French Exploration

Cityscapes and countryside have much to offer

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Day Three: From Plantagenets to Power Houses
It was tempting to spend a day leisurely exploring the amazing monastic city of Fontevraud l’Abbaye, but we chose instead to ride to the waters of the River Thouet. We discovered the massive, fortified château town of Montreuil-Bellay. The castle combines solid medieval styling with Renaissance flair, including 650 meters of medieval walls with a drawbridge and 13 interlocking towers. Like its many highly decorated rooms and delightful gardens, it’s a truly impressive sight. 


Day Four: Legends and Legacies 
The beautiful Loire Valley landscapes led us toward the River Vienne where the royal fortress of Chinon promised another formidable medieval encounter. First though, we were charmed by the fairytale gardens and legendary stables at the Château de Rivau. In Chinon, we made the most of our night by wandering through the tiny historic streets, stopping for a delicious glass of wine — from Chinon’s very own vineyards — on a café terrace.


Day Five: Colleges and Caves 
Leaving the medieval splendor of Chinon, we pedaled back toward the Loire, itself. The magnificent collegiate churches at Candes-Saint-Martin on the way to Montsoreau, another lesser-known but still very impressive medieval town whose château-bastide almost has its toes in the waters of the Loire. From there, the route led us along the river to return to Saumur for our final overnight, passing troglodyte sites which are home to everything from the locals themselves to much-prized harvests of Saumur Champigny and even champignons! 


Day Six: Back to Paris
We spent the final day and night of our trip in Paris. After a week of biking, we craved luxury and indulgence. We spent the day walking down Avenue Champ des Elyseés, a street full of high-end stores. I picked up a purse and a bag from Luis Vuitton, we went to Musee dal L’Orangerie, ate dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant called La Bocca Della Verita and spent the night in a small boutique hotel.

One last enchanted evening before crossing the pond once more.

What to Pack for Paris

  • Comfortable, stylish clothing that is ideal for walking around. No jean shorts!
  • Rain jacket
  • Scarves 
  • Hats
  • Be prepared to wear layers. (Temperatures vary greatly in the course of a day. A backpack large enough to accommodate your jacket is a good idea.) 
  • Umbrella

What to Pack for a Cycling Holiday

  • Knock-around tennis shoes
  • Windbreaker
  • Rain jacket
  • Riding gloves
  • Cycle outfit for each day
  • Helmet 
  • Snacks

Tips and recommendations for eating in France:

  1. Learn enough French to read the menus. French-language menus typically have more options and less costly options available.
  2. Relax and plan on spending two to three hours for dinner. Most small restaurants have one waiter or waitress serving the entire establishment. They want you to take your time, and you will be forced to whether you like it or not. 
  3. Get out of your comfort zone. Most restaurants are small and they don’t waste any space. You will be sitting inches away from the next table. 
  4. Order things you wouldn’t normally order. My husband and I went with the recommendations of our waiter or waitress and were disappointed only twice. Even at that, we experienced two dishes we never would have tried otherwise — and lived to tell the story.
  5. Order all courses. Portion sizes are small, making it possible to enjoy bread, appetizer, entrée, desert and wine and still feel satisfied and not too full. It is expected that you will opt for all courses, so don’t be disappointed if you order only an entrée and you think it’s too small.
  6. Try local wines with each of your meals. Take advantage of experiencing wines that are unique and affordable. There were even times when wine was cheaper than water.
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