France Part 7
Monday 30th May St.Benoit -sur-Loire to Tavers 76km
We requested an early breakfast so that we could get out on the road for 8.00am. Dominique and Mireille, cheerily had breakfast ready for us and even supplied myself with 'coco-pops' on request from a large jar presented by Dominique with much amusement. My three colleagues were a tad more sophisticated than I and ate the French style traditional breakfast of sweetmeats, jam and bread. Of course I ate that too when I saw that the produce was all from the farm. All this washed down with a large coffee. Fresh produce has such a delicious appearance and the smell of the fresh baked bread......umm!
After paying our bill and fetching our bikes from the barn we set off through the village of St.Benoit in fine clear weather. Not too hot today, but I was glad I had remembered to apply factor 50 in my room prior to leaving. We had to go slightly north again for a bit as the river Loire separated us from our intended southerly direction. We cycled along a long grass-bordered levee until we branched on to a cycle-path that eventually led us through dense woodland along the northerly edge of the winding river Loire. We stopped on the path under the trees for a moment to take a picture and take in the scene across the water. This road took us along to a road bridge in the town of Chateauneuf-sur-Loire. We crossed over this bridge to resume our southerly route. You meet quite a few cyclists on these cycle-paths and this leads to the realisation of how much holiday cycling contributes to the tourist economy in France. Hotels and gites are welcoming. Gone is the indifference and snobbery often found in the UK towards cycle tourists. This is cycling paradise.
Once we crossed the bridge we immediately pulled off to the right on to another track. This joined with another grass-bordered levee with a tarmac road on top going in a south westerly direction. Eventually this joined into a network of narrow tarmac roads that interconnected with a large number of small farmsteads and communes. Such was scattered over a wide flat area of fertile land as far as the eye could see. Electricity was carried to these sites on a series of cast concrete poles.The sun shone brightly and at the back of nine we stopped at a wheatfield opposite a commune called 'Les Chevaliers' on account of of the golden colour and the stillness of the air. Often in France you just stop and admire the scene. It's often very subtle. A mixture of scent, colour, texture and stillness of a hot wind-less day. The farm buildings have a simple and charming character of their own, unmistakably French and quite beguiling to the passer-by. At this location it was fairly important to have a reliable GPS route calculator as you could easily get lost and lose a lot of time. However eventually you would arrive at a road with signage (lots of these in France) where, with the aid of a good map, you'd recover. From here we zig-zagged across country through Boynes then near Sandillon in a westerly direction avoiding the large town of Orleans. This detour stopped us from getting lost on the way through the big town.
Later on, at mid-day, we arrived at a small town called 'Clery Saint Andre' where we stopped at a baker's shop or patisserie to buy some baguettes,cakes and soft drinks. We found a small public park behind the church with seats underneath trees which became a rather pleasant oasis to sit and enjoy our meal out of the sun. There were waste baskets for our trash, emphasising again that rural France is no hard place to survive and provides most comforts when needed. At the back of 2pm we crossed the river again into another small town called 'Beaugency' where we stopped at a church square and then weaved round the narrow streets to a small square where the Mairie building stands at Rue de Chevaliers. We went into the local tourist office where the friendly staff gave us bundles of flyers. The sun was still hot and we sat for a while on seats in the square reading the flyers with soft drinks before leaving to ride the short distance to Tavers just to the south-west. We arrived at our gite called Le Clos de Pontpierre at 3pm. This was a very pleasant small hotel with nice decorated rooms with en-suites. Our bikes went into a barn where the owners had wheel brackets fitted on the floor to stand the bikes up. When we first arrived I noticed that the entrance to the grounds from the road outside was open to the street. The barn was open at the front and although we were quite rural here, physically there was no convincing bike security. We decided to put locks on the bikes ,which we did. I then chose to put an additional lock on the front wheels of my bike through the stand and through the wheel of my colleague's bike. In the process of struggling in the low light inside the barn with old dim eyes I was trying to observe the digits on the combi lock. My colleague began to lose his rag with me for fidgeting. I always wonder why we get stressed on holiday. Your friend becomes a different person. You become retaliatory and say stuff you don't mean. A word of warning to anyone abroad on holiday. Be cool, don't over-react with your friend. Try to suppress agitation when you are in a foreign country. You arrive at your destination and there is always the urge to get settled into your room the minute you arrive. There is no logic to this when you are pre-booked and early on arrival but human nature is predictable. An irrational fear of being left out in the street perhaps? Quite illogical! but understandable after a long bike journey when one is tired. This gite was similar to the Ferme La Borde in many respects with a lush garden to sit in under the shade of foliage. Our evening meal was again a delicious farm produce affair as was breakfast the next day. In the evening we sat outside at a small table in front of our room eating a bowl of cherries.