Camille, Sandrine and their dog Cali on the Loire à Vélo!

  • ©Camille
  • ©Camille

After fitting our bikes with racks and panniers, having the usual conundrum about what to take, and teaching Cali, our little travelling dog, to sit in her trailer, the three of us set off along the Loire à Vélo from 5 to 12 June 2022!

Stage 1 from Ballan-Miré to Huismes: 38km

Departure from the house in the direction of Savonnières and then Rigny-Ussé with its beautiful château. We followed the Cher towards the Loire. Some stretches of the route weren’t particularly pleasant because we had to cycle on the road with cars. Thankfully, the scenery was very pretty and it was relaxing to ride alongside the water.

The sky was overcast and storms had been forecast. This was our first cycle tour and the uncertain weather was a bit stressful. The biggest downside of this section of our route was that there were no secure shelters along the way. The storm broke and we had to shelter in a bus stop in Huismes.

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Stage 2 from Savigny-en-Véron to Angers: 92.4km

After the previous day’s storm, we cycled over layers of crushed leaves and broken branches. Our route took us to Saumur, where we admired the château before continuing along the Loire. We passed a succession of tuffeau stone villages, all filled with the charm of this local white stone.

We spent the night in Gennes before continuing to Angers. We kept our stages short because we were towing 30kg of trailer and dog and we weren’t used to it!

We were overtaken by plenty of cyclists on e-bikes who sailed blithely past us as we struggled up the hills. Once we crossed into Maine-et-Loire, there were more dedicated cycle paths and shelters. It was really nice to ride with no traffic!

©Camille ©Camille

We had a little scare when we realised we hadn’t taken account of the national holiday and there were no shops or bakeries open for several kilometres. Our rations were at an all-time low and we were starting to get hungry, so we were mightily relieved when we found a baguette dispenser!

We decided to take a short detour via Trélazé to see the slate mines. Everywhere were looked we could see the blue-black schist, and visiting the old mines was like travelling back in time, although it wasn’t actually that long ago!

Then it was on to Angers and its château, before continuing to the nearby Lac de Maine campsite. The short break gave us a chance to have a friendly chat with other cycle tourists.

©Camille ©Camille

Stage 4 from Angers to Nantes: 109km

We treated ourselves to another detour to Béhuard, a little island in the middle of the Loire with a church perched on a large rock. You could see the impact of past floods indicated by the marks on the walls. We didn’t stay long as we didn’t have our life jackets with us!

The journey was a real change of scenery. We had time to admire the landscape and were able to disconnect and go at our own pace. Cali also enjoyed being able to run along the stretches where it was safe. The campsites were happy to welcome us with the dog. Sometimes it was included in the price, sometimes it was extra.

The bridge in Ancenis signalled our arrival in Loire-Atlantique.

Not far ahead, the tower of Oudon stood proudly on the horizon. There was no shortage of monuments on our journey: we had plenty to see!

In Nantes, it was back to civilisation, but again there were plenty of cycle paths so we could ride in safety. We went to see the emblematic Elephant at the Island Machines cultural space, which Cali found very frightening! We had fun on the “Moon” and took a few photos at the Hangar à Bananes. This city certainly inspires the imagination and fills you with wonder. It was like being a child again.

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Stage 5 from Nantes to Frossay: 43km

The ocean was not far away and, with it, the end of the journey. We had fun spotting the contemporary artworks along the way. We crossed the Loire on the Pellerin ferry and were like little kids again. Cali was a little suspicious about this new mode of transport! What other adventures will we drag her on?

The crossing was quick and easy. There were several spaces for bikes and everything was very secure. You just need to make sure you build up a bit of momentum on the other side because there’s a bit of a slope up out of the ferry! We met more nice people on the boat, who were amused by the cart with the little dog. It was a good conversation starter!

A break for the night in the campsite in Frossay before continuing towards the ocean.

The headwind got the better of us more than once on this leg and we were happy to hit the sack, even Cali who was often the first to curl up under the covers!

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Stage 6 from Frossay to Pornic: 63km

We rode along a cycle path through a marsh and Cali was able to have a bit of a run. The scenery was as amazing as ever, despite the persistent winds and the big grey clouds above our heads.

We could see the outline of the Loire estuary and the Saint Nazaire bridge came into view. Its long, curved silhouette across the Loire marked the end of our journey, although we wouldn’t be crossing it because it’s not recommended for cyclists and there were no free shuttles at that time of the year. Neither were we allowed on public transport with the trailer and the dog, which is a shame and not very well thought out in these conditions. The only option would be to take a taxi, provided the driver agreed to transport all our gubbins! That was why we chose Pornic, the only town where we could get the train since we couldn’t go to St Nazaire.

All in all, we were won over by the amazing journey. It was a great experience that left us with many happy memories. We’ll be back for more!

©Camille ©Camille