Starting in such a large city as Tours, we were both surprised how quickly we escaped the city and got into the countryside and its small villages – it could not have taken more than 15 minutes on our cycles (Side note: France has done a great job with zoning. Villages have maintained their charming character, and you do not typically see any commercialization seeping in. Outside of the villages, there may be a zone commerciale or industrielle but again not in the village itself.)
Tours is clearly a bike friendly city with bike lanes and bike paths throughout and around the city. (Loire Valley, in general, is so bike friendly with a plethora of bike paths and lanes and relatively flat that it is a great place for a family to cycle.)
The weather improved quite a bit since our first couple days. The sun was out, and it was a perfect 75 degrees. There were some rolling hills, but for the most part, the riding was flat, and the tarmac was in perfect condition. It was the kind of conditions that just put a smile on your face and made you feel like a kid again. We were cycling 3-5 hours per day usually with a couple hours of breaks and touring around. And today, we took a break today to check out the Villandry Chateau and its gardens. We were starting to fill up our chateau quota for the month, but the gardens here were strongly recommended so we took a small detour to check them out and we were not disappointed.
The chateau was first constructed during Medieval times, and then updated during the 18th century by some well off folks who no doubt enjoyed years of good living and debauchery there.
The gardens are enormous with mazes, water elements, sculptures, organic and vegetable plantings and multi-tiers.
Back on the road, it was more kilometers winding around farmlands and small villages. Passing through Crissay, we noticed a very unique take on street art. Crissay is one of many villages with the French designation of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. This designation is given to exceptional villages with interesting heritage and is one of the means that France protects its historical villages.
And a few klicks from our destination, we made a small stop in Sache, the home of the famous French writer, Honore de Balzac. We have not read any of his books yet (La Comédie Humaine is his magnum opus), but he is said to have had a big influence on Dickens and Kerouac so we stopped by the Musee Balzacc (which was closed, of course, because it was a Tuesday).
In Azay-le-Rideau, we stayed at the charming Le Grand Monarque which has a great, centrally-located spot in the town. We typically do not eat at the hotels where we stay, but we did during our stay in Azay-le- Rideau, and the dinner was excellent (which is often the case at small hotels in France).
It was another great day and ride in the Loire. From here, we were off to Chinon and further west along the Loire Valley.