Cycling Loire à Vélo (and home!)
From Nevers we decided to follow Eurovelo 6 all the way to the end – the estuary of the Loire in Saint-Nazaire. This is the final 600km home stretch of finishing both Loire a Velo and Eurovelo 6 in one fell swoop. About 100km along from Nevers we found the town of Gien. One of the best things I’ve discovered whilst cycling the Loire is an abundance of scenic bridges to historic towns and ancient chateaux. Gien is the perfect example.
Just past Gien we found a lovely part of the river with a large grassy bank and a widers stretch of the river for swimming. The only downside? It’s opposite Dampierre Nuclear Power Plant! We decided that didn’t matter much and camped slightly downstream. I spotted some rather radioactive looking fungi growing on a log, but decided it was probably natural.
We watched the sunset glow over the cooling towers and then as darkness fell they were lit up with red lights, reflected across the water.
One of the evenings we dropped down from a busy road and cycled along a track looking for somewhere to camp. We found a spot with water access and camped just to the side of the track. We were woken in the morning by yelling and barking. A minute later a husky dog sled team came pelting past and careened around the corner. We thought ‘well, that was odd’ and started eating breakfast. And then a minute later we heard them approaching again, and they yelled at us to get out of the way. We then realised that… we were camping on a circular dog sled training track!
Château de Sully-sur-Loire is another of the amazing Loire châteaux, it’s got a vivid green moat which surrounds the castle and massive towers.
In Orléans we stopped Cathédrale Sainte-Croix d’Orléans, I’ve never seen a cathedral like it. Instead of having towering steeples it has two towers at the front which end in circular pillars. It also wasn’t covered in scaffolding, as most cathedrals I’ve seen are.
The Hotel de Ville in Tours reminded me of a similar house in Croatia earlier in the holiday. Interestingly, the four men holding up the balcony are known as Alanteans in architecture terms, and originate from Greek architecture.
We camped on the river after Tours and enjoyed omelette with baguette. As we ate, a couple of kayaks paddled past and beached on the opposite side of the river. They also decided to camp and we watched them wandering about.
The next stop was Château de Saumur, a magnificent stretch of the Loire dominated by bridges and the huge chateau. We locked our bikes at the base of the hill and walked up the steep hill to the Loire viewpoint.
Of course, I can’t visit ‘Panorama sur la Loire’ without taking a panorama photo of the view! The photo is actually three panoramas stitched together. The original cut off half of both bridges, so I took two other photos and extended the panorama to include the entirety of the river.
We came back to our bikes to find the back panniers open and some clothes dangling out, giving us a mini heartattack that we’d been robbed. After investigating we found that nothing was missing and so concluded that we had probably left them open ourselves by accident. This was definitely the better outcome, but either way leads onto
Bicycle touring rule 6: ‘Keep valuables on you when exploring, or bury them very deep in your pannier’
The best option is to carry them with you, but if it’s only a quick nip in to the shops then make sure its towards the bottom of your panniers. I’ve never been robbed (been through a few attempts though) but doubt that any would-be burgler is going to want to rummage through my dirty cycling clothes!
Finally in Nantes, no more drinking river water for us!
We camped just outside of Nantes on the bank opposite the town of Le Pellerin, only a little bit along from the ferry that connects the two. The camping followed our usual routine: arrive, pitch the tent inner and get our sleeping stuff in it, then start cooking and eating. As we ate, we noticed that the estuary tide was coming in. Not a problem we thought, there’s no way it’s going to rise high enough to reach us. So carried on eating and the tide carried on rising, and didn’t show any signs of stopping. When it got to within a foot of the top of the bank we decided that maybe it would be sensible to move a little bit inland.
From Nantes it was only a 65km or so cycle into Saint Nazaire. In all honesty, it was a boring cycle with mostly industrial landscapes and muddy river. Saint Nazaire wasn’t much nicer so we decided to hop on the train and immediatly head up to the north coast of Brittany. The only problem was that none of the trains were running for some reason. So we ended up cycling to Redon and catching the train to Saint-Brieuc. The plus side is that we stumbled upon Chateau de la Bretesche, another one of France’s amazing mansion castles.
We camped that evening in a woodland outside of Morlaix, ready for the final morning cycle into Roscoff and the ferry mid afternoon.
That’s it for the Black Sea to England Cycle tour! We caught the ferry from Roscoff to Plymouth and then it was the final 30 mile push back home.
My next update will be a recap of the blog posts from entire holiday, from beginning to end. But until then, here is the final high level route and the key blog posts.
The Black Sea to England cycle tour:
Romania – Departure and the Danube Delta
Romania – Cycling through Transylvania
Romania – Up and over the Transalpina in Romania
Serbia – Through the Iron Gates
Croatia – Eurovelo 6 in Croatia
Hungary and Slovakia – Hungry in Hungary
Austria – Bicycle touring through Austria
Germany – Cycling the Danube in Germany
Germany – Bicycle touring south through Germany
Switzerland – Rheinfall, and cycle touring through Switzerland
France – Cycling France, from Saint Louis to Nevers
France – Cycling Loire à Vélo (and home!)