Part 2 of my cycling, eating and drinking odyssey down the Loire took me to Chavignol and as usual a fine meal from Jean-Marc Bourgeois at L’Hôtel de La Côte des Monts Damnés. The following day I rode the 166 kms from Chavignol to Beaugency via Orléans. Over that distance I only climbed 189 metres, which just shows how flat this part of the Loire is.
It would be nice to be able to say that the meal I had in Beaugency was anywhere near to Jean-Marc’s standard. Sadly this was not the case though to be fair where we ate didn’t not have the same ambition, so we’ll move on.
When we arrived in Beaugency the attractive old centre of this small town was en fête with various stands selling food, wine etc. Close to our hotel (La Licorne) there was a French band playing rock standards from the 60s and 70s, which I enjoyed listening to while lying down for a rest in our room. Perhaps I should have explored the wine stands but I’m afraid that after nearly eight hours in the saddle it was rest not tasting that won!
Next day’s ride was 10 kms shorter than the day before – 156 kms from Beaugency to Bourgueil – more exactly Café de la Promenade. I covered this stage in 6 hours 39 minutes at an average 23.4 kp/h my fastest daily average speed for the whole trip. I needed to press on that day as Guillaume Lapaque, director of Vins de Bourgueil, had arranged for me to meet the local press at the Café at 18.30.
This developed into a fun evening with some good bottles including 2011 Les Perruches from Gérard Vallée and one from Domaine du Rochouard – I was rather remiss in noting down the details as we tucked into various ardoise (slates) of charcuterie, kebabs, cheese finishing with the apple tart lifted with a slosh of Calvados. I made sure that I abided by the rule of modération as the next days stage, although a little shorter (143 kms to Ancenis) but this would be the first of two days when I would be riding with Charlie Pasquiers, a seasoned rider who completed the Bordeaux-Paris sportif at the end of May. Charlie rode an impressive road bike and equally impressively rode the whole 143 kms on a diet of water.
On the way to Ancenis we made a slight diversion to visit Domaine FL’s new winery at Rochefort-sur-Loire, which unfortunately is perched on top the ridge that overlooks the Layon. FL had started harvesting in Savennières that morning so we had a chance to taste their first juice of 2014 before heading back into Rochefort and onto Ancenis. Here we stayed at the lovely Loire-Séjours in the centre of the town. This chambres d’hôtes is run by Aline and Andrew, who have a beautifully restored town house. On their suggestion we ate at L’Oudaya, very good Moroccan restaurant with generous portions. Charlie and I had a Couscous Royale, which was extremely good. The decor at L’Oudaya suitably and wonderfully exotic. Both Loire-Séjours and L’Oudaya are highly recommended.
Parts of the last stage was a bit of a grind, especially the section between Nantes and Saint-Nazaire. It didn’t help that I found myself on a dual-carriageway heading out of Nantes with fast traffic coming in a a slip road to my right, so I had to get off this fast and find the right road to take me along the south bank of the Loire towards Saint-Nazaire. Charlie and I had become separated at this point but fortunately bumped into each other a few kilometres further on.
Crossing the bridge over the Loire to Saint-Nazaire was the last real obstacle as not only is it a long steady climb to the centre of the bridge but the space reserved for cyclists is very narrow and the possibility of being sucked under a passing lorry seems very real. Anyway we got over the bridge into Saint-Nazaire and onto La Baule to celebrate the end of my Loire journey in plenty of time for Charlie to catch his train back to Angers and for us to head to our hotel – La Closerie.
That evening we celebrated with a plateau de fruits de mer, after enjoying a very good soupe de poisson, at Le Ponton overlooking the bay of La Baule. We had hoped to mark the end of the ride with a sparkling Loire but had to settle for a couple of glasses of Champagne, which was all the restaurant could offer. Happily they had a Muscadet – the 2013 Haute Culture Muscadet Sèvre et Maine from Château de Cléray – a fine match for the plateau.
To date my Loire ride has raised the equivalent of £3,558 across the two charities – £2,399 with Gift Aid for Teenage Cancer Trust and 1,465€ for the Fondation Gustave Roussy. I had hoped that I would raise more through Gustave Roussy but the practice of sponsoring people to raise money for charities seems less well established in France than in the UK. I have had interest and congratulations from a number of French friends and acquaintances but, with a few notable exceptions, these have rarely translated into donations – not a criticism rather an observation on cultural differences.
One notable exception was Bourgueil where Vins de Bourgueil donated 100€ and the town’s businesses donated 250€. Following my ‘meet the press’ evening in Bourgueil, I was delighted that two articles appeared – one in La Nouvelle République and the other in Terre de Touraine but neither prompted any donations.
Interestingly in contrast to Teenage Cancer Trust, who gave me various merchandise including a cycle top to promote my ride, Fondation Gustave Roussy have no promotional materials they could offer, so impossible to highlight Gustave Roussy while I rode.