"Covid and the closure of the swimming pools deprived me of my favourite sport. Still hesitant about travelling abroad, I decided to invest in an e-bike to visit France along greenways: a different way to travel while going my own pace! After the “Tour of Gironde” in 2021, my attention was drawn to the Loire à Vélo, another experience which I would recommend. As I’m from Haute-Savoie, I drove to my starting point with my bike on the rack and left my car at a guest house. Given the time of year (spring), I decided to opt for comfort for the night because the mornings can be chilly in April, although I do appreciate the charm of a bungalow or tent in summer!"
Saint-Denis en Val (Orléans) - Chailles (after Blois): 90 km
Departure at 8:45am with my e-bike loaded with two panniers and a handlebar bag for my reflex camera and telephoto lens. It was 5°C in the early morning but it gets warmer relatively quickly at that time of year. I took off layers as I progressed and the temperature rose, reaching a high of 18°C that day. Light morning mist…
The track along the banks of the Loire was very pleasant, away from traffic and well signposted with the Loire à Vélo logo. I crossed to the right bank at Meung-sur-Loire then returned to the left bank 23km further on… The bridges are all built in different architectural styles and are an enjoyable way to cross safely.
At lunchtime, I arrived at the Château of Chambord for a picnic: not something that happens every day! You never tire of admiring this impressive and majestic château, even with its scaffolding! The weather was cloudy with no rain. I didn’t visit the château because I had already seen it, so I simply cycled round the estate, which is very accessible by bike.
I stopped for a quick break in Blois before arriving at my guest house. It was Monday and I realised all the shops and restaurants were closed… 😊 so unfortunately the city was a bit dead!
In Blois, a short climb in the city centre took me to Jardin de l’Évêché and a unique view of all the typical Loire Valley landscapes. Not to be missed!
Chailles to Savonnières (after Tours): 100 km
An early start on the second day. After 11 km, I arrived at the Domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire to visit the gardens. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to enter with my bike, even after dismounting to visit the gardens. The absence of bicycle parking in the inner courtyard of the château forced me to continue my route. What a shame! I headed to Amboise where I had lunch on a terrace at the foot of the Royal Château and savoured an excellent Loire Valley Sauvignon.
I cycled through Tours, with a stop in front of the magnificent Saint-Gatien cathedral.
I arrived at Savonnières for the night, where I stayed at the lovely “Cher Passant” guest house run by Bruno, which I highly recommend.
In the evening, I went for a quick outing to visit the stunning, seemingly endless gardens of the Château of Villandry, a Loire à Vélo special beneath a stunning sky! Magnificent! Definitely a must-see! Strangely enough, for April, I saw many flowers.
Just next to the château I discovered an excellent restaurant, “Etape Gourmande”, where I enjoyed a well-earned meal after an uphill slog!
Savonnières to Chenehutte Trèves-Cunault: 90 km
Still chilly in the morning for the third stage of my trip, in the direction of the Château of Langeais. I crossed over to the right bank via the pretty bridge in Langeais and stopped in front of the château, but unfortunately it doesn’t open until 10:00am in April! The Loire was still calm and very wide with its sandbanks and Gabare boats adorning the shore in the mist. You could feel nature gradually waking up.
At 5pm, I arrived in Cunault to spend the night at Manoir de Beauregard, a magnificent manor house decorated with great taste by a charming and very welcoming British couple. A great place to stay!
Next, dinner just 200m from the Manor in the “A Contre Courant” restaurant run by a couple. The chef is very attentive, offering delicious and original homemade food.
Chênehutte-Trèves-Cunault to St-Florent-le-Vieil (after Angers): 90 km
Departure from the manor at 8:45am, like on the previous days, after a magnificent breakfast. A very pleasant stay. At Saint-Rémy-la-Varenne I crossed a bridge to the right bank and followed the greenway along a railway line. The route was still very pleasant, away from the traffic and with Loire à Vélo signs for cyclists at every junction, which was much appreciated! Quick visit of La Daguenière, a very pretty place…
After 55 km, having cycled through two small villages with nowhere to buy food or drink (everything is very quiet in April), I found a small supermarket to buy supplies and picnicked at “La Possonnière”, a pleasant, well-equipped spot on the edge of the Loire, surrounded by very stylish Gabare boats. The ideal place for a picnic on the banks of the Loire!
After arriving in Saint-Florent-Le-Vieil, I cycled up to the abbey church just to see the panoramic view over the Loire. The climb was tough but it was worth it!
I spend the night in the village and had dinner at the “Café des Pêcheurs” on the banks of the Loire.
From Saint-Florent-le-Vieil to Rouans (next to Pellerin, after Nantes): 95 km
A slightly later start in the morning (9:15am). After 12 km, I crossed the bridge to Ancenis and then continued on the right bank until Nantes. The outskirts of the city are very industrial, the cycle paths are well signposted and the Loire guides your through the city. The city centre of Nantes itself is very pretty with lots of little shopping streets.
For a well-earned break and an outdoor activity, I would recommend walking through the Jardin des Plantes in the city centre: magnificent!
After this “return to urban civilisation”, I was eager to get back to the Loire à Vélo and enjoy the natural surroundings and peace and quiet of the banks of the Loire.
I arrived in Indre, where I took the ferry to the left bank – a pleasant, easy and free trip – to continue to “Le Pellerin” and then travelled on to Rouans where a nice guest house called “L’Atelier 88”, run by Patrice, was waiting for me.
Rouans to La Bernerie-en-Retz (after Pornic): 75 km
Departure for what was without doubt the most beautiful stage and the end of my Loire à Vélo trip, where the Vélocéan and the Vélodyssée start. Discovery of the Estuary and the Loire, the Saint-Nazaire bridge, fishing stations, Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, the magnificent ocean shoreline…
From Paimboeuf to Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, a delight: the path is very pleasant with an endless series of fishing stations, each one as pretty as the next. From afar, the Saint-Nazaire bridge is very impressive. I didn’t cross it because I stayed on the left bank to visit the Musée de le Marine in Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, which was unfortunately closed that Saturday! I was a bit disappointed. I think it was because it was the May Day bank holiday. Shame!
After traveling to Noirmoutier (crossing via the Gois passage) over three days, I returned to Nantes (100km) and took a TER train back to Orléans. The train trip takes about 3 hours. There are few bike spaces at that time of year. You can book a ticket in advance but not for bikes… Travelling on a TER with a bike is an enjoyable experience: you don’t need to dismantle it, you just have to remove the panniers.
Something to do again! Perhaps…
An easy and accessible cycling route for all… quiet, safe paths that are very well signposted with “Loire à Vélo” signs at each junction… although I have already seen most of the châteaux, I have no doubt missed some… but the Loire à Velo can be enjoyed over and over again… without forgetting tastings of Loire Valley vintages that are definitely with a detour… Watch this space for more cycling adventures!
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