Eleven more sleeps and I am off again to Europe. This time cycling through Tuscany and enjoying the Italian countryside with a little side trip to France. Will keep you all posted as the day gets closer.
After the fabulous dinner we had last night everyone is very slow today.
Bob headed off to the train just after breakfast as he was heading back to Paris a day earlier and today everyone is pottering.
On our return from Villandry yesterday there was the most beautiful house which would be a small chateau I suppose called Le Gerfaut which is also a Hotel. We made enquiries cycling home yesterday and all the girls have booked in for morning tea this morning. We are going to cycle there in our good clothes. That should be funny.
We are here and it is amazing.
The lady came out to greet us and what a delight.
Then we went inside. To think that the lady, her husband and 3 children live there and are 6th generation.
This was the lock on one of the doors off the salon.
And the plates were stunning
After our lovely morning tea of which the lady had made everything herself we wandered through the beautiful parklands and after lots of au revoir and we will be back we rode back to Azay Le Rideau and went to the first supermarket I had seen in France to get a french meal of fromage, foie gras, vin, baguettes and anything else french for a picnic dinner back at La Jagee for our last night in the Loire.
The most craziest thing I saw at the supermarket was out the front you could do your laundry while doing your shopping
And also you bring your bottle to the store and fill it up out of a machine straight from the cow. The milk here is unpasteurised.
Every morning our milk from La Jagee is out of a bottle that Kerrie had been into town and filled up from the machine.
We cycled back into town and found a Boulangerie where we had pastries, quiche and a cup of tea and Jane and I then cycled home and the others went off and did their thing.
We are now sitting on the verandah drinking a cheeky french rose in the lovely sunny afternoon of our last day in the Loire.
Now the girls have joined us and we have undone all the fabulous food we bought today with the baguettes and we are feasting on food, sparkling wine and rose.
So our week at La Jagee is coming to an end. We have had a great time.
Hindsight has become the buzz word but we have had a lot of laughs, a lot of singing on our bikes and more eating and drinking than I have done in a long time but worth every minute.
Au revoir all my followers. Until next trip.
Woke this morning to glorious sunshine and the sun coming through the trees with dappled light. Very pretty looking out our window to the garden.
We had made the decision to have an easy day and cycle to Villandry to see the chateau.
We set off through town in the sunshine and headed out the way we had originally come into at the beginning of the week.
Bike path the whole way back to Villandry.
We had a slight concern about the way to go but we knew we were heading in the right direction so headed off and before we knew it we were back in Villandry at the church we had passed on the way through on Saturday where a wedding was taking place.
A lot of these old buildings are so old when you go inside that the smell of damp and musty sometimes can be a bit overpowering. That was how it was in the church so didn’t spend a lot of time in there.
By this time we seemed to have lost the men and we just had the 6 girls so we headed down to the entry road to the chateau and there was a cafe and boulangerie. It was coffee and cake time and OMG the pastries.
After having the best coffee since being in France we headed up to the chateau and there was 2 whole huge areas for bike parking
The wonderful thing about visiting all these chateau’s is that if you show your ticket from the last one you visited you get a discount on the next one which is such a good idea and makes it so much more affordable to go and see these amazing places.
Being here at this time has been great as even though it has been both hot and cold there have not been heaps and heaps of tourists and sometimes we have been wandering around and been the only people there.
So the Villandry Chateau what an amazing building and the gardens are all vegetables
The gardens were all designed on the original renaissance designs back in the Middle Ages.
It took us well over 2 hours to see everything. There was even a maze which we had to try our hand at.
The chateau is still owned by a private person whose heritage is Spanish and American who married back in the 1800s and renovated and built it into what it is today having researched the history books to discover what the chateau was originally like and also the gardens. It was spectacular.
All throughout the chateau in every room the flowers were fantastic and the smell of the lilies and the roses was beautiful
We ended up in the gift shop and knew it was time for lunch and a glass of wine.
It was time to head back to La Jagee as it had been a big day.
When we got back to La Jagee we sat on the verandah in the sun and now we are all showered and dressed up and having pre dinner drink in anticipation of tonight’s special dinner that Kerrie and Kerry have cooked for us this evening as a last night on our trip.
