Carine and Anthony on the Loire à Vélo from Nantes to Blois


Who are we? Carine and Anthony, both aged 29. We live in Nantes and love all kinds of outings (hiking, travelling, sightseeing)! At the end of last year, we decided to get into cycle touring. After all, the Loire à Vélo goes right past the end of our street and it would be a shame not to make the most of it! We started with a few rides of 15, 20 and then 35 kilometres. Before long, we made plans to ride the Loire à Vélo from Nantes to Anthony’s parents’ house, not far from Chambord. We started training because Carine was nowhere near fit enough. Anthony, on the other hand, has always been sporty. He could ride 100km a day no problem! We set a date and started planning our itinerary: stages, equipment, etc.

Nantes - Montjean-sur-Loire : 55 km

Our paniers were packed! After a hearty breakfast and a quick stop at a bakery to buy sandwiches, we were ready to set off. Time to hit the road! We rode to the cycle path and started our journey. The weather was fine for the first day. We stopped in Oudon. Although we only live about 30km away, we had never been there before, even though it’s said to be a pretty town.

We had break, took a quick look round the town and climbed the hill to the famous tower. The view from the top is stunning! After our stop, we continued our journey. We crossed Ancenis with its pretty riverside scenery. The bridge in Ancenis is really amazing, so we decided to cross it and pick up the itinerary on the south bank of the Loire, where we had country roads to ourselves with a fair amount of shade, which we appreciated given the temperature of our first day. After 43km, we stopped to have our sandwiches in a picnic area with a playground near a river, not far from Le Fossé Neuf.

After a refreshing break, we continued to Saint-Florent-le-Viel, which is a really pretty town. After that, we had to decide whether to cycle to Montjean-sur-Loire via “the banks of the Loire” or “the valley”. We chose the banks of the Loire but soon regretted our decision! 12km of straight, flat road with no shade. This was definitely the toughest part of the journey. After about 10km, an open-air cafe by the side of the road caught our eye. That was how we discovered “Le Marie-Louise”, which has a terrace, boules pitch, deckchairs in the shade and a relaxed atmosphere. Then we cycled the 2km between the cafe and our campsite.

We arrived at around 4pm. We had chosen the campsite “Paradis de Montjean-sur-Loire” because it had an indoor swimming pool that was already open. The campsite had a “tourers’” space with a fridge, microwave, dining tables and washing lines so that we could dry our towels. After pitching our tent, we had a shower and went for a dip then spent the rest of the day exploring Montjean-sur-Loire. It’s a pretty place with a particularly good view from the top of the town. We had dinner at the campsite before turning in for a good night’s sleep.

Montjean-sur-Loire - Village La Croix (Saumur) : 85 km

We slept well. Unfortunately, we had to pack the tent in the rain. We had breakfast in a bakery called Réveillère in Montjean. Besides being an excellent bakery, it had two tables inside. We cycled to the island of Chalonnes and crossed it lengthways, not without a few drops of rain. But then the sky cleared.

It was a good sign! A few kilometres later, we arrived at our first big climbs, near La Possonnière. The route was really pretty, taking us through vineyards and woods. We continued to La Daguenière, where we had lunch in a dedicated cyclists’s area with covered tables, toilets, a water point and pumps for the bikes.

Next, we carried on to Gennes-Val-de-Loire, where we had a dilemma: either spend the night here or cycle on to the Huttopia campsite about 10 km from Saumur. We had a drink on the terrace of a cafe and decided to do the next few kilometres. They were forecasting rain for the next day so we thought it would be best to get ahead. After gritting our teeth through the sharp climbs along the way, we arrived at our campsite.

We had never stayed at a Huttopia campsite and were pleasantly surprised: it was nature themed with a large indoor pool, clean and modern sanitary facilities and pitches for tents with a view of the Loire. We had a small but adequately sized pitch. We ordered breakfast for the next day at reception and had a dip in the enormous pool, which we had to ourselves, before having dinner overlooking the Loire. We tested freeze-dried cottage pie and were pleasantly surprised! Perfectly seasoned. Bedtime. That night, we were woken up by a thunderstorm right over our heads. It was impressive, but short-lived.

Saumur - Bréhémont : 60 km

We woke up to rainy skies. We had breakfast and packed away our things. After 10km, the weather took a turn for the worse, but the timing was perfect because it was just as we arrived at Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent, home to the most famous troglodyte caves. Having visited Langlois-Chateau last year, we visited Ackermann this year. Admission was €5 and included a self-guided tour of the caves and a tasting. The two places are different: Langlois-Château mainly focuses on the wine, while the visit at Ackermann explains its history and the troglodyte part is more impressive.

We stayed at Ackermann until 11:30am to shelter from the rain. Then we carried on to the centre of Saumur. We had lunch in a restaurant in the hope of drying out a bit. We didn’t go to the Château because of the weather, but it’s something we really recommend doing! There’s a splendid view of Saumur (but beware, there’s a steep climb)! We put on a spurt in the afternoon to make up for the lost time. We had barely cycled all morning but thankfully we had got ahead the day before.

