7 Heating up and getting busy (sorry, this is a long post)
Well, Saumur was beautiful. Our ride there was the longest day we had so far, about 50 km or more. It was interesting with a bike ferry that crossed a small river and then riding alongside some beautiful fields of flowers. Along the way we walked through a small town market (celebrating the French national holiday) and carried onto to the campsite that was recommended. Unfortunately, we ended up on the scenic hilly route late in the day but some encouragement and chocolate got us through and to the pool at the campground in time for the girls to enjoy it.
There was a band playing that reminded us of the Don Sinclair Trio in Waskesiu. Then we found a place to view the fireworks happening in Saumur to celebrate the national holiday (we were about 10 km west of there). It turned out that we could see fireworks from about 5 communities down the valley. At this time we were oblivious to the events in Nice, not having seen or heard the news and without having connected with anyone, so afterward it was quite unreal to learn of what happened.
The next day we got to coast down the hill and into Saumur. There was a horse show that the girls wanted to go to which was interesting. Dressage-style riding and much different than what I had seen before. It was a military show so after intermission, the history of the French army presentation began with the different styles of tanks and machinery. The girls were not so interested and it was getting very hot so we headed back to the pool.
We had a wonderful meal at the campground restaurant and hot air balloons flew over head. There was a beautiful view of the castle from our campground. The next day, we went into town and found ourselves in the middle of a busy market where we had the opportunity to check out some of the local wares, live chickens and all. Then we had lunch and climbed some stairs to see the castle. It was interesting to hear about the history of the Loire valley and how the castle has changed over the centuries. Then back to the pool. Later on we were happy to see that our Australian biker friends, Sarah and James, were pitched near us again, and it was good to catch up with them.
On Sunday (Tracey's birthday!) we rode out of Saumur toward Tours and found this amazing little lane through some hillside troglodyte caves. There was a cool picnic spot with a table, archways and a stone oven so we stopped there for an early lunch. Then the road climbed up to the vineyards and onto Turquant, a village built into the hillside. We continued on to Montsoreau where things were closing up for Sunday and we were able to get baguette and fruit from the market before it closed jin the early afternoon. Stu asked if there was anything else open and the woman said sorry but everything in France is closed on Sunday. He said what about wine and she said "Oh wine, of course you can get it there or there or over there. You have to have wine, its France!" So we ended up at a wine cave, tasted a few and bought a couple of bottles for a birthday treat, and later that evening we had a nice raclette dinner at the campground. (PS: this campground was quite well set up for cyclists....a special area set-aside with a fridge, picnic tables and electrical plug for each site).
As the temperature climbed we headed for our destination of Tours. The girls did well getting up early to beat the heat and make it 34 kilometres Monday before lunch. Unfortunately, the campground we rolled into in Brehemont had no shade which is a necessity when it's getting up to 34 degrees so we splurged and were able to book into a cabin type trailer for the night. It was nice to have a bit more space and Stu did an amazing ride (because this town chooses Monday to be closed) into the grocery store the next town along and brought back all sorts of goodies to get us through the day and have a good Canadian ham and egg breakfast before hitting the trail at 8 am the next day .... another early start to be beat the forecasted 38!
We made really good time and were at the new campground by 11:30. We were on the outskirts of Tours and spent the day by the pool, trying to stay cool and unburned (moderately successful). The kids connected with some friendly Dutch kids (Anna and Nils) who were keen to speak English to some other kids. Later in the day a few Spanish and French kids joined in as well. Eleanor described to us the challenges of explaining how Grounders works to a group of kids who knew a smattering of English, French and Spanish. She saw that one of the boys had a soccer ball and had wanted to play so they settled on soccer (no explanations needed!) and played that until after dark. One boy was running around with a flash light while playing. So, this was a great stop for the kids.
As we had another wonderful dinner (and dessert) across the street from our campground, we realized that we'll be home in a month. Time is ticking away... missing friends but enjoying our time. We think of Buddy often as we see dogs in restaurants, markets and pretty much everywhere. Lots of baskets or bike trailers for their hounds. We think Buddy is better off as a Canadian dog because I don't think he'd sit still long enough or enjoy the heat. He'd also probably try and steal a salami at the market so it's just as well Alex is taking care of him.
Well, to our dismay the two weeks with the bikes are up! We returned them in Tours yesterday and are hanging out here for a couple of nights until we head back toward Paris. It has been a great experience for us, riding and camping with the girls in France, meeting people along the way (like James and Sarah) and just enjoying the freedom of cycling. Gonna miss that but we'll definitely be doing more of it in the future. I think that the girls have gotten used to having hot chocolate every morning, ice cream everyday and a swim in the pool. But I think they will enjoy some time in the city and some shopping... I hope we're ready for it.