So it is the end of a lovely day and tomorrow is our last day in the Loire and we have a lovely last day planned.
Bon nuit mes amies.
Woke up to no rain this morning and by the time we set off on our bikes the sun was shining.
When I woke this morning as well as all the normal birds chattering away in the trees there was a cuckoo who was having a lovely time. If it was a cuckoo clock it would be at least 50 o’clock by now.
Had to reacquaint myself with my bike as we hadn’t ridden for 3 days. Oiled the bike chain and put on the riding gear and now we are off to see Troglodytes.
There is a tourist destination about 3kms out of town which we rode to called Troglodyte Valley. The Goupillieres which was also on the name plate is the old language name for foxes. The beautiful little red ones which are virtually extinct now.
Well what an amazing place. They were troglodyte caves built into the side of hills They were peasants from the Tours region who possessed nothing but their physical strength to dig into the hills of tufa to turn them into dwellings and to extract the limestone that was used for centuries in the construction of 200 chateau, 700 churches and many houses in the Loire Valley.
We were there for quite a few hours as it was so interesting. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day.
We headed off down the road to Sache which was the home, outside Paris, of Balzac.
We had coffee in the square and the boulangerie was open so fresh pastries with our coffee before we moved on to the museum/house.
Another fabulous house and the site where Balzac wrote The Human Comedy where he combined human bodies with animal heads. He wrote 27 volumes of the Human Comedy and after they were published he went through them again and made more edits but only for himself.
Out in the barn/shed of the house was a fantastic display of photos of the animal heads with human clothing. One was a cassowary. Very interesting
From there we cycled back through Sache to Villaines where there was a co-op where basket weaving is a huge industry. We watched the craftsmanship of the artisans as they wove all sorts of things from baskets to chairs and tables. They even had a tea tower.
As we were leaving I discovered I had a flat tyre and of course had left my spare back at the house. We pumped it up and it seemed to be ok which was a relief as we had 4kms to go before we were back at La Jagee.
Luckily it seemed that the tyre was just flat and needed pumping up as we got back to our place and it was still ok.
Jane and I decided to go on to another chateau we wanted to see which was l’islette built in the 16th century. Another beautiful chateau with exquisite gardens and a mill house beside it which was built before the chateau.
What I am finding very interesting is how deceiving the size of the chateau’s are. L’Islette is only one room wide and as all the rooms are so large there are only about 3-4 rooms per floor. Very deceiving from outside. They are all set on parkland which are flowers, trees big chestnuts and conifers. Very beautiful
So now we are sitting in the mill house having a big glass of rose before we head back to La Jagee.
We left and in the way home thought I would stop into the bike shop to check my back tyre. The man was gorgeous and it turned out my actual tyre had worn through so he fixed both the slow leak and replaced my outside tyre.
Jane and I popped into town while my bike was being fixed had a glass of wine and did some shopping, picked up the bike and headed home.
It was a quick change and we decided to cycle into town for dinner.
Had a fabulous french dinner at a wonderful bistro in town
So dinner is over and we are heading home after another wonderful day in the Loire.
Tomorrow another amazing chateau
Vive Le France 🇫🇷
Woke to pouring rain again this morning and it was heavy. Not as heavy as we get but it was wet.
We were supposed to be leaving on our bikes at 8.30 but we turned over and went back to sleep as cycling in the rain was not appealing.
Glad to say everyone felt the same way so rather than riding to Chinon to see the sites we decided to get the train.
The lovely Kerry offered to drop us at the station at Azay Le Rideau and we jumped in the train and went off to Chinon.
Laura, Libby and Jonathan rode their bikes to the station and Jane, Ross, Isla and I went in the car.
The rain had dissipated a little so Jane and I walked into Chinon while Laura, Libby and Jonathan cycled into the tourist office.
This is the area of Joan of Arc. Massive statue of Joan in the town centre.
Met everyone in town and went to the tourist bureau. Jane and I wanted to do a river cruise but because of the rain they didn’t think it would happen plus it didn’t go until 4pm so too late.
Not to worry.
