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    • Day 37

      Our River is Changing

      September 26, 2019 in France ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

      One of the fascinating aspects of completing an extended cycling trip along a river, is watching the way the river evolves as you follow it towards its inevitable exit into the ocean. When we began our ride along the Loire at Nevers, the river was small and interrupted by numerous rapids.

      Over the past three weeks we have not only watched the river grow in size, but also been able to see the dramatic changes in the geography and architecture of the places we rode through. We will never forget the succession of magnificent chateaux between Orleans and Tours, but that is not where the story ends.

      This morning we made our way out of the bustling centre of Angers and were relieved when we finally resumed cycling along the quiet riverside bike paths once again. Although the weather has been cool and overcast, it never actually started to rain. For most of the day I was able to ride in shortsleeves.

      We had been expecting a gentle ride of about 40 km, without any hills. The 40 km was about right, but the absence of hills was a myth. I can assure you that there are hills between Angers and Montjean Sur Loire and we rode up every one of them.

      The final few km were along La Queue de L'Ile, a large island in the middle of the Loire River. The group rode along at a good pace, meaning that we arrived at the hotel in Montjean Sur Loire earlier than expected. I guess that is a result of the increased fitness earned after 4 weeks of almost daily cycling.

      Montjean is a tiny hamlet situated on the banks of the Loire. It was a huge contrast to the hussle and bussle of Angers, although it was also quite sad to see how low the Loire was at this point. When we were last here, the Loire was a majestic sight with its waters extending from bank to bank. This year the river is reduced to maybe a third of its normal flow. It is no wonder that the boats are finding it very difficult to navigate the greatly reduced waters.

      One thing is certain - no one will be kept awake by crowd noise tonight.
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    • Day 21

      Nantes to Montjean sur Loire. 69 km

      September 25, 2017 in France ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

      A bit of everything for our first day on the Loire. A hopeful start with a nice pathway right beside the mighty River as we cycled out of Nantes. pleut 🌧️. We took refuge under trees 🌳 a couple of times to wait for the lighter rain. But the worst was the path . Narrow, muddy, bumpy, below the train tracks. Grit in my brakes and gears...not happy about that. I jumped each time the train whistle blew thinking I was in the way 🤤.

      After that we enjoyed lunch at a restaurant that was in the right place at the right time. So after the worst bit of riding yet, we had the best value beer and lunch. There you all works out.

      Much better riding in the afternoon. Especially an idyllic piece along a back channel. The Loire itself is pretty brown looking. Think the best is yet to come.

      Stayed in a small town - Montjean Sur Loire. Very small. Church, grocery store and not a lot else. Booked a chambres-hotes thru that turned out to be at the very top of the town. Once we made it up up up (pushing our bikes of course!) it's a very cool old manor with super views. Actually written up in the guide books with a history of being a castle then a monastery back in the day.

      69 km today despite the rain delays, so will sleep well.
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    • Day 33

      Sally Takes the Lead

      September 26, 2015 in France ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

      Day 33 – In Which Sally Takes the Lead into Montjean

      After the very stressful ride we had into Angers in the Friday afternoon peak hour traffic we were all a little apprehensive about running the gauntlet again on the way out of town. We needn’t have. As we rolled away from our hotel at 9 am on a quiet Sunday morning, the streets were still almost deserted. Obviously those who had once again spent the night in the streets training their vocal chords for the shouting championships had finally retired to bed.

      Just as important was the fact that the day had dawned bright and clear and the advance weather forecasts promised no more rain for the remainder of our ride. It was finally appearing that things were falling into place. We managed to quickly leave the confines of Angers and resume our journey along the bike path. There were quite a few out jogging, walking their dogs or just enjoying the sunshine. Since we only had a relatively modest distance to cover, we did not need to rush and decided to take the ride slow and easy.

      The European Autumn has now officially started and this often provides delightful periods of sunny and mild days and cool nights. This is often perfect for cycling. We even saw the first signs of the the changing colours of the leaves on the trees. In a few short weeks the whole appearance of these regions will change again as Autumn rapidly moves forward into winter.

      After we had ridden about 10 km we noticed a large number of spectators gathering along the sides of the bike path. I knew that some locals were aware of our epic ride, but I had not expected this sort of reception. I looked down at the faded stains on the front of my jersey and wished that I had worn my best one for the day. Proudly taking the lead for once, I tried to maintain some semblance of pelotonic discipline as we approached the waiting throng. To my surprise and dismay, they weren’t actually there to meet us after all. We had ridden into some sort of huge kayaking event and there were hundreds of rowers and spectators, long lines of motor homes, countless support and transport vehicles, not to mention several hundred pet dogs as well. It became something of a challenge to wind our way through the throng without becoming another item on the local nightly news.

