Sunday, 31 July 2011

Day 12: From Tours to Saumur. This was the last day of my ride and also the longest, hottest and most painful, but also the most interesting.

Getting out of Tours is, as Higginson notes, a bit of a chore. I left the Hôtel Colbert a little over-full of coffee and croissantsand not before I'd dealt with the puncture that the bike had apparently suffered during the night. Actually, I found no puncture at all, and the tyre, once blown up, remained that way, leading me to suspect that some wag had let the air out.

Once I'd found the cycle track out of town, I met up with another cyclist who insisted on riding with me and offered me hot green mint tea. When I pulled a skeptical face he launched into a long tirade about the ruinous effects of cold water on the body in hot weather. Apparently, according to this chap, drinking large quantities of water in hot weather makes one sweat more and makes the kidneys work overtime. The more you drink, the more you want to drink and the whole thing degenerates into a vicious circle of dangerous sweatiness, over-consumption of water and kidney-damage. Hot green mint tea, on the other hand, satisfies the thirst more rapidly, has a beneficial astringent effect, and hydrates without causing sweating. The result is that one drinks less and retains the water more.

That was the substance of his long sermon. So I accepted the tea gratefully. It seemed to work, though he was sweating far more than I was.

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We reached the Chateau de Villandry after an hour or so and I left my companion who was dripping with perspiration. He accused me, to my considerable surprise, of having pushed him too hard. It was only when I had left him that I began to notice the heat, partly because the trees thinned out and the shade disappeared, and partly because I was making a bit more effort.

The Château de Villandry seen from the cycle track along the 'levée'

I took a quick look at the Château de Villandry, but it was impossible to get a decent view of it since it's surrounded by a thick wall of trees on all sides. The picture below is taken from inside the grounds. The Château was the last of the greatRenaissance piles to be built along the Loire.

The Château de Villandry

From Villandry, the cycle track follows the D16 which runs along the levée through Bréhemont -

The Loire at Bréhemont

where I took a mint tea - as far as Rigny-Ussé, the location of my favourite Loire château, the very romantic Château d'Ussé owned by the comically named Count of Blacas.

The Château d'Ussé

From Rigny-Ussé the cycle track follows the D7 as far as Candes-Saint-Martin and then skirts around yet another monstrous nuclear power station, the Centrale Nucléaire de Chinon. It was here that the heat began to get to me quite seriously. The road around the plant was another of those shadeless new constructions that appear to run through a desert without trees or human habitation and pervaded by an ominous low rumbling sound. By the time I got past the vile place, I was feeling distinctly queasy and had to stop under a tree to lie down for a while.

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I was drinking so much water that I ran out in an area where there were no shops. I was reduced to begging a drink at a house in Savigny-en-Véron and the heat at my lunch stop in the shade of a tree here was so intense that it was a relief to get back on the bike and back in some moving air.

At Montsoreau, I stopped at a breezy café with a view on the château and drank another green mint tea.

The Château de Montsoreau from the river bank

The château is another notable Resaissance pile, but it was made famous by Alexandre Dumas's novel La Dame de Montsoreau.

The Château de Montsoreau seen from the café terrace.

After Montsoreau the cycle track leaves the roads and takes a number of annoying detours through the countryside and out-of-the-way places. But at least in following this, I got to see the famous troglodyte village at Souzay-Champigny. The cycle track runs right through the middle of it.

Inside the troglodyte village
Troglodyte village

After the troglodytes, all that was left of my trip was a quick dash down the trail to Saumur where I arrived at around 4.30. The sense of relief was immense, but only because it meant an end to the torments from back, backside and all the rest. If it hadn't been for these annoyances, I would have been quite ready to carry on. As it was, I was happy to end what had been the longest, hottest and most uncomfortable day of the whole trip, but also probably the most interesting and rewarding.

Saumur from the Pont Cessart.

I found a hotel in a back street - l'hôtel Volney in the rue Volney (see: - showered and then set off for a look around town and a meal.

The Château de Saumur
A street in Saumur
The Hôtel de Ville, Saumur

I had a first rate dinner in a simple crèperie on the riverside. Then it was off to bed. It was so hot in the room, that I had to get up three times in the night to take a cold shower and go back to bed dripping wet. The night was made more difficult by the raucous singing and laughing of a gang of drunks just across the courtyard and crowds of revellers yelling and fighting in the street. Had I been facing another long ride the following day, I might have been a little peeved, but I wasn't. That was a great relief

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