Tag Archives: Travel Diary

Cycle Path Psychopath part 5 – Wine, Cheese and Castles

Suevres to Limeray
Friday 10 October
Fog engulfed the Loire as I headed off this morning, backtracking a little as I wanted to visit my hosts’ friend, and visit Chateaux Chambord. I rode over to Domaine de Croc du Merle at Muides-sur-Loire, arriving as they opened. I asked for my hosts friend, who offered wine tasting? Mmmm wine and cheese for breakfast? Why not! He explained that their cheese was all from happy cows, that the milking system was fully automatic, and cows wandered into be milked whenever they felt like it. The system produces more, and better quality milk, and consequently very delicious cheese. I tried 7 wines, and ended up buying a bottle of a Chardonnay Sauvignon blend, and a cheese – lunch for the next few days.

Wobbling towards Chateaux Chambord, I rode past a of group army men, one of which recognize my shell and wished me a good Camino. Arriving at the Chateaux, I took a wrong turn, and circled the fairytale castle in the fog before finding somewhere to park my bike. The chateau is a World Heritage French Renaissance marvel constructed by King Francis 1 of France around 1519. A quick visit with a stamp in my Credencial, then on my bike… Only to get lost exiting the castle, I circled again, and again before finally finding the road to Blois, passing a couple of women cyclists several times. We ended up, on the same road, and seems they had been lost too, and were heading in the same direction. Finally back on the marked path, only to be interrupted by some road construction and a detour. I asked directions in broken French, and got us back on the correct path. I soon left them, as I had further to go after my, ahem, breakfast detour.

Arriving at Blois, I regretted that I hadn’t arrange to spend the night there, as it looked quite magical across the river, but I had booked to stay at a campsite further along the Loire, at Limeray. It was much further than I had anticipated, so pushed the pedals a fast as I could to make it before I got dark. With detours and getting lost I ended up doing 88 km that day, the most so far. I arrived at the small campsite, that was not quite what I had expected… Situated between a busy highway and a train line, it ended up being the nosiest night in had spent in France! The facility’s were good and clean, and after I set up my tent, had a lovely hot shower I heated up a quiche I had bought earlier and opened my bottle of wine, before snuggling down for an early night.


Cycle Path Psychopath part 4 – The Delights of the Loire

Saint-Jean-de-Braye to Suevres
Thursday 9 October

Leaving Saint-Jean-de-Braye, I was now on the Loire à Vélo path, all the way to Tours. Following the Loire River through wonderful landscapes punctuated with magnificent chateaus, along well marked cycle paths – this was truly a delightful ride.

As I was coming into Orleans, my brake cable suddenly came loose, and my brakes didn’t work. I stopped and fiddled for a while when an elderly trio, stopped and were the first to recognize my scollop shell on my bike, asked “Saint Jacque de Compostelle?”, I nodded and the gentleman, saw I was having trouble, and fixed my brakes. The sun had decided to shine today, making the ride even more enjoyable. Continuing on, I saw my first marker for the Camino, confirming I was actually on the correct path.

I stopped for lunch in the picturesque medieval town of Beaugency where I managed to get another stamp in my Crediencial, albeit a boring municipal one from the tourist office, as everything else of historical significance was closed. This was truly a delightful stop, I circled the town several times taking in the atmosphere, before settling on a small brasserie for lunch. Again another gastronomic delight – goat cheese and tomato flan, followed by Poached fish with capers. These menues are good!

Continuing on to Suvres, I passed fields of wild flowers and stopped for a photo of the biggest fungus I had seen, and saw my first wildlife – three pheasants in the bushes. My hosts were not going to be home until 6.30 – I arrived around 5.30, so headed to the local Tabac for a coffee. They soon sent me a message, as they arrived earlier than planned. I love CouchSurfing! Again my hosts were charming and their house was an absolute delight. An old sprawling farmhouse, that had been converted into a modern comfortable home completed with skateboarding rink! A delicious home cooked dinner, fromage, wine, and good conversation, warm shower (with ‘disco button’), and washing machine followed by a contented sleep in a comfortable bed. She worked in local tourism, so directed me to some sights not to be missed the following day, and his hobby was making film clips for the French reggae band he performed in. They had a friend who was a local wine and cheese producer, so called him to arrange a visit for me the following morning.

The Bad Pilgrim

Wednesday 8 October

Until now the only stamps I had in my Credential the ones I’d procured in Paris – my host commented that I was a very bad pilgrim, and that as Orleans was a very important stop on the Camino, I should be able to get one at the Cathedral. However, when I went there, there was no one to be found. A bad pilgrim indeed! I headed to Joan of Arc’s house, as this historic town was her birthplace, and asked if they knew where I could get a stamp. She said she didn’t, but said she knew someone who would know. There was an old priest and nun waiting in the reception area, who tut tutted in French when she asked them – it turns out I could get a stamp right there.

Next I went in search of ‘the menu’ again, but I was a little late, and all choices today were with beef or pork, which I don’t eat. I found a small place offering a plate de jour of Poullet with thyme, and it didn’t disappoint. The rest of the afternoon I spent wander the town, enjoying the atmosphere.

My host was busy working that evening, and had told me about a small Resturant that served mussels, so of course I had to go. The heavens opened on my way, and I was soaked, but a warm bowl of mussels can cure anything. Later I met my host in town, and we cycled together along cycle paths back to Saint-Jean-de-Braye. Such a joy to cycle at night without risk of cars running you down.

