact on them.  Interaction is one of the things that makes travel by bicycle such a special thing.

We bid farewell to our new friends Sabrina and Stefan, and headed north to rejoin the Loire.  The bike path from Chinon to the Loire is a bit hilly, but luckily our Hotel Diderot breakfast powered us on.  Before we knew it, we were back on the Loire a Velo path, with perfect weather, perfectly beautiful bike paths and many treats to come.  Chateau d’Usse was the first castle we passed, and even though I visited it last year, first impressions were still awesome.  Next came the port of Brehemont, one of the best preserved ports on the Loire, and our choice for the perfect place for a picnic.  The Loire a Velo is filled with bicyclists this year, and we understand that more and more people are learning about this beautiful bicycling adventure through France.  Our lunch time is filled with conversations with bicyclists from Germany and Austria, families experiencing the Loire for the first time.

Before we know it, we are crossing the bridge to Langeais.  It is an awesome bridge, one of the few suspension bridges on the Loire.  Unlike the approach to Chinon, the approach to the town of Langeais is rather dreary, but we quickly find that this town may very well be one of our new favorites on the Loire.  As we bicycled up to our B and B for the night, the incredible Langeais castle filled the street ahead of us.  This is really one incredible castle, one of the most unique on the Loire, and definitely one of my favorites.  With the oldest Romanesque keep dating to the 10th century, the castle looks like something out of a storybook.  And so does the town.  There is something very comfortable about this place, and I cannot wait to explore it more.  What a day we have had.  I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to have experienced everything that this day has brought!  Until tomorrow!

Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.

  1. Wish that I were with you. Sounds like you are having some wonderful new experiences