Having tired of the endless croaking of the frogs, I decided to decamp to the Loire for a few days to find some peace and quiet.
Loading up my trusty Peugeot tourer with a tent, sleeping bag and a few supplies, I set off towards Chinon on the old D749 along the banks of the Vienne munching on greasy salami and hard bread as I went.
I didn’t get to Chinon that night, camping instead in Richelieu, the famous model village built by Louis XIII in the 17th century. I had done around 100km in 30 degree heat, so while I hadn’t made Chinon, I was happy with my progress and was looking forward to getting to the Loire the next day.
The next morning I breakfasted on plates of pain au chocolat in the village and felt a sense of history swell up in me along with the pastry. It was an unusual place and reminded me of Painswick in the Cotswolds that I’d passed through on another cycling adventure years ago.
I said my farewell and by one o’clock I was lunching on crab salad and cabernet–d’anjou in Montsoreau, another pretty – if not model – village along the banks of the Loire. The lunch was a reward for reaching the river after many years of thinking about it. And highly enjoyable it was too, even if it did strip me of my food budget for the entire four days. But there was always canned Cassoulet.
For the next three hours I gently meandered along the river. Through the wine port of Saumur and on towards Gennes where I camped for the night. Treated to a pitch with superb views of the river that were reserved for cyclists and walkers. The mobile homes and caravans having to make do with views of the sanitary block and clumps of azaleas. It felt like justice after years of having to pitch my tent next to the toilets because these portable hotels with their starship enterprise sized windscreens and satellite dishes always pinched the best spots.
After a short trek to the local shop to buy my can of Cassoulet and a few beers, I lazed by the river considering what to do the next day. I had to be back in Queaux by Friday as we were expecting visitors. Today was Wednesday and I was left with two options: head inland south towards Parthenay and stop there for the night before rounding the back of Poitier the next day and onwards to Queaux. Or, cross the river a bit further up from Gennes and cycle on the other side of the Loire towards Chinon and go back that way.
It was a fairly easy choice in the end. The next day was burning hot and I didn’t fancy cycling through the scorching wheat plains of Maine-et-Loire when I could be cycling along the river. So I crossed the Loire about 12km up from Gennes at St. Remy-la-Varenne and arrived in Chinon at around six o’clock just in time to purchase my tin of Cassoulet, and of course, a bottle of Chinon.
‘Chinon, Chinon,’ I sang to myself to the tune of Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus as I walked along the cooling boulevards of this lovely town.
The only downside of choosing Chinon as my last stop was that it left me with a 140 km cycle the next day in 32 degree heat. But it was a challenge. So next morning I jettisoned any excess weight I had and set off early along the banks of the Vienne towards Queaux.
I made it back at eight-thirty. Drained and very hot, but happy that I had finally cycled to the Loire and back. I’d done around 370 km in four days with a full load in 30 degree heat. I had a congratulatory beer and went to bed.