Week 1 with our Dutch friends

We’d splashed out on drinks and nibbles to greet our friends Arthur and Josephine, and their kids Sten and Liam. By the time they arrived early evening we’d drunk the first bottle of wine… and eaten one of the cheeses…. but there was still ample to welcome them.

We rendezvoused at La Charité-sur-Loire, with the intent of cycling west along the Loire to somewhere around the town of Blois, where we met three years previous. Arthur displayed enviable packing magic by squeezing a 25″ road bike, a tandem, a child’s chariot and gear for three weeks into the rear of a Citroen Picasso.

A Dutch Tardis? A freak of packing?

We arrived a couple of days beforehand and completed a self-guided tour of the town. This meant that day one saw Rosie and Tom guiding Sten and Liam through some of the amazing buildings and spaces of La Charité. Haircuts were had by some. Swimming in the river.

Day two saw Arthur driving Shane to Nevers in the morning and then Helen to Bourges after lunch, both trips to search for replacement tyres for the bike. Helen returned with a tyre not particularly suitable for the bike. Shane installed it… Watch this page…

We continue to be impressed by our kid’s recently acquired ability to turn anything into a toy. During the quiet time at hand, Rosie was successful in turning the outer of Sten’s old soccer ball into a shower.

There might be a patent in this one?

Day three we moved on. The weather was fine and hot. Damned hot. Added to that Arthur was recovering from a cycling accident only two weeks previous, from which he first regained consciousness in an ambulance. He still had a pronounced limp but was very lucky to avoid any major injuries. So, we took it easy for the day, making our way to Sancerre, a town well known for its excellent white wine and – we were to discover – excellent rosé.

Priorities. Replace the thongs or buy great wine and cheese?

The town is located on the highest hill on the Loire, so we opted to make our way up the following day. Both the town (explored via a self-guided tour) and the weather were very memorable… The day was hot and the clouds built in the afternoon, threatening a storm, and we were on the highest spot in miles with the tallest man in France (? Arthur stands 6’6″)! Lightning struck beside us with an incredible crack of thunder! Shane, Arthur and Josephine were standing in awe, before wondering where Helen and the kids had disappeared to. We found them huddled in the shelter of a building, nervously giggling…

On the way up to hilltop Sancerre
Hot, hot, hot

Moving on from Sancerre, we were to find out just how rapidly our five year old maps had become superseded. We spent another bloody hot day cycling past non-existent or disappointing campsites (and a nuclear power station). An anticipated 30km day became 48km. At one point, spotting a ridiculously steep hill in our path, we regrouped at a bar and settled in for beer and soft drink to fortify ourselves for the last rolling 8km to Bonny-sur-Loire.

The day was broken up by meeting some lovely folk, including a group of British and US men cycling for a few weeks and a blind man and his friend cycling days of around 120km on a tandem that weighed a mere 12kg! Yet another thunderstorm saw us gathering to cook dinner under the shelter of the toilet block.

Day six together saw a break in the long run of hot humid weather. We had a lovely day’s riding, now well and truly in the more beautiful part of the Loire. Shady paths along shady canals, a highlight being the Pont du Canal at Briare.

It defies logic how the French got time between wars to build such marvellous feats of beauty and engineering

We stopped at a chateau displaying medieval machines of war and rolled into Gien for the evening. Using our sleeping bags for the first time in weeks made us realise just how unrelentingly hot the weather had been.

Reproductions of war machines set in the grounds of a beautiful chateau

None too keen to break the rhythm, we stayed another night. The campsite here was one of our favourites, idyllic beside the river with views across to Gien. The day was spot on for all with parents enjoying coffees, vin rosé, reading, scrabble…and the kids to be found either in the pool or at the river, fishing.

Gien was heavily bombed by the Germans during their advance into France during WWII. Fortunately the reconstruction is sympathetic.
Fishing featured pretty strongly
Gien campsite was one of our favourites
Gien campsite was one of our favourites

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