Tag Archives: cycling in France

Happy New Year for 2021

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“The best laid plans of mice and men …” John Burns never said a truer word!

We started the year with lots of travel plans and the first was a trip to Crete in March to break the winter blues. Covid 19 at that time was still a minor issue, although we did wear masks in the airport. After three most enjoyable days at a home exchange in Chania, we moved to Agios Nikolaos, by which time bars, restaurants and cultural venues had closed. Even though we were in an apartment, it wasn’t much fun. After visiting a 3500-year-old olive tree, there wasn’t much left to do and lockdown was about to start in France.


We took the next flight out of Heraklion, getting up at 4 am to do so! We wore masks for the whole trip and arrived back in Blois just two hours after lockdown, did some food shopping and holed up for the next 55 days! Lockdown eased on 11th May and we were no longer restricted to essential shopping and physical activity for one hour within a 1 km radius of our home. We also no longer needed to fill out a form when we did go out. After two weeks, on the 15th June, all restrictions were lifted and we started making holiday plans!

In the meantime, my daughter and her Dutch fiancé, who live in New York, had had to cancel their wedding plans in northern Italy in May while my son and his American girlfriend decided to get married on a ski slope in Vermont in the presence of only two other people! We watched the wedding on Skype but unfortunately there was no sound. We then had a virtual aperitif drinking the same champagne that my son bought on his last trip to France in November when we met his fiancé. We are delighted to welcome her into the family. Since then, the newlyweds have bought a house in Boston while my daughter and her fiancé have tentatively set September 2021 as a wedding date.

Cycling in the Jura

Holiday-wise, Germany seemed the safest as their Covid figures were very low (compared with France, Italy and Spain!) and we knew that we could count on outdoor eating venues and strict observance of hygiene protocols. We chose to avoid hotels and B&Bs and only stay in holiday flats with balconies or gardens, having breakfast and dinner at home. Our top priority was cycling and enjoying Germany’s many beautiful towns and villages. On June 26th, we started our 3-week journey in the Jura mountains in the east of France, discovering an area we didn’t know and which has an impressive number of bike paths.

Lake Constance

Next stop was Austria, from which we were able to visit Gallen with its famous baroque library over the border in Switzerland and cycle along Lake Constance. We followed the good weather as we always do and went back to the beautiful Bavarian mediaeval town of Bamberg, then Nuremberg, before spending four absolutely perfect days on the Forggensee. We had been there before, in our pre-e-bike days. This time we were able to appreciate the absolutely stunning scenery without straining our knees.

The Forggensee

We started heading back to France via the Neckar with some wonderful rides along the Kocher-Jagst Radweg near Heilbronn. Our last stop was the Black Forest. The scenery is beautiful and we had a breath-taking view from our balcony, but the cycling is a disaster! We arrived home on 17th July after driving 3380 K and cycling 773 K!

After we got back, we had a visit from my son who needed a new working US visa for his new job. The story is a bit complicated, but the upshot was that he left Boston wearing a mask (after getting a negative Covid test) and did not take it off until he got in his hire car at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. He then came straight to Blois, only doing a same-day return trip to Paris to go to his Embassy appointment. He needed another test in Blois before returning to Boston. It was lovely to see him for a few days.

Château de Chaumont

Otherwise, we have kept ourselves occupied and feel grateful every day for having a large house and garden that we love. While we could, we cycled as much as possible exploring many new areas and making the most of our annual pass to Château de Chaumont.

Our back garden view when dining outdoors

I have continued to work part-time, mainly as a sworn translator (I only just broke even on my holiday rental studio in Blois, which was supposed to supplement my terrible retirement pension), and my husband Jean Michel has completed various projects including two cold frames, two raised vegetable beds and two staircases for the garage and wood shed. There is still another one to go in the barn. We gardened extensively during the warmer months, growing a lot of plants from seed and increasing our collection of drought-resistant perennials. It made up for being so restricted in our movements. I also blogged every day on www.loiredailyphoto.com, especially during the different lockdown periods. It has helped me to stay connected with the outside world.

We did manage another 5-day cycling holiday in September in the Nièvre, based in La Charité-sur-Loire (near Sancerre). The Covid figures were low at the time and we could still count on outdoor eating at lunchtime. It was a welcome break. When we got home, we bought a garden heater so we could continue to enjoy eating outside throughout October. We went back into lockdown on 30th October for a month, followed by a 2-week easing period when non-essential shops opened again under extreme pressure from the public in the warm-up to Christmas.