Cycle Path Psychopath part 3 – The Menu

Guillerval to Saint-Jean-de-Braye
Tuesday 7 October

I was tired and sore, still suffering from Jetlag, with a sore head from wine and Champagne too… and had a longer ride today, and it again looked like rain. My host offered to give me a head start and drop me 10 km down the road – I agreed, as I was off the actual Pilgrim route anyway… And it meant I got to spend more time chatting to my host. She dropped me just past Angerville, and it was to be a fairly easy ride to Saint-Jean-de-Braye. Easy, except for the heavy rain, and that I was really hungry and hadn’t packed any snacks. I was thinking that the next store I found I would stock up on chocolate, dried fruit, nuts, and cheese… And turned into every village looking for something open. Nothing. Until I arrived at the small village of Aschères-Le-Marché – it had Marche in the name, so I figured there may be a market there… but it was closed. I looked around and found a small Resturant with a set menu for lunch. In my broken French I explained that I didn’t eat 4 legged animals, and the waitress offered pickled fish with potatoes, an omelette, cheese, dessert and wine for 12€ – the wine alone would have cost me that in Indonesia! The omelette was sensational! I can safely say it’s the best I’ve ever eaten, and I make quite a good omelet myself.

I’d had enough of Google’s muddy field detours, so turned it off, and got out the old fashioned maps – it was a fairly strait forward route to Saint-Jean-de-Braye, again until I encountered roundabouts, and went off in the wrong direction for a couple of hours! I turned on Google who wanted to send me through the fields, but I decided the brave the busy highway for a couple of kilometers instead.

My host for this evening was a lovely young woman who worked developing waste solutions, a subject which I’m very interested, as it’s a very big and growing problem in Indonesia, where I live. The local government are trying to make disposing of garbage a user pay system – the more you throw away, the more you pay, and she was developing special bins that measure garbage. She also did voluntary work in a bike shop which repairs bikes for people who can’t afforded new bikes. When I complained of a sore back, she made some adjustments on my bike, and it was much more comfortable to ride, she also fitted my bike computer, which I hadn’t figured out how to do, so now I could see how far I rode each day. I spent two nights here, as it was only a ten minute bike ride from Orleans, where I wanted to do some sightseeing.

Cycle Path Psychopath part 2 – Muddy Fields & Scarecrows

Bretigny-sur-Orge to Guillerval
Monday 6 October

This morning I was a little late to rise, but finally got on the road and wanted to visit the church in Arpajon, as it was on the pilgrim route and wanted to get a stamp in my Credential, but it when I arrived it was all locked up, and no one to be found… So I continued onto Guillerval, my next stop. I was extolling the virtues of Google maps as it took me off highways and into delightful woodland paths, when the heavens opened and I found myself in the middle of a muddy filed and only able to travel at about 5kms per hour. To add insult to injury, Google kept telling me 5 mins to your destination. There was no village in sight, and in the distance I could see a perfectly good minor local road… But I was stuck pushing my bike through the mud.

I eventually arrived in the charming little village to the delights of an old stone farm house filed with art and warmth. My hosts for this evening were again a wonderful generous and welcoming family, we got on very well and talked late into the evening. They offered a nice bottle of red, and my first Champagne in France… Delicious home cooked food, again with ingredients from the garden. Charming kids who were really interested in my pictures of Indonesia – I didn’t want to leave! The cat and the goat even made me feel welcome too! In the village there was a scarecrow competition, and this family had made several, one of which was a fully working robot constructed of old computers – when you clicked it showed postcards of its travels around the world, it’s sure to win!

Cycle Path Psychopath part 1- The Sound of Music

Paris to Bretigny-sur-Orge
Sunday 5 October

Against my friends advice, I decided to begin my journey by cycling out of Paris. I’m glad I did, as it was one of the easiest days of my journey so far. I had planned a short trip, just to get used to the bike, and carrying a load… and used to French traffic… Which is extremely tame compared to Indonesian roads. There are cycle paths everywhere – What a wonderful country! I really should have learnt the meanings of some French road signs, too… But it was all OK for a first day. I was relying on Google navigate, which caused some confusion at the roundabouts, several of which I went around several times… But once out of the city of Paris, and through the suburbs, it was all downhill (and on cycle paths), to Bretigny-sur-Orge, where I was to spend the night,

I joined CouchSurfing a while ago, and had mostly hosted until now, and my first night of my pilgrimage, I was to be the guest – and what a wonderful introduction to the French hospitality! I was a little lost coming into the village, and after circling for almost an hour, I called to say I was lost. My hosts came to find me, walking me to their delightful warm home and family of 5 kids, all very keen to meet the strange foreigner and practice their English. They had the washing machine ready to go, and offered a very welcome hot shower, before I was treated to a wonderful dinner which included a delicious plum tart made from fruits from the garden, and what I was to learn was the ubiquitous fromage course, served at every meal in every home I was to visit. Heaven. Oh… And wine – heaven with virgins, if you’re into that sort of thing. Prior to going to bed, all of the children (excluding the baby), came to say good night in English – the youngest particularly proud of her accomplishment – it was just like a scene form The sound of Music, without the matching curtain outfits.