Today was the first full day on the bike and it was a spectacular day! We are riding La Loire à Vélo trail system which follows the Loire River from its start near Nevers to the Atlantic Ocean, though we started midway along the route in Orléans. In total, the trail is an 800 kilometre cycle tourism route.
The route is exceedingly well marked. I would say it is almost impossible to get lost. I don’t want to sound too bold though, because days from now, when I tell you about how lost we were, it will be most embarrassing.
The route is comprised of dedicated paved bike paths, city roads, and paved or graveled country roads. The bike paths we rode today were often situated on the top of levies that run along the river. Beautiful scenery and easy riding!
In total, we covered 85 kilometres, finishing in Blois. Perhaps, a little too ambitious for the first day, but there were so many charming towns along the route, that we couldn’t help but making small detours.
The highlight of the day and the topic for today’s mini history lesson is the Royal Château de Chambord. It is the largest of the Loire Valley châteaux, built between 1519 – 1547, by King Francis 1 (of France, not to overstate the obvious), to serve as a hunting lodge. Wikipedia tells me that “it is one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world because of its very distinctive French Renaissance architecture .” I beg to differ. It isn’t the “French Renaissance architecture” that caught my eye, it is the over-the-top size of it.
To get an idea of the magnitude of this place, try this. Just for fun, I paced out the width of the front of the château. It is 198 paces from end to end. Now head out your front door. When you get to the street, turn right or left, whichever you prefer, and start walking, counting as you go. Stop when you get to 198. Look way down your street, back to where your house is. This is the size of Château de Chambord.
One of the travel books that I read leading up to our trip, described it as the “super tanker” of châteaux. I can’t think of a better description than that. The château features 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces, and 84 staircases. Incredibly, King Francis 1 only spent a total of seven weeks here.
Over-the-top, but incredible to visit. It was a great day. Here’s just a sampling of the sights along the way.