Thursday, June 15, 2006

More of St-Mathurin-sur-Loire

OK OK so I know it has been snowing in New Zealand, but it certainly hasn't been doing that here! It got to 33 my day in Angers according to the cycle computer of a Dutch man in the St Mathurin camping ground. This man and his wife are "real" cyclists: they took a plane to Madrid, then a train a short distance out, and have been cycling through Spain all the way back to their home in Holland. They said Spain was pretty hilly for cycling and they have been quite glad to meet the flatter ground here in the Loire. They are making about 100 km/day lately. The same evening there was also another Dutch cyclist with his tent near me: cycling in the Loire is certainly popular with the Dutch this month. I have met many, mostly doing day trips on cycles from a camping-car base.

Yesterday it got to 31 but I got smarter with the heat. I started early and cycled as far as Les Ponts de Cé near Angers (plus a wee detour towards somewhere else when I lost the Loire route: I should know by now that if I stop seeing regular signs I have missed the route!) It was an interesting ride past crops and villages then I took the river route back to St-Mathurin. Although the river road appears as a "main road" on my bigger map it was not really very busy.

Part of the ride was along the old levee (stopbank) that was built centuries ago to give some protection against flooding. You often see marks in villages that record the flood levels from past years, and lots of riverside camping grounds have evacuation plans displayed. The river looks placid enough now in summer, with wide golden sandbanks appearing all the way to Angers, but it obviously has wilder times.

Anyhow, I timed yesterday's ride to get back to St-Mathurin about the time the local restaurant was serving workmen's lunches. I have discovered these are a good way to satisfy cycling legs, and I eat plenty from the salad buffet that is the entree! Then I returned to the camping ground, dragged my sleeping mat out into a shady place, and had a wee siesta. To be honest it was too hot to think of doing anything else. About 3.3O I took a short ride over the river for a few kms, but soon decided it was still too hot and returned to the shade after a cold drink in a village bar. When it was nearly 9pm I walked down to the local bridge and enjoyed walking across it as the sun went down, watching the various currents, and birds. Even in the tent, a silk sleeping sheet has been more than sufficient the last few nights!

The bridge at St-Mathurin is an impressive structure. It was only built in the 50s. The original bridge was destroyed in 1940 to slow the passage of the Germans south. There is a plaque that acknowledges the work of the ferryman who was in the Resistance, who helped many to safety in the unoccupied zone.

I have started returning back towards Orleans today. I started early to avoid the heat and made for as straight a route as possible. I didn't take the detours onto the track around Saumur, partly to save time in the heat, but also because one was almost too steep to contemplate going down with a laden bicycle. Shame as the route past vineyards etc was lovely. I did take a short break to see the church at Cunault and it blew me away. I could almost feel the ancient builders in there constructing it. Only a few frescoes remain so you mainly look at the bare stone. There were some old relics from a saint around with St Martin in the 300s.

This morning it remained cloudy and was even spitting for my cycle ride. I arrived back at Savigny-en-Veron just before lunch, after having a hot chocolate break in Montsoreau. Put up the tent then had a lunch at the restaurant for workmen again. Then the sun came out. But I cycled the 10km to Chinon again to use the internet. Got here and had a cool drink that the barman added extra ice to after one look at me. Sweat pouring off me! Lovely ride here though, and the view of the chateau above Chinon from across the river as you arrive is hard to beat.

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