29 June, An Extended Morning in the Hotel
We woke up this, our last morning of the trip, and began to pack things up and get ourselves ready before going to breakfast. To my horror, I saw that I had forgotten to charge my battery when I came home from my evening photoshoot the day before. This was, to put it mildly, a bummer. It seems the curse that had been following me over the past few days of this trip was still plaguing me. I plugged it in and hoped that it would not take too long. However, we found the bike manual online and read that the battery takes 4 hours for a complete charge. It did not make for a pleasant start to the morning. Our plan was to bike to Blois and on the way stop at Château Cheverny for one last castle tour, but now I might have wrecked that plan.
Breakfast was at a common table for all guests – family style. Isabelle told us that her mother made all the jellies herself. She had some interesting combinations (one jelly had roses in it). Each jar had a colored dot, and on the wall was a sign that showed which dot was which flavor. The ones I tried were delicious. Coffee, tea, eggs, bread, cheese, sliced meets. It was all there, and we had a good time gathering around the table.
After breakfast, I checked on my battery; it was not looking good. It was taking much longer to charge than I was hoping. So Kathrin and I started looking at alternatives. We could take the train directly to Blois. But that would be a disappointing end to our vacation. We could bike to Cheverny then take a train. We calculated distances so we could make an informed decision once I put the battery on the bike and knew how far I could go.
I found Isabelle and told her about our problem. She was very gracious. “No problem, you can stay later.”
Finally, at about 11:00 we decided to continue with our planned route by bike to Blois via Château Cheverny. Kathrin had a good idea. For lunch, we would find a restaurant and ask if we could charge our batteries while we eat.
So off we went with fingers crossed. Kathrin’s battery was fully charged, although the previous day’s event still made her nervous. I had about 50% battery capacity. Our hearts were not so light as we started off. Instead of looking forward to the day ahead and the things we would see, we were worried about whether we would make it to the end.
The little Engine that Could
I had reduced my battery level to its lowest setting, Eco, to get every kilometer I could from what little charge I had. Of course this meant that I had to work harder, not something I was looking forward to as the heat of the day would come upon us. After a few kilometers, I began to have more hope that we would make it to Cheverny, but I didn’t want to be overconfident, so I went up one level but no further, no matter how hilly the terrain became. I coasted whenever I could; I peddled for as much of the 360-degree travel of the pedal as possible, all in an effort to reduce battery usage.
I had our final destination, Blois, in my navigation computer, and after a while, I noticed that the range of the battery (kilometers to empty) was more than the distance to our destination. That was a relief to see, but I also knew that it could change depending on the terrain. If we had a hilly road ahead of us, then those numbers could turn around. Still, it gave me hope.
At about the halfway point, we rode into a small town and stopped for lunch. Fortunately, we found a suitable place, so I walked in and told the woman behind the bar, using a combination of terrible French and sign language, that we would like to have lunch and asked if it would be ok if we charged our batteries. She immediately agreed and pointed to two receptacles. After taking care of our equipment, we then sat at a table outside and read the menu. We decided on pizza and drinks. Once the woman returned to the bar, I told her in very broken French that we were ready to order. She then said something to a man who was standing at the bar, who then asked me what I would like. I started in my slow, broken French to place our order. We picked out a pizza that had everything we liked, but also included anchovies – so I had to ask for the pizza without them. I said something I thought was right, then I looked at the man and asked, in English, if everything was ok so far. “Yes, so far it’s OK.” Music to my ears. Three years of high school French have finally paid off. Finishing the order, I proudly turned around and walked back to our table.
We were in no hurry and hoped that the cook would take his time with our order. After a few minutes, the meal arrived, and we slowly ate. Then we talked a bit more. Fortunately, in Europe restaurants don’t rush their customers. We had as much time as we wanted. After an hour we moved on. Our batteries had gained an extra bar of charge over lunch, which we were glad to see. When I paid I gave the waitress a big tip by European standards, which really surprised her, but I told her it was in appreciation for the use of the outlets so she graciously accepted.
When we were about an hour away from Cheverny, we saw that both of us had much more range left on our batteries than we had distance remaining to travel, so we left our fears behind us and enjoyed the bike ride. The terrain posed no problem for us, as it was mostly flat the entire way to Cheverny. It was with an enormous sigh of relief that we locked our bikes in Cheverny, knowing that we will have no problem reaching Blois.
