A few summers ago, I experienced the Loire Valley as I never had before, on a bike. Though there are various types and levels of biking excursions one can take throughout the Châteaux de la Loire region, I found the 1.5 hour ride from Blois to Chambord to be delightful and just challenging enough to break a sweat (for a non-regular rider).
We began in Blois with a daytime tour of it’s famed château, which consists of a series of buildings constructed between the 13th and 17th centuries around a central courtyard. French history buffs know that the Château de Blois is where Jean d’Arc (Joan of Arc) received her blessing from the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to vanquish the English in Orléans in 1492. After our visit, we rented bikes, got simple directions to Chambord, and hit the road! Our bikes were very basic (no gear shifts or padded seats), but in good condition (meaning the tires had air and the brakes worked- good enough for me!).
The picturesque winding road (with several hills) took us directly to the doors of Chambord, via a long corridor of high pines. Once we happily parked our bikes (there was a bit of moaning due to the unpadded seat situation), the first order of business was to find something to eat. I highly recommend trying the Crêperie Solognote, which serves amazing savory and sweet crêpes, and the best Kir Royal I’ve ever tasted (perhaps that had something to do with the bike ride beforehand).
Afterwards, we treated ourselves to a guided tour of the lovely Château de Chambord, which was built as a hunting lodge for François 1. It has a large moat around the perimeter that is now used for boat outings by tourists. Following our tour, we rented a row boat and took a leisurely ride around the chateau (in an attempt to balance the lower body workout of biking with the upper body workout of rowing, of course!). After 3 hours in enchanting Chambord, we mounted our bikes and began the ride back to Blois for an overnight stay. Our round trip biking time was between 2.5 and 3 hours.
Back in Blois, we enjoyed dinner at Le Castelet , a must for any lover of wine and traditional French fare. Tucked away on a side street (rue St. Lubin), Le Castelet delights with its reasonably priced menus and prix fixes and extensive wine list. We were fortunate enough to meet the owner, who recommended excellent wine pairings and gifted us with some traditional petits plats (tasting plates) when we arrived. If you do dine at Le Castelet someday, keep in mind that it would be a shame to pass up their mousse au chocolat noir et beurre d’Isigny.
Following dinner, we marched our sore legs up the hill to see the spectacle son et lumière (sound and light show) at the Château de Blois. If you are into history, or just seeing light shows in old castles, I highly recommend this one. The spectacle chronicles the history of the château through lights, projections and shadow images accompanied by a soundtrack. If you do not understand French, be sure to request the English pamphlet and listening device.
I will never forget the two “royal” days we spent exploring the wonders of Blois and Chambord. The invigorating, beautiful ride from Blois to Chambord was all part of the fun. I hope to do a longer bike trip in the Loire Valley during my next trip to France…this time around I’ll request a padded seat.
La Crêperie Solognote
Place saint Louis
Tél : 02 54 20 36 75
For more information on biking in the Loire Valley, visit these sites:
Written by Jen Westmoreland Bouchard for EuropeUpClose.com