Last time, I took you on a tour of my garden in May. I thought you might like to see the wild flowers in the surrounding countryside as well. Here are the photos I took last Friday when we cycled along the Loire from opposite Saint Claude sur Diray to Saint-Dyé-sur-Loire, then through the forest to Château de Chambord, a 30 km round trip.
The first flowers I noticed were all the dog roses (églantine in French) which are a delicate pink.
These are elder trees (sureau). The berries are used to make elderberry wine.
These very tall trees (Jean Michel is on the bike path in front of me) are the Robinia pseudoacacia or false acacias that I mistook for wattle in my last post. It’s a bit confusing as the French actually call them acacias.
These yellow water irises are a little past their prime but I still love seeing them.
Buttercups are everywhere at the moment. These are on the banks of the Loire at Saint Dyé. When I first came to France, I fell in love with the buttercups and used to take my moped out into the countryside and lie down in the fields feeling very romantic.
You see both these flowers on stone walls everywhere. I understand that the lavendar one on the top right is a geranium (what we usually call geraniums are actually pelargoniums). I have no idea what the ones on the left are though.
These pretty little asters are also very common. You can see another geranium at the bottom of the photo.
These cornflowers are next to a field of barley on the path from Saint Dyé to Chambord.
No flowers in this one but I couldn’t resist posting a photo of one of my favourite châteaux!
The weather is absolutely wonderful not only in the Loire but right across France and most of Europe so we’re back on our bikes after a six-month break. I suggest we find choose a nice flat bike path out in the open as a warm up. It’s 2.30 pm and an unbelievable 19°C which must be practically a record for 8th March.
So we pump up the tyres (well, Jean-Michel does), check the paniers and handlebar bags (that’s my job) and put the bikes on the back of the car. We drive to our preferred starting point along the Loire between Blois and Saint Dyé on the Route Historique de la Vallée des Rois, just opposite the turn-off to Saint Claude de Diray.
It feels great to be back in the saddle! Château de Menars stands out clearly on the opposite bank and we discover a new sign post opposite Montlivaut showing the flood levels of the Loire. In 1856, it reached 3.4 metres, in 1866, 3.2 metres and in 1846, 2,6 metres.
We soon arrive in Saint Dyé where a flock of swans is attracting attention on the river bank. Further on, we see lots of different trees in blossom. On the path towards Muides, we see the most delightful tree house.
I’ve scheduled a stop at La Potion Muidoise so are somewhat disappointed to discover it’s closed in the afternoon at the moment. I can’t imagine why you’d open a bar in the morning only, particularly on the finest Saturday we’ve had in months. But it’s school holidays, I guess.
We take a new route back to the river and see the most picturesque little well covered in wild flowers. I can’t wait to see it in the summer when the hydragea is in bloom.
We eat our biscuits on a bench overlooking the Loire. Next time I’ll have to remember to pack a thermos with tea!
By the time we get back to the car, we have ridden 25 kilometers and I am wishing it hadn‘t been quite so flat!
It’s next day and we’re planning another ride. The temperate is expected to reach 21°C. I’ve learnt my lesson and have suggested a few small hills so we head for Monthou-sur-Bièvre with its unusual cemetary. The cycle route has a lot of little villages along the way which should mean plenty of flowering trees and shrubs. I wince with pain as I ease myself into the saddle.
The little church in Ourchamps is open so we go inside and are amused to see a document dated 1882 saying that the chairman of the church council of St Pierre expressly forbids the sexton from letting any one other than the church employees ring the bells. It makes you wonder what had been going on.
As we go past a small wood of pine trees Jean Michel points out “tents” made by the larvae of the pine processionary moth which is an economic pest. The urticating hairs of the caterpillar larvae cause harmful reactions in humans and other mammals (I looked that up!). I’ve never even heard of them before!
This time I have scheduled a stop in the little town of Fougères-sur-Bièvre with its well-preserved 15th century castle and I’m hoping there’s a café open because I have forgotten to replenish the biscuit supply. You guessed – it’s closed for the afternoon, although it was obviously open at lunchtime, and I don’t have the promised thermos of tea either.
After 30 kilometres, we arrive back at our starting point and I’m rather glad that next day is Monday and the only seat I’ll have to sit in is my ultra-comfortable desk chair! I’m still happy to have had such wonderful weather to cycle in. In a couple of days’ time, I should be ready to get back in the saddle.
