Azay-le-Rideau to Richelieu - From Munich to Spain to France - CycleBlaze

June 9, 2024

Azay-le-Rideau to Richelieu

The Beginning of Rural Riding

Our first look at the Loire.
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When Eric and Melinda talked to us about doing a ride together, I was looking for a place that would be an easy introduction to European touring, and the Loire Valley seemed a natural choice - with the easy wine and chateaux scene and good cycling infrastructure. However, Dave and I are fairly crowd-averse and having been to the area a few years ago we were not anxious to plan a trip with a ton of chateaux and the people to go along with it. The other consideration was that a straight trip along the Loire would require a train ride back for Eric and Melinda to drop their bikes in Tours, which alway adds an extra challenge.  So, I researched a ride that we could do in a loop from Tours and cooked up this one, which included a few day riding along the Loire and a few chateaux, but which veered south to quieter less touristy realms. (I found a version of the ride in a Komoot Collection, although it no longer is posted). This would be the sort of ride Dave and I would do on our own. We shall see at the end what we think.

Our full Loire loop, starting in Tours and proceeding counter-clockwise.
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Scott AndersonLooks like a fine plan to me. We biked through and stayed at both Loches and Chauvigny years ago and enjoyed them both. If you’ve got some flexibility though you might look at passing through Saint Savin on the way to Chauvigny to see its remarkable abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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1 month ago

Today we headed south of Azay-le-Rideau and swung through Chinon, which has that famous medieval Chinon fortress on the hill above the town. We didn’t tour the Castle but stopped in the town which sits below, and after a stiff descent on winding village cobbles, had lunch at an outdoor table and gawked at the small Sunday market with people coming from church. Chinon has a population of about 8,000 and it was pleasantly bustling. 

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Melinda and Eric working their way up a hill.
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The walled fortress of Chinon.
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After lunch our ride continued on to Richelieu, a small town named after Cardinal Richelieu, who was a famous statesman  - but not a particularly nice guy - in the early 1600’s . He grew up in the town and bought the property surrounding his family home and renamed the town Richelieu after he became rich and famous. Unbeknownst to me -because I had not carefully reviewed the ride details on Komoot - the 20 km ride between Chinon and Richelieu was entirely on a rails to trails route so it was a straight shot, easy riding, and did not require much brain power.  Stretches like that are fun for an hour or two but would get boring if you did them all day - somewhat like the canal route outside Toulouse. This particular route was great for an afternoon ride after having had fish and chips and a spritz/beer for lunch.

Rails to trails provide smooth riding even on gravel.
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Richelieu is a small town (3,000) with a large town square and is not touristy in the least - which is another way of saying accommodation choices were limited. Last night’s stay at the unexpectedly fancy Hotel Monarch (in Azay-le-Rideau) contrasted with tonight’s stay in Le Puits Doré as it was on the more random end of things; perfectly decent but pretty worn hallways and carpets and small rooms - A/C involved opening the large windows on the square! Dave described this as the yin and yang of travelling on a bike.  You just never know what you are going to get. On the other hand, the guy running the place was really nice, I was able to book dinner in the hotel ahead of time on a Sunday night, the towels and linens and bed were newish and comfortable. 

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The walled city of Richelieu.
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The cardinal.
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Richelieu has a large somewhat famous park and I took a quick stroll around it before dinner.  If you lived there and had a dog to walk  it would be awesome and you would be there everyday. It was still awesome even without the dog. I stupidly didn’t take any photos of the park.

We had dinner at the hotel, sitting outside on the town square. It wasn’t our best dinner - Melinda and I had a very French salad with large pieces of pork soaked in red wine - but we still enjoyed it and the very clement weather. 

Today's ride: 55 km (34 miles)
Total: 1,395 km (866 miles)

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