25 Cyclists on Tour
Sunday, 10th September: Imagine this. On a perfect, sunny September afternoon, we arrived at Denmead, nr Portsmouth, six hours too early. Looking for somewhere interesting to visit, I spotted on the map 'cricket mon' written in red. Curiosity was aroused. On finding the location, we climbed over fences and gates, trampled through a wood and to our amazement we found the Broadhalfpenny Down Cricket Club, the cradle of cricket, situated on the beautiful Downs of East Hampshire. We sat in the glorious sunshine enjoying the game of cricket and savouring the cricket club teas. Opposite the grounds was the aptly named Bat and Ball Pub where, in 1792 (?), a certain landlord by the name of Richard Nyren, laid down the rules for the modern game of cricket. Artefacts relating to the origins of cricket can be found hanging on the walls around the pub. It was all sooooo English. What a perfect start to a CTC Cycling Holiday!
We loaded our bikes on to the trailer at 8 p.m. (Left our cars in a field attached to a B & B) and set off to Portsmouth where we caught the overnight ferry to Le Havre.
The journey to the Loire Valley took longer than anticipated because of traffic holdups; it was hot and uncomfortable too but all that was forgotten when we arrived in the ancient town of Loches. The hotel was quaint, parts of which were l0th century! We enjoyed sitting outside eating al fresco for the evening was warm and balmy.
Tuesday, 12 September
Loches - Genille - Montresor - Loches
All rides left promptly at 9. 30 am. Everybody was ready each day at this time.
Today we rode through the most attractive villages, woodland and open farmland. The undulating countryside was most suitable for the six tandems accompanying us. Each village had its own medieval castle and narrow streets, all so unspoilt. Simply charming.
At one point, we took a sharp right-hand turn and I noticed the name of this road which was 'Le Fosse des Boeufs'. As we continued along this long, straight road, it dawned on me that it must have been a Roman Road and where later on it became a droversí road. Interesting.
Grenille was our coffee stop. A charming medieval village which we had time to explore. The church was well worth seeing for it had a very beautiful stained glass window. Apart from that, there was medieval paint work on the walls and ceilings. I particularly liked the blue paint with gold stars representing heaven.
Lunch was at Montresor. Montresor is classified as one of the 'Most Beautiful Villages in France.' The medieval village is clustered around the fortified chateau of Montresor and the Renaisaissance collegiate church which has three magnificently carved statues of the Basternay family.
A fortress was constructed here in 1005 by Foulques Nerra, Duke of Anjou and it overlooks the peaceful valley of the Indrois. Alterations were made throughout the following centuries and in 1849, a Polish Count restored and improved it and endowed it with many treasures. We had an interesting tour inside the castle and one of our cyclists who spoke fluent French, translated everything for us. 40 miles
Wednesday, 13th September
Loches - Tauxigney - Cormery - Loches
We travelled North West of Loches today. Our first stop was at Tauxigney for coffee. A quiet village with a bar! The owner was a most pleasant and accommodating man who rearranged his bar, taking tables and chairs outside. We were made to feel most welcome.
Lunch was at Cormery. We made ourselves comfortable outside a medieval church and ate our baguettes.
After lunch, we went inside the church which was in a bad state of repair but did have points of interest. There was medieval painting on the whitewashed walls depicting scenes of the Bible but what interested me most was the old stone benches with wooden seats along the walls. This is where the old and infirm sat during Mass. Hence the expression 'Gone to the Wall'. The church was very damp and badly in need of restoration.
In Cormery town, there had been an ancient Abbey (built around 791). It was reconstructed in 1054 but declined in l7th and l8th century and during the Revolution, it was emptied of furniture. Only the Roman tower, which is open to the public in July and August, remains We could see and imagine how once the layout looked especially the gardens which monks had tended.
Whilst travelling through these French villages, we couldnít help but notice that nearly everyone had a patch of green set-a-side for wild flowers. It was a lovely sight to see such a riot of colour from these wild flowers. This was a most enjoyable day out especially as the weather was so warm and sunny. 40 miles
Thursday, 14th September
Todayís ride was the highlight of the week for we visited Amboise and Leonarda da Vinciís Chateau. It was also a supported ride.
