The Loire Valley by bike
You already know that the Loire region is one of the most romantic in Europe, you already imagine that you will see a dreamlike Chateaux - yes, that mixture between castle and palace whose thin red line only the French know how to differentiate - and you feel that you are going to Put on your boots with the delights of local cuisine, but what you don't know is that you are going to do it by bicycle. With hardly any effort and personalizing your route you can access the most emblematic landscapes of the last wild river in Europe. And also get back in shape.
We do not ask you to travel the 800 km route, because it looks like the Loire is long. It all depends on you and your desire, we only tell you that if you want, you can. Almost a thousand kilometers that start very close to Paris and end in the Atlantic. If you do not want to faint, we suggest that combine exercise with the most tempting and best located restaurants in the valley, so you can enjoy its best views.
The first thing you should know is that you can rent and return the bike at any point of the route, since Bonny-sur-Loirein the Orleans region until Chalonnes-sur-Loire, on the Atlantic Coast, so that freedom is total. From one day to infinity: seven will cost you 60 euros; the second is that the walks along the river are a delight, and, good news: they barely have slopes; The third is that if you decide to discover the region during the spring / summer season you will find a lot of appetizing activities: from festivals to period shows.
By bike and without regrets © Corbis
Let the spring sun find you savoring a good coffee in one of the many terraces of the entertaining Place du Martroi, in the heart of Orleans. The impressive statue of the legendary Joan of Arc will give us courage to start pedaling. Our first contact with the gastronomic Loire takes us to Le Pavillon Bleu, in Olivet, a charming restaurant specializing in fish with one of those terraces that seems to catch you at the time of the nap.
But it is not convenient to be lazy, because right here it starts The Promenade des Moulins, a unique walk through the Loiret - a tributary of the Loire 13 kilometers long - which looks more like an open-air museum formed by eight medieval mills which at the time channeled the stormy waters of the Loire. Little known, this walk is a delight for collectors of rarities, and a must for French Sundays. 20 kilometers away is the Château de Meng sur Loire, one of the oldest in France. Before the Revolution it was the home of the powerful Bishops of Orleans, to whom he owes much of his busy history. A trip that is easy to undertake by visiting its rooms: medieval cuisine, the herbarium, the laundry, the impressive barn, the library, the curious bathtub room or even the torture room -the latter is not suitable for sensitive spirits-
We pedal up Tavers. The Château de Guignes It is today an exclusive luxury hotel run by a nice couple. They themselves teach their well-kept gardens, update us on the history of the place and take care of serving dinner on the terrace. An experience that thanks to the French schedule allows us to enjoy its homemade cherry liqueur watching the sunset. The Tonnellerie It is another luxury option, especially if we no longer feel the legs. It is a hotel with an outdoor hot water pool, gastronomic restaurant and a very careful spa where shiatsu massages stand out.
A breakfast at Le Manoir les Minimes © Le Manoir les Minimes
Between Orleans and Blois is the crown jewel: the Château de Chambord, one of the most photographed in the world. Chambord has passed to the collective imaginary for its distinctive Renaissance architecture, capable of blending with tremendous power medieval forms of tradition and classic Italian structures. The result is stunning. The largest of all the Chateaux of the Loire was nevertheless conceived as a hunting lodge for King Francisco I. Qualifying modest for such a deployment of means. Just for the photo of its ceilings and chimneys - which seem to belong to the dream world - it is worth turning a few kilometers.
The photogenic Château de Chambord © Corbis
After this vision we deserve a meal that can be described as at least regal. That's why we choose L'orangerie du Château de Blois, carrier of a Michelin star. At the controls is chef Jean-Marc Molveaux, a lover of this land that turns the simplest food into true works of art. From 40 euros we can give ourselves a tribute.
Our next stop takes us to the Chaumont-sur-Loire International Garden Festival. In a place of story and under the slogan Gardens of Sensations, the best creators of gardens of the world compete in talent and creativity to create unique spaces in the tremendous esplanade of the Château. An explosion of colors and aromas that turns twenty-one. An unforgettable trip for which it is convenient to book at least three hours of our time.
The 1001vins wine cellar, in Tours © 1001vins
The origins of the city of Amboise date back to the Celtic era, so it is not surprising that we find here a magnificent Château with a clear defensive vocation. Located by the river, the Château Royal It has hosted numerous illustrious guests throughout its long history - among others Leonardo Da Vinci that has a tribute statue in its gardens - and today, this Gothic-Renaissance building is perfect to understand how the centuries have been changing the function of these castle-palaces until they become guardian museums of history. Important: if you want to get excellent panoramic photos of the Loire you have to go up to the Ronda Gallery, from which formerly all the activities in the area, the normal and the suspicious, were monitored. If you prefer a complete image of the Château you have to cross the river and wait for the sunset. Worth it.
Following the vineyard road along the left bank of the Loire, we find the charming Auberge de Launay. Again, a space with a perfect terrace to know at a good price the specialties of the area, also the oenological ones. A cocktail of colors and to bed. We take it on the porch of Le Manoir les Minimes, a small boutique hotel of the eighteenth century, founded on the ruins of an old convent, specializing in pampering the client. The ideal place to enjoy a long restful night.
The castle of Amboise © Corbis
The compact city of Tours is perfect for parking the bike and taking a walk without a map. Curiosar for their narrow streets full of flowers, fall into temptation in their original boutiques and above all be attentive to their gourmet stores. We recommend La Balade Gourmande, perfect for finding the best products in the region: among many others, artisan pates, Touraine saffron, Tour plums, black truffle oil and Ste Maure-de-Touraine cheese, the best-selling goat cheese in France. A delicatessen universe that you cannot resist.
1001Vins It is another essential: an old-fashioned wine cellar where to find - as the name promises - more than a thousand wines of the country, including of course the Loire Valley. To continue, the avant-garde bistro Le Rive Gauche is the best place to understand the lifestyle of the city's inhabitants, sybaritic and calm, delivered to the intelligent talk and pleasures of the palate.
The perfect plan to spend the afternoon is to cycle through the countryside until you reach the Château de Villandry, definitely the most dandy of our tour. Built in 1536 it is the last of the great Chateaux del Loire, but they were comfortable, everything has to be said. Its magnificent gardens, which seem designed with square and bevel, are capable of transmitting all the seductive baroque sumptuousness of a lifestyle that today no longer exists - at least for most mortals -
The gardens of the Château de Villandry © Corbis
The decorative garden is dedicated to love, a part to tender love, another to the passionate, another to fleeting love and the last to tragic love. Later we will meet the Garden of Water, the Garden of the Sun and the Garden of the Simple, the latter of medieval composition completely dedicated to the cultivation of aromatic and medicinal plants. Lovers of the initiatory can recreate themselves in their Labyrinth, a magical composition that does not hide dead ends. Appetizing, right?
Among its thousands of visitors, Asians stand out, who have opted for all their romantic potential to celebrate in their gardens his famous mass weddings. As a last curiosity: it was a Spaniard, Joaquín Carvallo, who abandoned his brilliant medical career to buy this Château at the beginning of the 20th century and return all its splendor, in short, who recovered for the traveler the ability to dream from the hand of history.