We went and had a coffee and planned what we would. We walked through town and there was a massive double lift that would take us up to the fortress at the top of the ridge above the town.
The fortress of Chinon sits above the medieval town of Chinon with the river La Vienne flowing through the town below.
This amazing fortress was built in the 15th century and expanded over the years. Once you got up to the fortress the view was amazing right across the valley and the river and vineyards of the Loire.
There were so many different parts of the fortress to see. The kings apartments, the dog tower, the ramparts etc etc. was just amazing to wander through these places and imagine what it must have been like all those years ago.
We spent the next 3 hours wandering around the fortress going down into dungeons and latrines and up onto ramparts. Lost in a time thousands of years ago
There was a lovely cafe in the grounds so we stopped for lunch and the mandatory glass of wine and after the gift shop we headed down the hill.
As Laura, Libby and Jonathan had bikes they rode off down the hill while Jane and I went down the cobble street to the bottom through the medieval part of town.
OMG it is all so breathtaking and at every turn there is something old and fabulous to see.
As it is a Monday there are a lot of things closed so when we got back to town the museum want open. Unfortunate but this is France.
Jane and I decided to wander back to the train station while the others cycled back. We got to the station with about 50 mins to kill but there was a local bar across the road. A bit like a cafe in Sydney but we were able to have a vin rouge and vin rose while we waited for the others.
We are now on the train returning to Azay Le Rideau and back to La Jagee.
Another great day in France and it isn’t over yet.
Saw the most beautiful paddock of flowers which I think was lavender from the train. What I am loving is most fields/paddocks are surrounded by poppies as well as them growing in the middle of the paddocks of barley and wheat.
We are now back at La Jagee and enjoying the lovely sitting room before we head out to dinner in town.
We went to a little french restaurant just at the entrance to the chateau for dinner and it was fabulous 2nd best meal I have had in France.
And the Tarte Citron was to die for
So mon amies it is the next day and I am a day late with my blog but European wifi can be tricky
Woke this morning to pouring rain but a day off today. No one woke until after 8 and am pleased to say after a week was able to do some washing. It was a rest day today so everyone could do whatever they wanted.
Beautiful breakfast and a lazy morning. Sat in the beautiful lounge room and read my book for a while and suddenly the sun came out and it was hot.
La Jagee is owned by Australians and the every wall is covered in aboriginal art. Absolutely stunning.
Bob, Jane and I decided to walk into town and explore and as we walked out of the driveway of La Jagee there were serious cyclists passing us on the road.
By the time we got into town there were Marshall’s and traffic people directing traffic as there was a triathlon on and the cyclist were cycling 180kms. OMG. you should have seen both the bikes and the muscles on the cyclists
We wandered into town an oh how I love the french villages.
Wandering through the town and it was so fabulous and turned the corner and there was the chateau
Unbelievable and So beautiful. I could live there quite easily. What I found deceiving was the size of the chateau from the outside but inside because of the size of the rooms and the height of the ceilings there were only a few rooms between one side of the chateau to the other.
It was absolutely amazing and then to walk around the grounds. It had a moat and outhouses and I definitely felt a french connection but only with Living in a chateau
I could imagine the dresses and the cold of the chateau. The fireplaces were huge and lots of chimneys.
Spent quite a few hours wandering through the chateau and the gardens and afterwards went and sat in the cafe and had a coffee and cheese board.
Wandered all around town after this and so gorgeous every turn in the path was a photo moment.
We found a lovely cafe and sat down for a glass of wine. The sun was very hot and relentless
Sue and Linda came out of the chateau and joined us for a glass of wine and then headed back to La Jagee.
We are now all back sitting in the lovely sitting room having wine and cheese and foie de grae baguette and wine and enjoying our rest day.
We have booked dinner in town and will walk into town for dinner a little later.
We have now walked in and out of town twice today. Back in for dinner at a lovely restaurant called La Salamander and it was lovely
Had a great night and stopped off for a night cap before walking home.
Tomorrow we are back on our bikes and cycling to another beautiful french town called Chinon so it is off to bed for me. Just got dark and it is just on 11pm. Love daylight savings
Bon nuit mes amies.
