[ #182 in Bucketlist ] While choosing my bike, I wanted something good for a trip. I was asking myself
Is this something I could cycle through loire valley on?
This was few years ago and I had no concrete plan to really go and cycle in France. Only a certainty that I would get around to doing that.
And so it happened:
The amazing company I work for, Automattic in its infinite benevolence was sending me to a conference (React Europe) in Paris. Without much thought, I started looking into putting a bike on a plane.
How do you put bike on a plane?
This actually turned out to be much easier then I expected. I decided to fly with Wizzair and with them, you can fly your bike for 130 PLN ( ~32 USD ). The conditions are:
- Bike has to be in a special bike bag
- You have to let air out of tires
- Handlebars and pedals have to be folded
Of course I used this occasion to put a bunch of my stuff with the bike. As long as you are under 32 KG, you should be fine. (I was close on the way back because of all Foie Gras I was bringing back).
People were looking at me pretty funny while I was putting my bike back together at the airport.
Places I visited
Chateau de Chambord started as a humble hunting lodge, but as projects often do, spiraled out of control and ended up as a huge Renaissance castle with 440 fireplaces and 84 staircases. Pretty tricked-out for a hunting lodge.
Chateau de Cheverny is considered the “best proportioned” castle of the whole Loire valley (whatever that means). It was inspiration for the castle in the adventures of TinTin, but honestly it does not meet my standards for a castle, which require a military function.
Chaumont sur Loire
Well, THAT is a proper castle! Pointy towers, positioned on the cliff overlooking the Loire and hard to attack! Whats interesting is that now it serves as an art gallery and pretty interesting one. I found it very charming!
Amboise & Clos-Luce
Clos-Luce is the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci. It was gifted to him by king Francis I, who had a special relationship with the Maestro. Leonardo was buried in the courtyard of castle and his remains were later transferred to the crypt.
His grave is unusually humble and not-crowded, contrary to Mona Lisa in Louvre, which is hard to see between legions of tourists and their tablets.
In the last 3 years of Leonardo’s life, Francis paid him a steady salary just for the opportunity of listening to his conversations and having a chats with da Vinci. I would gladly pay everything I have for the same privilege.
Now, THAT’s a castle! Properly situated across the river, it looks straight out of Tarrantino movie and has a history to match! (Hear me Quentin? You can have this idea pretty cheap):
- It’s called “The castle of 7 ladies”, because 7 prominent dames where in charge of its construction during the years
- It was THE place for the parties and balls. The galleries that stretch across the river were huge ballrooms
- During I World War it served as a military hospital funded by a chocolate magnate (Such a Willy-Wonkanesque story!)
- During II World War the river was a a demarcation zone and castle served as a Nazi art gallery. The gallery currator was helping the Jews escape from Nazi-occupied side to france.
I highly recommend strolling on the other side, where you can get for free by using the bridge nearby.
Fortress of Chinon is another proper castle. Important for me because of my obsession with Knights Templar, was the place where the last Templar grand master, Jacob the Mollay was imprisoned with his advisors. You can see a graffiti they made in the stones of the tower.
You may have heard of this one. It’s ridiculously beautiful and crowded.
- Alongside the whole bank of Loire river, there is a bike route, “Loire a Velo”.
- The free app is pretty helpful
- Cycling-Loire is a great website devoted to the topic
- Generally, it’s pretty easy to bike everywhere
- You can bring your bike on any TER train. I recommend checking your train plans with voyages-sncf website
- Remember that a lot of businesses are closing 12-14 for lunch and some restaurants are open only then. French people know how to live.
- There are some wicked awesome campgrounds that have treehouses and other pimped-out accomodation. The French are big on camping
- Don’t forget to sample French food. It’s known for a reason.
- In Decathlon you can buy a tent for 20 euro. Just sayin’.