Monday, 25 October 2010

Cycling in the Loire Valley

Today I discovered that 'riding a bike' is a skill one can in fact forget. The setting was perfect: sunny autumnal morning with barely a cloud in the sky, a flat bike path along the Loire River Valley, a destination (Chateau Villandry) of international repute.

Seven of us embarked on this idyllic adventure. (I have now joined my Intrepid 'assisted backpacking' group, which comprises six travellers including myself, plus a leader.) The ride was approximately 20km each-way from Tours, where we are staying, to the chateau and back again, through open fields of corn, along the river, past quaint French villages. As mentioned, it was a gorgeous day, and spirits were high.

Overall, I enjoyed the ride. But it was my first time on a bike for … er … maybe 15-20 years? I was most nervous about the fact we had to ride a short distance through the town of Tours, since my RHS traffic sense is not great. However, I underestimated how uncoordinated I seem to have become. So long as we were all riding forward, things were fine; but every time we stopped, I wobbled and hopped and was generally ridiculous. Towards the end of the day I almost allowed a car to drive over my foot. We rode around 40km in total, which isn't bad for a relative novice, although the return journey seemed interminable. I think I've decided that cycling is just not my thing.

Nevertheless, it was a lovely way (in principle) of spending the day and Chateau Villandry is beautiful. It started out as a medieval keep, but was added to in the 18th C. The 'house' is impressive, and nicely presented, but it's the gardens which stand out. On one side of the building are ornamental 'hedged' gardens, laid out in themes of 'love' – tender love, passionate love, fickle love, and tragic love (supposedly). These are best viewed from above, and can be glimpsed out of many of the house windows, plus an overlooking belvedere.

Adjoining the ornamental garden and extending down another side of the building is the most amazing kitchen garden, also extremely ornamental and designed to be viewed from above (again from the house). But up close it's awesome too, with many different types of vegetables creating patterns out of texture and colour. There are also the water garden, the sun garden, the maze, and the herb garden.

Worth the ride? Definitely! Worth the ride back?... well, yes, but we would have preferred to take a bus!

1 comment:

  1. So cool! Glad you're having fun. Once you've recovered, you might change your mind about cycling being not your thing. :)
    The gardens do sound truly awesome.
    All the best, and keep enjoying your trip! Hugs, A