“The Loire Valley is grossly underestimated. The prices are fair, and the wine is real.” – the straight-talking Gary Vaynerchuk
Our final two days of cycling in the Loire took us to stays in Chinon and Saumur with stops along the way. Both are fantastic, smallish towns centered in the heart of Loire wine country. We had plenty of time for more cycling and more wine tasting.
As with all our cycling in Loire, the roads and trails were quite good.
Chinon is quite a unique region in the Loire because it mostly focused on red wine rather than whites. And the Chinon AOC allows for some blending of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape (up to 10%) with the Loire mainstay, Cabernet Franc. We only had one night in Chinon, but wished we had more as the village is lovely. We stayed in a charming, family-run hotel in the village, Hotel Diderot, which seems to cater to bikers as there were quite a few other bikers staying there as well. Thanks to Euro2016, we were able to get into a good restaurant in town with out reservations- L’Ardoise (France was playing that night so all the locals were watching not eating). There were only a few Brits, a couple Aussies and ourselves in the restaurant that night and it unexpectedly became quite a social evening.
After Chinon, we headed to Fontevraud-L’Abbaye, a commune in the Maine-et-Loire department and apparently home to one of the oldest abbeys in Europe. The Fontevraud Abbey was founded in 1101. The history of Europe can blow you away sometimes if you stop to think about it – especially compared to how short ours is back in The States.
We made sure to save time to duck into a winery or two to sample the local magic and check out some of the shops and galleries utilizing the ancient caves to sell their wares. The wine at Château de Targé was mostly unremarkable and they were pushing “shipments back to the States” a bit more than we have experienced but their chateau perched up above the river provided a beautiful setting for a break (and a little bit of climbing to get there)
Our final destination was Samur where we ended cycling and spent a few extra days. Samur is another great Loire city with a beautiful old town, chateau and a fantastic setting along the river. We found a new hotel/ apart-hotel in old town Saumur which worked great for us, Les Londres. It is centrally located in the old town and offers hotel rooms as well a couple full-service apartments.
Saumur was the site of a WWII battle so it also has some interesting history. The town was jammed with tourists, but we found some quiet spots as well as a few tasty boulangeries. L’Escargot and Le Pot de Lapin are two great restaurants, but be sure to make reservations (and sit outside or wear mosquito repellent inside at Le Pot de Lapin). Food was great at Le Pot de Lapin. We just missed the Tour de France by a few days as they started a stage here this year (but we caught up with the Tour and more on that later).
Biking in the Loire has been great. It is a beautiful spot ( with one charming village after another as well as great wine and food) and really designed well for cyclists with all its bike paths and trails. And within an hour’s train ride from Paris, it is super accessible. I am sure we’ll be back in the future – there are so many wines still to sample out there!