Chambord, Loire valley river, sunday sept 22nd 2013
From a most famous royal palace, Versailles, to another no less famous, Chambord, 550 riders hit the road on this sunny Sunday southbound for an easy 220 kms ride through the flat region surrounding Paris, called “la Beauce”. I was thinking of our ride in Iowa last summer and I thought that our American friends would feel at home if they were on this ride: huge fields, now harvested and being plowed but probably covered with corn and wheat a month ago, rich farms once in a while, surrounded by huge barns sheltering impressive mechanical farming equipment stuffed with the last electronic devices, small dozing villages no longer animated by shut down cafés, grocery stores and schools, old people behind closed wooden shutters killing the time by watching rare cars passing by. 550 cyclist within an hour must have been the attraction of the month if not the year…
After the Beauce , the Sologne region comes as flat as ever, but covered with forest. It is the hunting territory of wealthy Parisian moguls, who shape and reshape companies, connive around illicit cartels, hold unformal board meetings, while shooting at pheasants, deers and wild bores from their fancy SUV’s. Half of the “who’s who” in the economic, financial and political sphere spend their autumn week ends in Sologne for long strategic dinner parties punctuated by hunting lollygags.
Crossing the Loire river in Orléans, whose name is linked for the eternity with Joan of Arc, one immediately feels the sort of languid atmosphere wich is so typical of this river. It flows mightily westward toward the Atlantic, but takes its time and offers such mild climate and beautiful sceneries that at the Renaissance period, French kings and aristocrats decided to settle down on its banks, and built the numerous castles that today attract tourists from all over the world. The Loire Valley river is on the program of every Tour operator, is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites,and displays a quantity of old villages and houses and chateaux and troglodytes and wineries.
Last but not least, an 800 kms long bike trail, the so called “Loire à vélo” makes it possible for anyone, even modest bikers, to visit the whole valley at a peaceful pace, far from cars and traffic, without the slightest hill. It is the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the bikes!