Bicycling the Loire: Wine Tasting and The Picnic Lunch

By Maggie LaCoste

No Internet yesterday, so I am a day behind on my posts! As much as it bugs me when I can’t access the Internet, I am really happy to know that there are still places that the information highway doesn’t exist! So here is my report on our ride from St-Ouen-les-Vignes to Amboise, Chaumont-sur-Loire, Cande-sur-Beuvron and Chitenay. Our mileage for the day was 46 km on flat trails with just a few hills.

It was a short ride to Amboise where we stopped at our favorite place for coffee, our favorite boulangerie for bread and a very special chocolate eclair, and charcuterie for pate. We are planning to stop at several vineyards along the way, so we will pick up wine after one of our tastings! Since we have been to the castle and Da Vinci home before, we leave after a short visit.

Heading east from Amboise, there are several options. The current Loire a Velo route runs inland, away from the Loire, a bit hilly in places, and not much to see for about 11 km. The route has very little traffic though, so is very safe. We are opting to ride along the river on the D-751. There is traffic on this road, but unless it is a weekend in the summer, or you are traveling with kids, we have found it to be quite safe. The route is quite lovely with the Loire on the left and troglodyte and wine caves on the right. It’s another day of keeping your eyes on the road and not staring at the attractions along the way!

Shortly after leaving Amboise, we stop for a tasting at one of our favorite Loire vineyards, Plou and Fils.  A family business since 1508, we have a fun time with our selections, ultimately choosing a demi-sec white and a Malbec red for a total of 9 Euros, or less than $12.  My husband and I agree that we will stop for lunch in a favorite town, Cande-sur-Beuvron.  Regarded as one of the loveliest towns on the Loire, there is a great park on the bike path that is the perfect place for a picnic lunch.  We stop  at one more vineyard, then we pick up the pace to the pretty town of Chaumont-sur-Loire.  Chaumont castle has a million dollar view over the Loire River and is one of the most visited castles in the region.  Every year the castle attracts thousands of visitors to its International Garden Festival.  This town warrents a stop to visit the castle, or even an overnight.

We are on to Cande-sur-Beuvron and our picnic lunch. Even though the morning skies were threatening, it’s become a lovely day, uncharacteristically cool, but great for biking. The ride from Chaumont to Cane-sur-Beuvron is great, a bike path that runs right along the river. The route is filled with families with small children, out for a ride and picnic lunch. Before long, we can see the flower-filled bridges of Cande-sur-Beuvron. The picnic areas are filled with bicyclists, all enjoying their special lunch treats. We find one last table, closest to the bridge and the best choice for people-watching and scenery. We assemble our picnic, open the wine, the sun comes out from behind the clouds….the perfect French lunch!

We start to enjoy the treats we have assembled and enjoy exchanging Bon Jours with passing bicyclists. Every year we sit at this same location watching cyclists totally confused as this is an area where the Chateaux a Velo itineraries begin to mix with the Loire a Velo trail markers. We help many people on their way, enjoying the commraderie shared among bicyclists, even those who share no common language.

Over lunch, we plan our course for our final stop of the day, the small town of Chitenay and the Hotel du Center. To reach Chitenay, we will be venturing off the Loire a Velo and onto the Les Chateaux a Velo circuit, a network of 400 km of marked cycle tracks between the Loire River and the Sologne. Divided into 13 different itineraries, Les Chateaux a Velo is the best way to reach many of the chateau south and east of Blois. We take itinerary 1 and connect to itinerary 4 to reach Chitenay. I’ve never been on the Chateaux a Velo before, and we find the itineraries well-marked, flat and great rides. The area is full of vineyards with grapes in varying degrees of ripeness. Summer was unusually early on the Loire, so this year’s grape harvest will be an interesting one.

In seemingly no time, we arrive at the Auberge du Center for the night. Part of the Logis of France chain, the hotel is best recognized for its restaurant. We are very warmly greeted by the owner Giles. It is quickly very apparent that this hotel caters specially bicyclists. We learn that many people come and stay here for several nights, choosing one of the different paths to bicycle each day. This is a great location, in the middle of a bicycling Mecca! For more information, see www.chateauxavelo.com. If you are planning a trip to the area, request the map, Chateaux a Velo from the Blois Tourisme Office, as you want to have this map to review before your trip. While the maps can be referenced online, you need an original version of the map for your trip.

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 way....by 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.