Today we head off by train to Tours and then ride approximately 20kms to La Jagee which is the place we will be staying at for the next week.
I had a little incident last night.
In France in some hotels they put a small mattress over the other mattress and make up the bed. Well I must have tossed and turned a bit too much so rolled over, the top mattress had moved off the bed and I fell out of bed onto the floor. Luckily I didn’t hurt myself but it woke Jane up so the two of us just sat there and laughed and laughed.
So we were up this morning and after breakfast went for a walk around town by the canal.
During the war Caen was totally destroyed by bombs so the whole town had to be rebuilt. It was quite different to where we had been before in little french villages. It was a big bustling town and lots of traffic but there were bike paths everywhere.
We met everyone in the foyer and loaded up the bikes and rode to the station where we put our bikes on board and now we are travelling in a very comfortable train on our way to Tours.
We are now sitting in the train at Le Mans station and not going anywhere as someone further up the track has put a tree across the line. Purposely apparently. Luckily Laura, one of the ladies on the trip speaks good french and can translate. So we are just sitting and waiting.
Eventually got underway and got into Tours about 3.30ish. Kerry and Kerrie from La Jagee were there to meet us and take all our panniers in the car while we all cycled to their place which was approximately 35kms away.
The sun was out, blue sky and it was hot.
Set off out of town and it was bike path the entire 35 kms to La Jagee.
All along the river, through told towns, past a chateau or two and came upon this little park right by the water with a good van run by 3 lovely women who were making home made crepes. Couldn’t go past that so we got off our bikes, ordered crepes, coffee, ice cream or whatever you wanted and then sat in the park in a deck chair and ate it. What a perfect place for a rest.
We continued on and again passed some lovely villages and all on bike paths and finally arrived at La Jagee at about 6.30 and what a gorgeous spot. 18th century with some parts dating back to 14th century. Lovely big grounds and gardens and run by an Australian couple from Haberfield who decided to sell up and move to France. Kerrie and Kerry own and run it and it was lovely.
Because it was such a perfect hot night when we had all showered and changed we met on the terrace for champagne and then a huge cooked dinner straight out of the Weber.
4 courses later and at 11.45 we were still sitting outside enjoying the meal and the company. Oh so french!
Am in bed now in a lovely big room with french windows ready for the rest of this week as we are staying here until Friday so will just do day trips and come back in the evening.
What an amazing and emotional day today.
Got up this morning and could hardly see 10 feet in front of us as it was thick thick fog.
Had our breakfast and I pumped my tyres up and off we went. So thick that we had our lights on and reflective clothing on.
I needed windscreen wipers for my glasses as riding through the fog was very damp.
Rode out of town and bike paths and lanes everywhere. Love it and felt very safe riding in the thick of it.
As we were riding along out of nowhere came this guy on a motorbike in full army dress. He was riding back to the UK
We rode out to Amaranche where the Normandy invasion happened and of course yesterday there had been lots of celebrations.
There were lots of veterans wandering around and I had my photo taken with one man who was 94 and been in the invasion of Normandy. His photo was blown up and on the wall outside the tourist office and inside the coffee shop was a photo of him when he signed up and now.
He is the man to the left of me.
It was so emotional seeing all this and as I said the fog was really bad. There was a museum there with wreaths laid at the front door and a very emotional poem.
We saw so many wonderful things on the road as we cycled along. Gorgeous houses
Then out of the blue as we were cycling along the beach all these old army jeeps appeared in the fog driving along the beach
There seemed to be a continual lump in my throat and tears in my eyes being there and seeing all this today. War is such a terrible thing.
We then cycled up the hill to the 360degree cinema and watched footage of the invasion and OMG. I couldn’t stop crying. So emotional and such a waste of life as so many men were 19-23.
We bought a few souvenirs at the shop on the way out and back in the bikes and headed off to Caen
We cycled on the most fabulous bike paths beside the main roads
On the way into Caen there was a British cemetery that we stopped to look at. Beautifully looked after but so young the people that were in the cemetery. Some gravestones said ‘unknown’ known to god. Very moving
We were just 3 kms from our end of journey and one of the girls got a puncture so a quick procedure was put in place to fix it in the shade as by this time the fog had burnt off and it was really hot
So we arrived in Caen at about 4.30 right on peak hour but great bike paths so not too bad. Found our hotel and we are settled in.
