Day 1 – Chateauneuf sur Loire to Briare (30 miles). Glorious first day along the canal to Briare. Was totally blown away by the beauty of the chateau at Sully Sur Loire and my stop for photos did not really do it justice. I could very happily do this at half the pace and have a nose around these incredible places.
Briare itself is entered over a stunning viaduct, with canalside cafes, a stunning square and a cafés on every corner. Went out for a stroll at night and saw two blokes chatting and drinking in the river. Looked tempting but I didn’t have my cossie on.
Day 2 – Briare to La Charitie (38 miles plus a bit). Got a bit lost at some points (don’t try to divert) and after that was very grateful that Alice and Rachel went into a town for me to grab a croissant and slice of quiche whilst I ploughed on slowly along the route. Felt better by the last bit and was heartened by the amazing location of the campsite, just over the bridge to town. Went in to town for a drink and tour of the church. Everywhere is stunning, grand and beautiful which led one of our group to ask whether we thought they had upped the French shabby chic artfully? Er… they’ve been at it for a thousand years or so! (The thought of the monumental effort put in to the shabby-chic-ing kept me amused for the rest of this holiday).
Also managed a cooling dip in the Loire (sitting down). There was a very strong current further out so we stayed where it was shallow and watched the sun go down. Good for the muscles and soul.
Day 3 – La Charitie to Decize (38 miles)
Another steady hop along the Loire a Velo. Good pace but ready to stop by La Decize due to the heat. Great campsite with a pitch right next to the Loire. Went to a great French restaurant for our evening meal – getting in to the slower pace with some variety to the riding. Lots of shops in town. The man at the grocery did not want to serve us as he was very busy charming his regular clientele. Bought some apricots and peaches for breakfast tomorrow.
Day 4 – Decize to Bourbon-Lancy (24 miles) Aquadis Loisirs Camping du Breuil. We saw the man from the grocery opening up early this morning which explains why he is so French by the end of the day. Admittedly cyclists like us can be very annoying, tight, impatient and clumsy so we have to accept that people aren’t always going to warm to us! I headed off for Bourbon-Lancy on an easy bimble on my own today finding a straight but longer alternative to the route. Enjoyed stopping at a local café with friendly folk for strong small coffee and a croissant.
Campsite worthwhile as spotlessly clean, plots equipped with picnic benches and chairs and small but welcoming swimming pool. Hot hot hot zzz…
Went in to the town in the evening after a stroll through the park. This is a fine spa town with a busy outdoor lido and characterful town square atop a hill. The last part to town has a hand-rail you can haul yourself up on. A kindly octogenarian commented that it was steep and difficult (having just sprung up the hill like a mountain goat). We managed a satisfying meal at the busiest restaurant in town with a sprawling pavement café and efficient waitresses.
Day 5 – Bourbon-Lancy to Paray le Monial (28 miles)
Really pretty bucolic landscape of Bourgogne with verdant pastures and hulky white or ginger cows. Remains of Roman buildings here and there. Stopped in the roadside café on the route at St Aubin Sur Loire another huge chateaux (unexplored) …plenty of more refinements to make to my touring technique yet. Found a great picnic spot for lunch, stopped for coffee, went over a huge bridge and went along the canal to Digoin. Found the place to sit and drink opposite Digoin cathedral. The waiter there was a legend. If you go there and he’s there you’ll know why. One last bimble to Paray le Monial. Campsite well run with large swimming pool and handy for town.
Day 6 – Paray le Monial (Rest and culture day, absorbing Frenchness where possible)
Headed to the market in Paray Le Monial whilst my companion went to a free music recital at the abbey de Cluny. I heard that this was nothing to do with George (Clooney) so didn’t bother beyond looking at the admittedly beautiful exterior and cloister. Checked out the mosaics and wished I had a cool villa to furnish. Really beautiful, even juxtaposed against the golden sandstone interior. One could spend a lifetime here. The whole experience leaves me wondering if I have just been in some kind of glorious bubble. The whole of France can not possibly be this beautiful can it?
all rights reserved Ruth McIntosh 16/09/2018