Nantes! (Varades to Nantes)

The day started off promising, with clear skies and a solid breakfast provided by members of the local Varades cycling club.

We stuck fairly closely along the Loire on the 50km run into Nantes and the trail was easy to follow and generally good, although one stretch was unpaved and slightly rough.

Entering Nantes we went straight to the Ile des Machines and met an elephant – a three storey tall mechanical walking elephant, in fact. Photos tomorrow, I promise.

After meeting the elephant we had a very nice reception and lunch laid on by the city of Nantes, good food, speeches not too terribly long, and enough alcohol. I got lots of photos of the folks I’ve been riding with for the last six weeks.

The Nantes hostel is large and quiet, and not too far from the centre.

Eleven of us, the whole Anglophone contingent plus the ride’s solitary German, went out for dinner at a nice Indian curry place. People start leaving as early as tomorrow morning, so it was nice to have a good meal together.

No plans for tomorrow except to sleep in a bit and wander around Nantes on foot! Its going to be a bit odd not packing the bike up…


Tea With Lenin (Angers to Varades)

Second to last day on the road, and regrettably the weather isn’t cooperating – cool and solidly overcast all day, with occasional light rain.

The EV6 from Angers mostly follows the Loire, and where it doesn’t we usually stayed on the secondary roads to avoid unnecessary hills.

We stopped once for coffee at a little riverside village, then a while later we rode past the Lenin Cafe out in the country and had to stop. Turns out one of the owners had been in Russia and Eastern Europe in the early/mid 1990s and picked up all sorts of Lenin and Communist kitsch, so the whole place was filled up with busts of Lenin, reproduction posters, and other Russian stuff.

Following Marx’s famous dictum that “proper tea is theft” all three of us ordered tea, and very proper it was, too.


The Rains of Angers (Saumur to Angers)

Slightly longer but straightforward day today, under 60km straight down the river to Angers.

Any thoughts of leisurely sightseeing along the Loire were drowned in the rain that started about an hour outside of Saumur, however. It wasn’t really heavy, but it was constant and saturating. We stuck to the main road and pretty much powered straight through to Angers, getting there around one.

Our lodgings at Angers are another Catholic setup, right over the river from the centre of town. Double rooms with ensuite, much better than average food, very quiet, all the hallmarks of Catholic hospitality we’ve come to expect from previous stays in Catholic places, all here too. More actual nuns, too.

The rain stopped mid-afternoon so we headed into the centre of town for a look around. The chateau has a spectacular medieval castle at one end, and the cathedral has two striking rose windows and some nice tapestries. Nice modern trams in the streets too, which is nice. Incidentally, it’s pronounced something like “Ann-jers”, with a soft g sound.

Off to Varades tomorrow for our last night on the road before we arrive in Nantes!


Three Days To Nantes (Chinon to Saumur)

Rolled out of our countryside gite just past eight, met up with Terrance at the other lodging (the group had been split between two places, not uncommon when we’re in smaller places) and headed back to Chinon for another look around, as we’d just rolled through yesterday.

Today was a short stage, less than forty km, so we took our time, had an early coffee in Chinon, then headed along the Vienne river back toward the Loire.

After lunch at a park beside the Loire, we headed up to the Abbey Fontevard for a quick look. It was unique in having both monks and nuns (in strictly separated parts of the complex) but with a nun, the Chief Abbess, in charge of the whole thing, including the monks, as a result of the wishes of the abbey’s founder.

After that we rode to Saumur and found the night’s accommodation, a quite nice hostel on an island in the Loire.

After getting settled I headed to the local train station and booked my train ticket back to Paris from Nantes on the 17th of July, with the bike.

That gives me two full days and the morning of the 17th in Nantes after we arrive there, and the full day of the 18th in Paris for packing the bike up and hanging out before I fly out on the morning of the 19th.

Off to Angers tomorrow, a slightly longer day of 60-some km.