Jane and I showered and changed and out into the town.
Caen was another town that was bombed during the war so lots of new buildings rather than the beautiful old architecture of pre-war.
We had drinks and dinner and met a lot of English men who were related to people in the war who were down here to celebrate.
It was a wonderful and emotional day and now it is time for bed
Bon nuit mes amies
What a lovely day today.
Danielle our hostess had organised two friends with cars and trailers to take us over to Bayeaux
We got up and had breakfast and Eric and Yves arrived one in a Peugeot and one in a Mercedes both with a trailer on to carry our bikes.
They were gorgeous and loaded our bikes into the trailer and our panniers into their boots and off we went.
We had a wonderful trip in the car chatting to Eric who was a retired nurse.
It was only 120kms to Bayeux so before we knew it we were there by 11.
It was too early to check in but the lovely people at our hotel gave us a room to put all our stuff in plus lock up our bikes and we were off into town
Yesterday was D Day – 6 June and Bayeux was the first town liberated by the Americans so there was a lot of celebrations happening.
Tourists everywhere and lots of people dressed up in costume of the 1940’s and war outfits. There were lots of original US army jeeps driving around with people in army outfits.
The atmosphere was fabulous
There is a huge Cathedral in town called the Notre Dame which was built in 1420. It was huge and amazing. Beautiful stain glass windows.
There had obviously been a service there yesterday as the poppy wreaths we’re everywhere
Jane and I went and strolled around town and it was gorgeous.
While driving over from Mont St Michel this morning Eric was telling us that a lot of the towns were totally bombed and destroyed during the war so a lot of towns had new housing and shops compared to a lot of other towns.
Bayeux seemed to have survived the bombing.
I was dying for a coffee which we hadn’t been drinking since we got here as it is so terrible but like a fool I ordered one today. OMG it was awful. I asked for a cappuccino and I got a coffee cup that was full of canned whipped cream with a sprinkle of chocolate and warm coffee that filled a quarter of the cup at the bottom. It was disgusting so will stick to tea until I get back.
Bayeux, of course, is the home of the Bayeux tapestry and how incredible that was. We got a 3 museum deal and went into see the tapestry. It is about 70m long and such intricate work that was done by the nuns to depict the battle of Hastings in 1066 between King Harold and King Edward. They made it so the poor people who couldn’t read could look at the pictures and see what happened. Truly a masterpiece and a definite highlight of the trip.
When we came out we met up with Linda, one of our cyclists and went and had lunch.
All the shops sold the most beautiful bags and linen and scarves with the red poppy all over them. They were lovely but couldn’t carry them so no shopping for us.
Went into the historical museum which also fantastic starting from BC to modern day with paintings, ceramics, apothecary jars, tatting and the making of Chantilly lace which was stunning. The justice system with a small court set up. How they made the regency chairs and so on. It was very good.
It was then on to the Normandy Museum which was the war museum and had all the history of D Day and who fought and the nurses and military men. There was a film which we watched and all very interesting.
We eventually got back to our hotel about 6 and saw everyone and headed out into town for a celebration in the park which was set up, I would imagine, like after the war with a dance floor and bunting and a band playing both french and American rock and roll. It was a great atmosphere and so many people dressed up in army uniforms, sailor uniforms, nurses, french resistance, it was wonderful and the minute the band started playing everyone was up and rock n rolling. They were fantastic.
We had a glass of wine and took it all in then headed off for dinner. Had a wonderful dinner of prawns and snails. Very French!!!
It was then home to bed. What a wonderful day and so glad to have been here at this time and experience the celebrations
There was one guy we saw who was the last person alive who was in the army back then. He was 94 and in a wheelchair but had all his medals on and a big smile on his face.
Just a wonderful experience
The hotels we have been staying in have been so comfortable. The beds are fantastic. Needless to say I have been sleeping very well.
Up early this morning and repacked all my stuff into my new panniers. They are fantastic and hopefully a lot more sturdier than the other ones.