Cycling along the Nièvre

What I have missed and continue to miss most are my children and friends. I haven’t seen my daughter since November 2019 when we shopped for her wedding dress. I occasionally go walking with a friend and we briefly met up with other friends in December in a park. During Christmas and New Year, which we naturally spent alone, eating home-made foie gras and drinking vouvray wine, we spent a lot of time reading our travel diaries aloud and looking at the corresponding digital photos. We FaceTimed with all the children and their partners on Christmas Day, which cheered us up no end. They are all doing well despite Covid.

If you’ve been tracking the Covid situation in France, you will know that we are not out of the woods. We have a large and somewhat reticent population to vaccinate and we are not in the immediate target group. We have another two months of cold, stay-at-home weather in front of us, then we’ll be able to go back to our outdoor occupations. By then we might be eligible for vaccination. In the meantime, we are exercising maximum precaution, only going to shop once a week at the local market and supermarket and, occasionally, the plant nursery. We buy everything else over the Internet. I continue to make our bread and yoghurts.

The Loire River near our house

Our hopes for 2021 are to see our children again, including Jean Michel’s two sons who live in France, celebrate my daughter’s wedding wherever it may be, visit my son and daughter and partners in Boston and New York and find a safe venue for our annual cycling holiday.

I would like to wish everyone a happier 2021, full of hope, inner strength and new horizons! Thank you for reading  my very sporadic blog!

La Promenade – Paris-Mont St.Michel Route Gets New Name: La Veloscenie – Blame France

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Many of the Anglophone bloggers who live in France are off on their summer holidays at the moment, often taking a break from blogging, which has given me the chance to discover some new blogs, in particular that of Gaynor B. from La Petite Presse who spends the summer in the Loire Valley. She takes us to a very enticing restaurant called La Promenade. This time, Experience France by Bike gives an exhaustive explanation of the bike route that connects up Paris and Le Mont Saint Michel – a mere 442 k!  Bread is Pain explains how, if you live in France, you can blame everything negative that ever happens to you on that very fact and not take any responsibility for anything you do! Enjoy!

La Promenade

by Gaynor B. from La Petite Presse who divides her time between the UK and the small village of Le Petit-Pressigny in the Touraine Sud area of France

We seem to have a ‘nose’ for picking homes in small villages with excellent places to eat. In Staffordshire it is the Hollybush, and in Le Petit-Pressigny La Promenade and Le Bon Coin. Different in price and ambiance but each offering good quality food. Last week we ate at La Promenade which is a Michelin starred restaurant run by Jacky Dallais. The food was fantastic and the wines of excellent quality and value. We’ve eaten here before and really think that it is an experience to savour and better shared with other people. Our partners in the gourmet experience this time were Maureen, John and their son Daniel (who live near to us in the UK and have a lovely home and gite near Chatillion sur Indre) together with Nick and Janet. Read more.

Paris-Mont St.Michel Route Gets New Name: La Veloscenie

by Experience France by Bike, an American who loves biking anywhere in Europe, but especially France, which has the perfect combination of safe bike routes, great food, great weather and history.

If there are any more long-distance bike routes developed in France, I am definitely going to need to relocate so that I have more time to explore all of them!  This summer has already seen the grand opening of La Velodyssee, the Atlantic Coast route which I wrote about for 2 weeks in May. Now, the much talked about Paris-Mont-Saint-Michel route has introduced a new name, a new website, and significant improvements to the route. The new website for La Veloscenie is only in French, good for my French readers, but not for the rest of us.  So here are some key details about this itinerary in case you want to consider it for a future trip. Read more

Blame France

by Bread is Pain, a 30-something American living in the Rhone-Alps, and slowly eating and drinking herself through the country

Narrator’s Voice is heard: 

“Does this ever happen to you?”

Queue photos of a woman carrying a grocery bag that breaks, a man having a car splash water on him, a couple having the doors to a theater shut in their face.

“Do you ever feel like you just want to throw in the towel, like the world just isn’t on your side?”

Show image of unattractive depressed person looking out a window on a rainy day.

“What if you could change all that?  What if I told you that there is a way that you could never have a bad day again and nothing will ever be your fault?”

The word “HOPE” flashes across the screen. Read more.

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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