Some a little less challenging than the Cambrian Way but more of a holiday at the end of the summer. Sophie had cycled the Loire a velo route from Tours to the Atlantic last year on her trip from Belgium to Spain but not the top 340km from Nevers to Tours. Tours to Nantes is around 270km and its another 55km to the ocean.
The route is well marked and mainly off road all with a lot of dedicated cycle path. It also has the benefit of some good hotels, campsites and of course places to eat and drink.
In terms of planning it had been a quick discussion after dinner. In fact more of finding matching holiday suggestions from a list of 5 top travel items from each of us. We had restricted the list to France based on a need to not travel too far and get some good food and wine.
Cycling along the Loire
City break in Nantes
Loire cycle trip
Burgundy cycle trip (canal)
Two matches and the Loire won. So apart from that discussion and that we would go first couple of weeks of September no other planning had taken place. Or packing :-)
In terms of equipment we had most the kit from Sophies trip to Spain and the Cambrian Way walk. We had done a 960km cycle trip from Lier to the source of the Schelde and then along through West Flanders and the Belgian coast to Vlissingen and the mouth of the Schelde before heading back to Lier via Antwerpen.
The day before starting the trip w done some late night packing in Lier and also planning to drive down to Tours rather than Nevers. Tours is half way along but meant we could be a bit more ad hoc on the journey. Aim was to park the car and then take the train to Nevers from Tours (actually the well connected St Pierre des Corps TGV station just east of Tours).
French train rules for the passage of bikes are not straight forward but not as complex as the UK is becoming. Using TGV trains needs a bike bag and potential refusal if the train is full. However for the Loire you can use the more laid back, long distance, stopping, TEN trains which handily connect the start, middle and end points of the route. Cycles go free and there is a dedicated storage space (also for skis). You need to unload your luggage before getting on and then place your bike in the upright holder.
We took just under 6 hours to drive down from Lier to Montlouis which is about 10km east of Tours and stayed at the Chateau de la Bourdalaise (cheap on Expedia but a relatively luxurious start to the trip). After a swim in the outdoor pool and a nice dinner an early night was in order in a bedroom suitably chateau like with high ceilings and a hard bed.
The Chateau is famous for its tomato collection and therefore attracts a range of tourists who all munch quietly on their dinners and breakfast. Nice atmosphere and nice artwork on the walls.
Checking train times we decided to leave the car at Montlouis Station (there are two stations) and cycle into the main line St Pierre des Corps to get the TEN service to Nevers. Some packing of kit at the hotel car park making sure we had everything in the right back as well as some pumping of tyres.
Always good to remember that the leaden bike is pretty unstable at first as you get used to it. Deciding against a trip down a busy road to the nearest Decathlon (another bungee and sunglasses I'd forgotten) we headed along the Loire a velo route before heading off into St Pierre des Corps on a marked cycle route. Day was warming up with a promised 30 C though a lot better than the 39 C seen the previous weeks. Forecast was cooler for the next few days before going back up to 27 C later in the week.
I think at the same moment as me, Sophie felt a new trip was starting evrn though it was a short warm up ride into St Pierre. I did forget to start the Suunto watch until after 3kms. There is something nice about starting a journey. Tickets purchased and still had an hour to have a coffee on the terrace of the Brasserie next to the Gare.
The push to get a loaded bike up to the platform is doable on your own but having two is a lot easier. 12h04 train to Nevers (and on Lyon Perrone) on time and then on for start of the trip proper