There is now pannier envy within our group.
We headed out of town down winding cobblestone streets past such beautiful old buildings and churches.
We had to do a little bit of main road today but everyone in France is so bicycle friendly there was no problem at all.
What we are finding is there is no one around. We have ridden through towns and nothing is open and no one around. Quite a few places for sale and rent.
Today is overcast and misty but no rain again thank goodness. A bit chilly though. We all have rosy cheeks!
Stopped for morning tea in a tiny village with only one place open
We cycled on to villeau viex for lunch and when we got there it was like a ghost town. Nothing open and no one around. Luckily at breakfast this morning they have baguettes cheese, ham, boiled eggs. So we all made a sandwich and took a piece of fruit and put it in our panniers so we all pulled into the church and memorial and had lunch on the steps
We travelled on back roads and all signposted. It was all part of the EuroVelo route that goes all the way through Europe and the UK and Ireland.
Most of the roads we are travelling down are lined on either side by poppies. I think they must be a weed.
So it was then on to Pontoson which is the town before Mont St Michel and even though it was overcast and gray you could see the Mont for miles around.
This was a gorgeous windmill that we came across at the top of the hill and when we looked the other way. There she was
We arrived at our lovely b&b about 2kms from the Mont and settled in. Danielle is our hostess and so delightful. Apparently Bob booked this back in February and she was so excited to have us stay with her from Australia. She had cleared out the shed for us to put our bikes in and made us feel so welcome.
It was quite cold today so we took off our panniers and put some warmer clothes on and jumped on the bikes and rode down to Mont St Michel.
OMG! Unbelievable and so steeped in history. First part of it built in 708.
It was massive and after parking our bikes in the bike park we jumped on the shuffle bus that took us over the bridge to the island and just as we got there it started to sprinkle with rain.
This was an incredible piece of engineering and design and took over 60 years to build. They would take a boat to the Channel Islands just off the coast mine the stone, move it to where the ship was, carry it on board then sail back to Mont St Michel and in load it, get it up the mountain and put it in place. What an amazing engineering feat. And what an impressive monument.
We walked up the 1300 stairs to the top and got tickets to do a tour and just wandered around. So impressive and so full of history. After Aubrey, bishop of Avranches had a sanctuary built it became a major focus for pilgrimage. In the 10th century the Benedictines settled in the abbey while a village grew below. By 14th century it was extended and became an impregnable stronghold during the 100 years war.
Following the dissolution of the religious community during the revolution and until 1863 the abbey was used as a prison. During the 2nd world war it was occupied by the Germans until the Americans took back Pontorson so they fled. It is only since the 1960 s that they have taken back monks from a religious order that now live in the abbey and they are from an order in Jerusalem.
We took the tour which was taken by this extremely charismatic french girl who was very heavily accented but had the best sense of humour and had an hour and a half walking around the abbey.
The saddest thing about it is that it has been totally stripped bare of everything hat may have been hanging or decorating the walks so it was a blank canvas but very impressive.
By the time we finished it was well after 5.30 and we were cold and wet and needed sustenance.
Found a creperie as I had been dying to have a crepe since I got here.
As we were sitting eating Laura and Libby, sisters in our group whe had had bike troubles and came later, arrived and we caught up before heading back to our bikes and cycling back to our Bnb in the pouring rain.
Whilst I have been in France there have been rolling train strikes which are going on for months and tomorrow is a strike day and we had booked tickets to get from Pontorson to Bayeux. Well that wasn’t going to happen so we had a meeting when we all returned about how we were going to get 125kms to Bayeaux tomorrow.
Our lovely hostess Danielle got on the phone and to cut a long story short she has 2 friends with trailers and they are going to pick us up in the morning and drive us to Bayeaux. What a relief and how wonderful is that.
Having all that done it was off for a very hot shower to warm up dressed and Jane, Libby, Laura and myself headed into town for the most fabulous seafood dinner and then home to bed.
Tomorrow will be wonderful as we will have a day off from riding, travel in a car and go and see the Bayeaux tapestries.
Home and in bed now ready for an easy day tomorrow.