      We finally emerged from the chaos and resumed our riding along the bike path. Since we had traveled for over an hour without a single coffee or toilet stop, our situation was becoming somewhat desperate. Fortunately we had not ridden much further when we found a lovely little open space, right on the river bank. It even had several likely looking eateries on both sides. The prospect of getting a coffee and cake looked promising, but once again we had to be satisfied with the proverbial “glass half full”. Although we were able to get quite reasonable coffee, the girl looked at me as though I had bitten her when I asked if they sold cakes as well.

      While we were stopped we studied the flood levels for the major floods over the past century. It was quite staggering to see just how high the river does rise on regular occasions. I think the worst was in 1910, when I suspect that manufacture of arks must have been a popular pastime. In the Autumn of 2015 the Loire is peaceful and there is little prospect that we will be flooded out.

      A little further on we reached the large bridge at Chalonnes Sur Loire. Although our route dictated that we stay on the right bank, as soon as we saw the array of eateries on the left bank, we agreed that it would be worth crossing the big bridge in order to get something for lunch. Since the Loire is now a wide river and the bridges are rather infrequent, any bridge crossing is usually associated with a busy road and lots of cars and trucks.

      Although the first place we stopped at had not tables available, we soon found a full scale market in operation and also a fine Patisserie and Boulangerie. We were not going to starve after all. Since we only had about 10 km left to ride, we all decided that it would be a good place to sit in the sun and have a lazy lunch stop.

      When we finally staggered to our feet, somehow something really strange happened within the peloton. Over the course of the previous 10 or so days, there had been a pattern established with some riders always heading to the front and others very happy to ride at the rear. I know that in a classroom, it is always those students who sit at the back of the class that are the ones that the teacher needs to watch the closest. Exactly the same principle applies to those riders who always go to the back. They are usually there to tell jokes, fool around, stop to take silly pictures and regularly go into fits of giggling. The ones at the front are those who study the maps, do their homework, diligently identify hazards and set a brisk pace for the ride.

      You can imagine how surprised I was to find that, on the final 10 km leg into Montjean, the peloton had inverted itself. The naughty riders were at the front, with Sally actually leading the way. I must admit I had not seen that one coming and I nearly rode off the track and into one of the roadside stinging nettle patches, such was my amazement.The only other time Sally had taken over the group was way back in Paris when she led us on an errant goose chase all over Paris looking for a Metro Station.

      This time Sally managed to find a couple of the direction indicators and we almost followed the correct route all the way to the lovely riverside town of Montjean. This is a quiet and quaint town that reminded me immediately of the town where Doc Martin terrorises all his patients. The architecture is distinctly maritime and there is an increasing number of fishing boats and other vessels visible in the river.

      We had a superb evening meal, probably one of the best so far and the brilliant full moon shining on the river outside was a fitting final touch to a wonderful day.
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    • Day 16

      Montjean Sur Loire

      September 16, 2013 in France ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

      Today our cycle towards the Atlantic continued through some superb French villages and followed the banks of the Loire for some distance. By this time we have seen the Loire steadily grow to a very impressive and rapidly flowing river.
      Up till now we have only seen small flat bottomed fishing boats but today we began to see the first signs that we are entering the realms of the working Loire. The river is getting deeper and we are starting to see bigger and bigger boats in use.

      The scenery along the way is breathtaking, the houses and villages make us feel that we are part of a story book, the only things missing are people and cars. For kilometre after kilometre we ride along without seeing either cars or people and sometimes we begin to wonder just what has happened to everyone.

      This morning we crossed the prime meridian and thus officially passed from the eastern hemisphere to the western hemisphere. We also had an impressive flyover by a low flying group of fighter aircraft. This was repeated several times during the day suggesting that there must be a air force base somewhere nearby. I suspected that they had heard that the Ghostriders were in the area and wanted to give us an impressive salute.

      The weather has continued to be kind to us. So far we have only had one wet day and the conditions have been great for riding, although we have been regularly visited by a tenacious head wind. By now our riders are all getting stronger and it is easy to see the improvement in everyone's riding. We also had the streepest climb of the ride so far - probably a 10 to 12% gradient at least but most were able to ride up without getting off to walk.

      We are now in a small town called MonJean Sur Loire. Compared to the large city of Angers where we spent last night this town is tiny and loacted right on the river. The hotel was not large enough to accommodate us all so some had to go to a nearby Gite (guesthouse) for the night.

      After tonight we only have another 4 days of riding before we reach our final destination at Le Croisic on the Atlantic Coast. At that point our riders will disperse to continue their own adventures. Maggie and I wil be staying in France for another month to explore as much of the country as we can. If I can sort out some of my pictures I will post them soon.

      One thing is certain and that is that everyone has had an absolute ball on this trip. The group has all got along famously and supported each other the whole way. For the life of me I could not understand why anyone would every consider travelling any other way. I reckon that once you have experienced this you could never face another tourist bus trip ever again. This has been the perfect way to combine travel, adventure, physical activity, good fun, fellowship, fresh air, surprises and breathtaking scenery into one.
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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Montjean-sur-Loire, Монжан-сюр-Луар, 卢瓦尔河畔蒙特让

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