By Maggie LaCoste
After a perfectly wonderful night at La Rocheliere in Vouvray, we are off to explore the Route des Vignobles Touraine Val de Loire, the route through the vineyards. Since this route is a deviation of the main Loire a Velo itinerary, we are using the map Velo Loire and Terroir which goes from Rochecorbon to Amboise through the heart of some of the best vineyards in the Loire region. Before leaving Vouvray, we pick up supplies for lunch and water. We visit one of the most famous caves in Vouvray on our way out of town, sample a selection of local wines, tour the underground caves, and buy wine for lunch. This is not an easy task as the wine choices here are many!
As we leave Vouvray, our journey begins another jaw-dropping day, with troglodyte cliffs to our left, and La Cisse river on our right. My husband reminded me to keep my eyes on the road. It was hard to not stare at the caves with amazement. Some of the caves have been renovated into homes, some incorporated into homes, others are wine cellars for the vineyards, and some are abandoned. We have been told that in this area, there is an expansive network of underground caves. In Vouvray for example, there is a network of over 4 km of caves underneath the town. A local friend told us the story of caves that were used by royalty during the Revolution to escape death! So it’s easy to understand why my mind wandered as the caves towered over me!
It didn’t take long for us to wander off path and before we knew it, we were totally surrounded by vineyards for as far as you could see, and no directional signs anywhere. This seems to happen to us a lot, so I really don’t worry about it. We totally enjoyed the sight and smell of the vineyards, exchanged friendly greetings with some locals who were amazed to see two Americans traveling their backroads. We travel with an American flag on the bike, and it always encourages conversation with locals. We passed the gorgeous Chateau de Valmer which dominates the countryside, and luckily for us, gave us a landmark to figure out where we were.
In a few short kilometers, we were back on track and riding on a beautiful route called Vallee de Vaugadeland. With a mix of caves, gorgeous manor homes and vineyards, this route was a joy from beginning to end. From the highest point on the route it was possible to see Amboise Castle and the town of Amboise. It was here that we enjoyed our picnic lunch, feeling fortunate for another day of great weather, safe bicycle paths and scenery so beautiful it’s hard to describe.
As we edged closer to our destination for the night, we had the funniest experience of the day. As we were bicycling up the road, a market truck pulled up on the side of the road, stopped, rang a loud bell, and opened up the side panel of the truck to become an instant market. People from all the surrounding houses came running out with their market baskets. We sat watching this local event unfold, thrilled at our good timing. Eggs, chicken, sausages, meat, cheese, this market wagon had everything. We decided to purchase some foie gras for a pre-dinner snack. At 2 Euro, this was undoubtedly the best, and the cheapest foie gras we ever had! And we had yet another opportunity to experience every day life in France. Another benefit of exploring France by bike!