The Chateaux are StartingSeptember 13, 2019 in France ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C
The crash I suffered yesterday had obviously done something horrible to my left knee. All night whenever I rolled over in bed I was awakened by the pain involved in having to relocate my leg to somethingf approaching a comfortable position. I started to have serious worries about how I would cope with the cycling over the next few days. The problem with this type of trip is that there is no "Plan B" - each day it is our responsibility to get ourselves and our bikes to the next hotel. On the other hand I have discovered that you never really discover what you are capable of until you are put to the test.
The day began promising enough. A glance at the sky showed that we would be in for another absolutely cloudless day. It is incredible that we have not seen a drop of rain since we arrived in France over three weeks ago. One of the locals explained it like this "We need rain, but we don't want it". A typically French attitude.
The town of Briare is an absolutely picture perfect treasure. No town has a right to be this beautiful. It makes it impossible to travel more than a few metres without stopping to take a picture. Russell had been chosen as our ride leader for the day, a task he took to with enthusiasm. It was not really his fault that he managed to lead us into a dead end within 5 minutes of leaving the hotel. These sorts of things can happen to even professional cycling guides.
The undoubted early highlight was the Pont Canal. This ornate iron structure carries the water of the Canal Lateral de la Loire over the top of the Loire itself. For a long time it was the longest such elevated canal bridge in the world, but it has now been exceeded by the new canal bridge in Magdeburg, Germany.
As we made our way across the pont bridge, my main concern was to avoid falling in the stagnant waters. I was having great difficulty in starting and stopping and had to evolve a completely new (and absolutely unsightly) method for getting my damaged body onto the bike. To my relief I did discover that, once I was underway, I could pedal without too much discomfort.
Once we found our way out of the town, Russell caught the wind in what was left of his hair and raced ahead. That guy is a real pocket rocket when he decides to be and he was obviously relishing his new job at the front of the peloton. I was also relishing my new role somewhere at the back of the group. It was good to be able to just follow the rider ahead without worrying where we had to go.
The next amazing sight was the huge medieval city of Gien. Although we did not cross the wide arched bridge to enter the city itself, the view from the opposite bank of the Loire was superb. We also found it to be an ideal place to stop for coffee (actually two, as it was so good). Gordon also found it an ideal place to stage his own crash. Apparently he had been so captivated by the view on the opposite bank, that he missed seeing the curb and performed a slow motion pirouette into the bitumen. A few minutes later, the women had managed to bandage his bleeding elbow and make him look like a cycling leper.
We then found ourselves riding within clear view of another massive nuclear station. This one had not two, but four huge cooling towers, three of which were belching clouds of white steam into the air.
Russell somehow managed to find a lovely spot for our picnic lunches, complete with seats and a water view. After lunch we completed the ride along a lovely sealed bike path on an elevated levee bank.
Our destination for the day was the town of Sully Sur Loire, dominated by the huge Chateau de Sully Sur Loire. It was our first taste of a genuine castle and a great foretaste for the large numbers of such building swe will see over the next week or so.
After checking into the very comfortable Hotel Burgevin, we had plenty of time to explore the local area and have a closer look at the Chateau. My knee had survived its first real test and I was hoping that things would improve from now on.
Our evening meal was at the stangely named Aux P'tits Oignons restaurant. It was a tiny place, run by a French couple. He did all the cooking and she did all the serving. Neither of them spoke a single word of English, but the food was sensational. On the way home we walked the silent streets of Sully under a brilliant full moon, It might have been Friday the 13th, but we felt like the luckiest people on the planet.Read more