A Barge on a Cycle Path in the Loire Valley

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Writing about cycling along the canals in Brittany and the Loire reminded me of another trip in the Loire Valley. We have this book called (in French) Freewheeling from the Atlantic to the Black Sea and one of the bike paths really took my eye. In the photo, you could see this couple, with their bikes, crossing the Authion River on a little chain-operated barge. I wasn’t going to miss that!

So we found ourselves a lovely B&B called Le Beauregard at Cunault. Mme Tonnelier was away so her husband looked after us and proved an excellent host. The only other guests, a family of 6, were charming. Our room, down the other end of the house, had an oriel window with a spectacular view of the Loire. The next day we visited the castle in Angers which has a wonderful tapestry of the Apocalypse. We left the car there and set out on our bikes. We started off in a rather desolate-looking old slate mining area with enormous pieces of slate all over the ground and quite a bit of dust.

Then came the exciting bit when we got to the banks of the Authion. We could see a young couple in the barge about halfway across, pulling frantically on the chain but the barge seemed to be going further and further down the river instead of across, pulled by the current and the strong wind. Relationnel took charge and shouted instructions on how to get the barge over to our side. It eventually worked and the couple invited us onboard to my surprise; I was expecting them to get off. But in fact they were trying unsuccessfully to get across to the other side when we arrived. There wasn’t much rain in spring this year and the low water level had caused too much slack on the chain.

So, with the four of us tightly backed onto the barge, the stronger members of the party pulled us across to the other side with no further mishap.

We continued down past La Daguenière, Saintes Gemmes sur Loire and Bouchemine. We stopped for a welcome drink and a rest in a café and then went back to Angers via the lake rather than going through the slate again. The round trip was about 40 K.

The next day, we set off from Artannes sur Thouet near Saumur where Relationnel was born, in the direction of Montreuil Bellay. It was a pleasant ride with a lovely surprise at the end. The view of the Thouet River from the bridge as we reached the mediaeval town was absolutely stunning.  And then this wonderful new outdoor restaurant called Auberge des Iles was just waiting for us! We weren’t the only ones though so we attached our bikes and reserved a table and went off to explore the little town.  Still no table on our return so we sat down in the shady armchairs provided and enjoyed the view of the river.

Rose-covered ladies’ tower

After lunch we visited the very beautiful castle with its century-old Lebanese cedar and its rose-covered towers then continued on our way to Saint Martin de Sanzay where, miraculously, we found another café open. Quite often in the smaller villages in France, the cafés have all shut down. By the time we had clocked up our usual 40 ks, we were back to our starting point.

The next day, we moved onto Loches, but that’s another story!

B&B Le Beauregard
Fanny et François TONNELIER 
22, rue Beauregard
Auberge des Isles
312 rue de Boëtie
49200 Montreuil-Bellay
02 41 50 37 37
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