As we approached Château Cheverny we saw that there was a jazz festival going on. Unfortunately, it was still getting started, so I was able to keep my eye on the ball – the Château.
This was the last castle on our tour. At this point, I was wondering, “What’s unique about the one?” Well, it wasn’t the most ornate, the architecture wasn’t the most impressive, but it turns out there were quite a few things about it. First, the Belgian comic book author Hergé used it as a model for Marlinspike Hall in the Adventures of Tintin books.
Second, at the outbreak of WW2, France’s National Museum Service organized an evacuation of its artworks to southern France for safekeeping. Cheverny was one of the places selected as a temporary warehouse. The Mona Lisa was one artwork stored here. There was an exhibit showcasing the Château’s role in protecting France’s artwork. Walking through it reminded me of the movie “Monument Men”.
Third, there is a lot of historic furniture in the Château, as one would expect, but there were also several Lego models of some pieces of furniture. The level of detail was impressive. The Lego constructions were themselves a work of art. They were so well done that we didn’t immediately recognize that they were made of Legos. (In case you can’t tell, the desk on the left is the Lego model.)
After a short walk around the castle grounds to take in all the views, we returned to our bikes for the last leg to the hotel.
Back to Blois for our last night in Loire
When I was first making our reservations for this trip, I booked the same hotel for this night as I did for our first night of the trip. But after reading the travel guide we bought, I tried a hotel that the book recommended, Cote Loire – Auberge Ligerienne. It turned out to be a great decision.
This was another boutique hotel, run by a gay couple. The host greeted us with a colorful drink (it was blue). After checking in, he invited us to relax with our drinks in the courtyard. A few minutes later, he came out to chat with us, tell us about the hotel, the restaurant, and the area. The courtyard/restaurant area looked very inviting so, since we had already seen Blois, we decided to have dinner in the hotel. Eventually, Kathrin asked me if I was done with my drink, at which point the host looked at me and said: “Madam would like a shower.” We all chuckled, and I agreed with him and we went to our room.
We arrived for dinner early in order to relax with a glass of wine. I suggested a red wine, but Kathrin said she would prefer a white wine on a hot day like today. The host looked at me and said, “If Madam wants white wine, Madam gets white wine.”
The decision being made for me. We took a seat at a table in the courtyard. It was a perfect way to relax and enjoy the end of an adventurous day.
Once the dinner service began, the host came to our table and described how their restaurant works. He explained that the chef – the other half of the management couple – goes to the market every day and sees what is in season and available. He then creates a menu. After the explanation, he placed a chalkboard next to our table with the day’s menu. There were various set menus to choose from, and we were trying to decide between them. When Monsieur Host came back he offered a suggested where we could share the appetizer, have our choice of the main course, then share a dessert. He was very accommodating. The food was delicious; it was very obvious that the chef took great pride in his cooking.
After the thoroughly enjoyable dinner, we retired to our Chambre. This was the only downside to our stay. The room was tiny, but it was my fault as I reserved a “comfort” room. Turns out comfort meant small. It was manageable for one night, but I would have upgraded to a larger room if we would have stayed here any longer.
Son et Luminaire Show
As Kathrin slipped into bed, I grabbed my camera and went to Blois’ cast for a Son et Luminaire show. It’s a sound and light show that many of the castles in the region put on every year. The show in Blois highlighted France’s history. It was an amazing show presented on the walls of the courtyard. Before the show started, they projected a salamander crawling on the walls. It would sometimes crawl around some windows, other times into a window, then out another. It would breathe fire on some bas relief ornaments. It was impressive.
Then the show began. The precision of the light projection was impressive. Every detail of the walls – windows, stairs, bas relief ornaments were all taken into consideration. They projected the French narration through speakers. For those of us who needed another language, we got headphones and a receiver.
That’s a wrap
I made it back to the hotel at about 11:30pm. I quietly slipped into bed and quickly fell asleep. The next morning we packed our bags, loaded our bikes, and rode to our car. For the 7 hour drive home. Thus ended a wonderful bike tour through a lovely area of France. We would not hesitate to recommend this tour to anyone, by bike or by car, it is an amazing trip. This region was full of interesting sights, excellent food, friendly people, and great hotels.