We rode north from Loches, passing through Chedigny, a small market town, tucked away in the Indrois valley. Everything in this town reflects the serenity of the surrounding countryside - from places of worship to typical Touraine houses. Charming.
Coffee was at Luzille, a small, ancient village, with ancient castle and narrow winding streets.
We stopped to peer through the trees at the famous Chenonceau Chateau built over the river. Some of the group chose to stay here and explore the Chateau and gardens but most of us wanted to go to Amboise to look at da Vinciís home and inventions.
Lunched at a Creperie in style, after which we made our way to Chateau du Clos Luce where da Vinci spent the last three years of his life.
It was most impressive. We were able to see da Vinci as an artist, draughtsman and engineer. The rooms were full of his extraordinary genius and the gardens contained replicas of his inventions which one could have a hands-on experience. We did not have enough time to fully explore and enjoy this visit.
We returned by coach to Loches, stopping for a wine tasting on the way. Approx 30 miles
Friday, 15th September
Loches- Legeuile-Le Grande Presigny - Loches
It was very wet indeed today. But the rule was, whatever the weather we are going out for the ride!
By the time we had reached our coffee stop at Legueile, we were wet but managed to grab some liquid refreshments. The name Legueile appears for the first time around 775 under the title 'Lugoggalus' now read as 'Ligolium.' We were getting wet by now and had no time to explore further.
We pressed on for our lunch at Le Grande Presigny but upon arrival we were wet through. The only bar open was reluctant to take us in because they didnít want us to eat our baguettes inside. However, they took pity on us and proceeded to move heaven and earth to make us welcome and comfortable. Their bar floor was swimming in water from the dripping waterproofs. Tables and chairs were moved so we could all sit together - it was hilarious. The young barman could speak good English so there was a lot of banter between him and some of the cyclists. They couldnít have been kinder. I donít think they had experienced anything like it before. Reluctantly, we had to set out and the rain was even heavier. We had no time to look around this most interesting town with its ruined chateau and ancient streets.
On our way home, in order to keep our spirits up, we composed limericks. The two first lines went like this:
There was an old lady from Loches
Who grew tomatoes under her cloche...
Would anybody like to complete? We decided to have a competition and there would be a prize on the last night!!
We arrived back in Loches in excellent spirits but very wet through. Nobody really cared for we were all in the same boat, so to speak. Great Fun!!! 53 miles
Saturday, 16th September
Loches - Chatillon sur Indre - Loches This was a half day ride before leaving the next day. It turned out to be nearly a full day ride having cycled 40 miles by the time we arrived back in Loches.
However, it proved to be the most exciting ride for me if I may say so for I rode tandem! Never having been on a tandem before, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and all day I was up front with the best of them! I think we will have to have a tandem! Chatillon sur Indre was again a delightful medieval town with interesting walks around the historic sites. We lingered in a cafť for longer than we intended because we were enjoying the ambience of the place!
On this Saturday, all public buildings in the area were open to the public at no cost. We climbed The Tour Saint-Antoine, beside our hotel. This tower is 52 metres high and was the bell tower of a former church and the belfry for the town. Built between 1529 and 1575, it is the only Renaissance belfry in Touraine. The view from the top was spectacular.
Loches is a most attractive place, steeped in history, with parts of it dating back to the l0th century. This town had associations with Duke of Anjou, Joan of Arc, Henry 11, Richard Coeur de Lion, Agnes Sorel and Anne de Bretagne. They had all stayed in the Logis Royal.
Strolling around the walled town in the evening was rather special, admiring the Keep, The Royal Gate, The Logis Royal, 'Le donjon',(the dungeon), The Collegiate Church and the l6th century Hotel de Ville. All these ancient buildings were well preserved. These ancient buildings were lit up at night creating a special atmosphere.
This tour was not for those who wanted to 'get the miles in'. It was a most relaxed and enjoyable week full of historical and cultural interest. Pam and Dave Pilbeam were superb leaders who took care of everybody and nobody was left behind. Each day we were handed the route sheet and map with route marked on it. It was a most pleasurable experience.
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