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2000 Cycling Season, July 7 - 12

Winging it for 5 days to Quimper

This next section of our trip is an un-planned 5-day 400km (200 mile) journey to Quimper in the Brittany region of France. Our overall plan for this section of our adventure is to get up in the morning, and start riding, enjoying things along the way, and then stop at about 4:00 to find a hotel, and dinner. Initially we will work our way down the Loire valley to Nantes before heading north along the Atlantic coast to Quimper. Since we expect to be very distracted by visiting Chateaus in the Loire valley, we think we'll need to catch a train somewhere between Nantes and Quimper, so we picked up all the train schedules we may need in Tours, and will see where the next few days take us.

July 7, 2000, Friday -Tours to Azay le Rideau

Today we started our ride down the Loire Valley before the Tour de France hit the road. We both would have liked to see the start of a stage of the race, but hanging around Tours to watch their 12:30 start wouldn't give us much time to visit Chateaus and find a hotel before our self-imposed 4:00 stop time.

It was evident that we would have on and off rain all day long, and just as started our ride out of Tours we got a half-hour of rain.

Villandry The Garden Chateau

Villandry The Garden Chateau

Our first Chateau stop for the day is the Garden Chateau of Villandry witch is about 15km (7 miles) east of Tours. Villandry has a little more than 10 acres of carefully maintained formal French gardens. There are the Love gardens, the Water Gardens, the Fragrant Herb Gardens, the food producing Kitchen gardens, a hedge maze, and a large forested area all surrounding the hills around a very nicely architected 16th century Chateau. We spent about 2 hours just wandering the gardens, and enjoying the views of the Valley as the Atlantic rain clouds raced by on their way up the Loire valley dropping an ocassional shower on us. Then we enjoyed lunch hiding from the rain before heading for the next Chateau.

Villandry Love Gardens

Villandry Love Gardens

Dorothy At Villandry Border Gardens

Dorothy At Villandry Border Gardens

Our next Chateau stop was Azay Le Rideau. But by the time we reached the little town of Azay Le Redeau it was already 3:00, so we decided to find a hotel before visiting the Chateau. It's a good thing we stopped first. The hotel that we chose only had one room left for the evening, and our Chateau visit took about two hours.

Chateau Azay

Chateau Azay

After dropping our luggage at the hotel we visited the Riverside Chateau of Azay Le Rideau. Although it was simple in comparison to Chanenceau, it still provided great views of the park, and an interesting visit inside.

July 8, 2000, Saturday - Azay le Rideau to Saumur

Today the weather started out much better for riding however it was on the cool side. We started out in 59 degrees with high cloud cover. As the day went on the high clouds scattered, but the temperature never got above 70. I don't know if this temperature is normal for this region, or if we have found an unusually cool spell. Either way a break from 90 degrees with high humidity that we encountered in Italy is nice.

Our final destination for the day was Saumur, which is 50 kilometers down the Loire valley. Although we would have liked to go further, the next major town is another 40k away, and we didn't want to risk getting caught in an afternoon rain storm or arriving too late to find a hotel. The day turned into just a good ride through some pretty countryside down the Loire valley. We made a brief stop at Chateau D' Usse and took a few pictures. This Chateau started life as a defensive position sitting up on the hill surrounded by a big stone wall watching the river. We had made good progress; 30k (18 miles) by the time we stopped for lunch. After lunch however our pace slowed because we stuck to little roads that were barely marked, to avoid heavy traffic into Saumur. This lead to a lot of lost time scratching our heads trying to figure out which road was the one on our map. We were also plagued with Tire problems - there was a cut in our tire that kept pinching holes in the tube. We had a spare tire, but it was buried in our gear, and we were only 10k from Saumur, so we decided to limp our way in pumping it up every 10 minutes.

John In Front Of Chateau Usse

John In Front Of Chateau Usse

Once we got to Saumur we faced another challenge, finding a hotel, and getting to it through the streets that were flooded with people at some sort of festival. This turned into a two-hour journey through very thick crowds, which really tested our patients. The one bright spot in this effort to maneuver through the crowds was that we found an open bike store, and bought a new tire so we still have a spare with us.

After dinner we planned tomorrows journey. Since we still have a long way to go to get to Quimper, we decided spend the day here in Saumur, then jump an afternoon train to Nance, which is the next major train hub for the area. From there we'll probably still need to train our way further north, but at least we'll be in the right train region.

July 9, 2000, Sunday-Saumur to Nantes

Today we took advantage of our plans for an afternoon train and slept in until 9:00. This worked out well because it was raining when we got up and the rain continued until we went to bed in Nantes. We did get out and enjoy the fortress Chateau in Saumur that overlooks the Loire River from its strategic hilltop location.

One thing of interest in the Chateau was an old statue of Saint Barbara standing next to a castle tower. The legend says that Saint Barbara was locked in a tower to save her from the evils of men. When the tower caught fire she saved herself by using her long hair to lower herself from the tower. The interesting part is that because of this legend Saint Barbara is the patron saint of Firemen. When I heard this I immediately thought of Coit Tower in San Francisco, California. Coit Tower was constructed as a monument to the firemen of San Francisco after the earthquake and fires in the early 1900's. I had always heard that it was designed to look like the nozzle of a fire hose. However it is surprising how similar Coit Tower and the Tower in the Sculpture of Saint Barbara look- maybe this is really the inspiration for the architecture of Coit Tower not the fire hose as the nickel tours of San Francisco lead you to believe. I'll have to research this one a bit furtherů

July 10, 2000 Monday - Nantes to Quimper

This morning the weather was again cold and rainy so we decided to ride the train all the way to Quimper. Our next reservations are actually fairly far outside of Quimper so this will give us a chance to visit the town of Quimper, and avoid a possible full day of riding in the rain. We arrived in Quimper at about 1:00 with the clouds beginning to break up a bit. After getting settled in we headed out to see what the old town of Quimper has to offer.

We didn't get too far before the cold and strong wind mixed with occasional rain sent us back to the hotel for warmer clothes. We had been grudgingly carrying winter riding gear including polartec tights, and polar fleece tops with us all over France and Italy now in mid July we finally have to use them. For an afternoon walk around Quimper, I ended up wearing socks, long pants, a one of my long sleeve shirts, with a polar fleece top over it, with my rain jacket over all that. Of course Dorothy was even more bundled up than me. Temperatures in the low sixty's, a wind strong enough to push you around and light rain really make it feel cold in July. I'm just glad we decided to ride the train and rather than finding ourselves out on the road dealing with the cold, rain, and wind. Meanwhile I hear that Denver is enduring a long hot dry spell. Maybe we are a long way from home.

Distinctive Brittany Building Style

Distinctive Brittany Building Style

Even with the cold, we managed to find the local Cathedral, and some architectural styles that are very unique to this area of Brittany.

July 11, 2000 Tuesday - Quimper

Today we took it easy, and hung out at the hotel all morning reading about the area catching up on some writing, and avoiding the cold. At about noon we decided the weather wasn't going to be too bad today, so we geared up for bad weather and jumped on the bike for an afternoon ride to the a little seaside town of Ile-Tudy where on outcropping of land protects a big bay from the winds of the Atlantic Ocean. After a nice little lunch in this sleepy little town had a fairly nice ride back over the rolling hills, except for the gusts of wind that would sneak up on you and steel 5 to 10 kph from your speed before you could complete one pedal stoke. The weather was pretty consistently cool 65 degrees, with strong gusty winds that quickly blew nasty looking black Atlantic rain clouds across the bright blue sky. The high for the day was 68 degrees.

John At Atlantic Coast Of Britany

John At Atlantic Coast Of Britany