|Blois to Amboise
Another fairly easy (45 km) ride today. We encountered a few more hills, and a few more cars, but still pretty sweet. The trails were all paved, the weather was great (dry and not too hot), we only lost our way twice, and we made it to Blois in very good time.
Saw lots more vineyards todays as well as several fields of sunflowers (not yet blooming unfortunately). The grape wines are much smaller than what we saw in Italy and Germany – not sure if that is a function of the soil, the grapes they are growing, or a cooler/shorter growing season. (Based on their geraniums and marigolds, they are about 3 weeks behind Edmonton.)
The Loire is flowing faster – due to largeer elevation drops. We like to think we are cyclying more downhill than uphill!
Our half-way point today was Chaumont sur Loire, the home of another Chateau. Regrettably, views of the chateau were poor and we didn’t have the collective will to do another tour, so we found the local bakery, purchased lunch and some pastries, and headed on.
Not quite as picturesque today, but on the plus side we went through a few more villages than in previous days, and encountered a lot more other cyclists. We also experienced a lot more rural scenes as we were only “on the Loire” for about half the day.
After a quick stop for lunch, we arrived at Aboise at about 1:00. It is now a small market town of about 12,000, but at one time was the home of the French royal court.
Following a quick hydration break, we headed to the Chateau d’Amboise. Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his life in Amboise, at the invitation of King Francis I of France, and lived a stone’s throw from the Chateau. The Chateau contains a late Gothic Chapelle St. Hubert, where Leonardo is buried. Unlike the other chateaus we have seen, this one had beautiful grounds.
The Chateau was home to Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots for much of her early life, being raised there at the French court of Henry II. She arrived in France from Scotland in 1548 aged six and remained in France until 1561, when she returned to her homeland.
We are staying in a bit of a unique hotel tonight – two of the rooms are in a converted stable! The grounds are lovely, and its one of the few places we’ve seen with an outdoor pool.
For the third consecutive night we were unable to get into our first restaurant of choice (they were either full or not open). So tonight we went with the concierge’s recommendation – Chez Bruno. The food was excellent, as was the local wine – L’Essentiel from Montilous sur Loire, and a nice Gamay. We were grateful to snag an indoor table – about 15 minutes into dinner it started pouring, forcing many outside diners to abandon their tables! By the time we were done, the rain was finished, and we topped off the evening with some great gelato.