We went the wrong way in Savigny-en-Veron, which extended our journey a little, but everything is so well signposted that we were quickly able to return to the cycle path, and crossed into Centre-Val de Loire! We carried on to Bréhémont where our next campsite (which also had an indoor pool!) was waiting for us. After arriving, we had just started to pitch our tent when a storm blew in with a huge downpour and gusts of wind. The tent wasn’t even up and we had already broken a pole!

We didn’t have any spare. Fearing that the tent might fall in on us during the night, we asked the campsite for a place in their cheapest accommodation. We ended up in a two-person static caravan of 20m². It was very well equipped and we were secretly pleased to sleep in a proper bed and have our own bathroom!

Bréhémont - Amboise : 63 km

The advantage of sleeping in a caravan was that we didn’t need to pack the tent, so we were able to take our time in the morning before hitting the road again. After about 10km, we arrived at Villandry. We climbed up through the city to catch a glimpse of the château and its gardens. We’ll be back one day to visit the gardens, as they look magnificent! After that, we headed for Tours. Near Joué-Les-Tours, we had an unlikely encounter: a herd of camels blocking a road! What a welcome…

In Tours, we had the pleasant surprise of discovering that the Loire à Vélo passed right in front of the engineering school where Anthony studied: Polytech Tours. We crossed the city, with a detour to visit the old town and its magnificent Place Plumereau, then continued on our way, keeping an eye out for somewhere to eat. Near Saint-Pierre-des-Corps, we tried to find a bench, but without much luck! It was only as we neared Montlouis-sur-Loire that we found picnic areas.

After a quick lunch break, we climbed up through Montlouis-sur-Loire. The toughest part of the day was over because most of the remaining distance was downhill, through vineyards and along the banks of the Loire! We arrived in Amboise fairly early in the afternoon. We had barely entered the city when we came across an open-air cafe with a view of the Royal Château! We really appreciated the welcome and definitely recommend it: “Chez Oscar et Suzette”. We had visited Amboise on a rainy afternoon the year before so it was nice to be able to see it in the sun this time!

We set up camp at the Ile d’Or campsite, which is the largest in Amboise and the surrounding area. After pitching our tent, we had a game of mini-golf at the campsite. Anthony won (by far) and as his prize, Carine paid for dinner that evening. We went into the centre of Amboise to find a nice restaurant for our last evening. The weather was calmer that night and our tent held up, despite the broken pole!

Amboise - Suèvres : 58 km

It was the last day and we knew it would be the shortest stage of our bike trip: 58km. After breakfast in Amboise, we attacked the long climb to the top of the city. What a start to the day! No need to warm up after a climb like that! We then cycled to Chaumont-sur-Loire. We hadn’t visited this château during our tour of the Loire châteaux the year before, so it was the perfect opportunity.

We left our bikes in one of the many bike parking spaces and set off to visit the Domain. The château is stunning, although we were surprised to see that most of the rooms had been turned into an art gallery. We were lucky enough to be there during the International Garden Festival, when the Domaine is filled with nature-themed works by approximately 30 artists and landscape designers. We spent about 2.5 hours there and didn’t even see everything in the gardens. We bought some sandwiches at the château before setting off again.

We had our last big climbs at Candé-sur-Beuvron, then the route was flat all the way to Blois. With the wind behind us, we advanced at good speed without getting tired. Once arrived, we realised that we had passed the 300km mark. What an adventure! We often come to Blois, where Anthony was born, so we didn’t stop but headed directly towards Suèvres, our final destination, along the north bank.

The route was fine until Ménars, where we had a few kilometres on gravel. It was the only stretch of our journey where we had to cycle on an uncomfortable surface for any distance. The route improved at Cour-sur-Loire, with stunning scenery on the banks of the Loire. Once in Suèvres, we left the Loire à Vélo to join Anthony’s family. We were so pleased and proud to have completed all 320km!

The Loire à Vélo, a very well-designed route

The Loire à Vélo is really well done and has everything to meet cyclists’ needs: accredited Accueil Vélo accommodation and services, covered picnic areas, sanitary facilities, guest rooms, etc., and we were particularly impressed by the signposts everywhere. We only got lost once and quickly found our way again after just two or three kilometres. We expected the route to be flat. In fact, there were a few climbs but nothing insurmountable. For someone who’s not very sporty, we recommend training a bit beforehand. That’s what Carine did, and she didn’t regret it!

Things we’d do differently:

– Take a spare tent pole and a mallet plus an extra guy line for hanging the towels out to dry during the day
– Visit the gardens of Villandry
– Perhaps do an extra day, because all we wanted to do when we arrived was to set off again!

Our week on the Loire à Vélo was a brilliant adventure.

You can read about our journey on our blog, “Vadrouilles & cie”.