We’ve all been complaining about the awful weather in France this summer. Then suddenly, when we were least expecting it, a heat wave turned up. Usually after 15th August, it starts getting cooler and you know autumn’s on the way, followed by winter, which is always a bit depressing. Not so this year. In the Loire Valley where I’ve been for the last few days, we’ve been having temperatures in the thirties. I’m not complaining.
To start with, we have natural cooling in our 400-year old house in Blois. It’s those 70 cm thick walls ! If you keep the shutters closed while the sun’s on the windows, the house keeps beautifully cool. When we saw the weather forecast we decided to repaint the front gate because every other time we’ve come this summer, it’s been too wet. I’ve been wanting to do it ever since Relationnel applied rust inhibitor.
The first day, we began late afternoon but it was still pretty hot outside and we were sweltering by dinner time. We continued next morning when it was cooler but couldn’t begin too early because of the dew. Once the gate was dry enough, the sun soon became too hot for the paint (not to mention us!). So in the end it took 3 days to complete. All those curlicues are time-consuming I have to say. But we’re very pleased with the result.
The gate painting was also complicated by the fact that we wanted to cycle every day as well without getting sunstroke. After rashly starting out late morning to go from Cheverny to Fontaines de Sologne and back the first day, including a very hot picnic on a bench in front of the church, we decided it would be better to cycle in the evening. So we tried to have dinner early so we could go for a ride along the Loire where it’s cooler. Unfortunately the barbecue wouldn’t cooperate and kept going out. When we finally got to the river, it was beautifully cool but there was masses of gnats. The activity on the river was incredible. You could hear the ducks and other wild fowl screeching for miles.
The third day, as we were going home to Paris in the evening, we didn’t have much choice so we set off late morning again as soon as the gate was finished. We started upriver in Muides so we could cycle along the Loire to Saint Dyé then onto Chambord because we were sure of finding somewhere to have lunch. We also thought there would be a lot of shade in the forest around Chambord but most of the time we were out in the open.
We had lunch under the shady plane trees at Chambord then sat opposite the château and ate raspberries bought at a nearby stall. Not a bad view! On the way home, we found lots of blackberry bushes. Sadly, most of them weren’t ripe. We’ll have to try again when we go back to Blois in two weeks’ time. Raspberries and blackberries are my favourite fruit in France – with the exception of those delicious green Chasselas grapes that are just coming onto the fruit stalls again.
When we used to live in Fontenay sous Bois, we usually went cycling along the Marne River three or four times a week in the summer. We’d take our bikes to Bry sur Marne on the back of the car then ride down to the old Meunier chocolate factory at Noisiel and back. Most of the way, it’s a bike path with houses on one side and the river on the other and woods at the end. Often we’d take a picnic or stop off for a côte de bœuf at La Pergola. When we moved to Paris, I really missed it.
But we think we’ve found an equivalent near Blois. Today we took our bikes over to the other side of the river about 7 or 8 K from Blois and parked near the bike path which runs along the river banks. The Loire is not like the Marne which is a navigable river and has stabilised banks. The Loire has a lot of sand banks and is mostly untamed. We were surprised to discover that the bike path is tarred and almost like a carpet most of the way!
One of the first places we came to was Menar Castle which were had seen close up from the other side and was not very impressive. But the view from across the river is stunning. Just afterwards was the lovely little village of Cour sur Loire with its castle and church. But Saint Dyé was the highlight of our ride.
It was once a walled city and has an immense church overlooking the Loire. We rode up into the village and through the quaint little streets with their pretty cottages. We saw a little old lady not a day under 80 outside cutting her Virginia creeper. I hesitated to take a photo but she gave me a toothy grin and said “photo?”. So I didn’t hesitate!
We rode back down to the banks of the Loire and along the old tow path until we came in sight of the Saint Laurent des Eaux nuclear power plant and turned back for obvious reasons. We hadn’t aken a picnic because we didn’t know if there were any tables along the way and after cycling for 20 K, a picnic on the grass is not my idea of comfort. I was rather hoping we’d find a restaurant with a river view of river but the only thing we saw was a bar inside a horse riding school. I reckon that would be worse than sitting on the grass.
The views as we rode back were quite beautiful. The sun had come out (it was spitting very lightly when we set out) and made the water sparkle. So we decided to go home and picnic in the garden instead.