Friday, August 17, 2012

Chinon and the Loire Valley

From Europe 2012 Selects
We arrived in Chinon in time to get ourselves set up at the apartment, shop for a baby bed, and still have time to watch the sunset. Once we got settled in, we rented nice road bikes from Detours de Loire. "Nice" is a relative term, since the alternatives were clunky cruisers and hybrid Trek bikes. Upon getting it back, I took the bike for a spin down to Montsoreau, marked on one of the bike maps as one of the prettiest villages in France.
From Europe 2012 Selects
Cycling in the Loire valley is boring. It's almost dead flat, with a strong wind that blows up the river. In fact, in the old days, the Loire flat-bottomed boats would raise the sails to go up the river, and then drop the sails in order to get down river. Hence, if you're a cyclist, you are advised to plan your tour up the river. Ina ny case, the bike paths are pretty straight, well-marked, and would go on for miles and miles with the same scenery. So you might have a forest path, and you'd see nothing but forest for quite a while. In between, you might see a sunflower field, or a corn or wheat field, but that's it. And then there are the chateaus, which serve to break up the scenery a bit, but even XiaoQin, who isn't as spoiled by gorgeous scenery as I am found the riding monotonous after a while.
From Europe 2012 Selects
One of the best things about Simon's apartment was that it overlooks the fortress in Chinon as you can see above. This really came into play on Bastille day, when people would line up from 6pm so they could get good seats for the fireworks display, which would start at 11pm! Whatever else you can say about the French, they did amazing things with the fireworks display, making full use of the river (they even had fireworks launched from boats), music, and of course the fortress, which at one point they managed to light up so that it looked like it was burning.
We visited a number of Chateaus, since you could hardly be in the area and not do so. My choice was Parc Da Vinci, which was the last place Leonardo Da Vinci lived in before he died.
From Europe 2012 Selects
Over all, though, the best chateau to visit was probably Chenonceau, which was a chateau built over a bridge across a river. With a fairly rich history and the opportunity to paddle around the river exploring the castle from below, it was fairly good value for money and you could spend the entire day there. We also visited Chateau D'Usse, L'Abbey Fontrevaud
From Europe 2012 Selects
While cycling around, I noticed signs for various concerts in Montsoreau. One concert caught my eye and the timing worked out nicely for us. It would feature music by Rachmaninoff, which sounded good to me. The old churches in Europe have excellent sound, and I've never been disappointed whenever I attended a concert held in one of them. I wasn't disappointed this time either.
All in all, we had a good time in Chinon. It's a beautiful area and worth 3-4 days of your time. A week, however, might be too much unless you're a wine and chateau aficionado. For cycling, I would not recommend a visit unless you are very out of shape or more interested in chateaus and wine than in actually finding beautiful places to ride. If you do ride in the area, stay away from the bike path: the country roads while frequently filled with annoying traffic are also more scenic than the bike paths.
From Europe 2012 Selects
Previous
Next
Post a Comment