Day Seventy Four: Villandry to Tours to Angers to Montreuil-Juigne: About Face! - Grampies Go On Their Knees - CycleBlaze

June 9, 2017

Day Seventy Four: Villandry to Tours to Angers to Montreuil-Juigne: About Face!

We could not figure out how to unlock the front door of the hotel, but we were able to sneak our bikes and gear out the back. So that put us on the road nice and early. We enjoyed the cool and quiet cruise in to Tours, with the peaceful Loire on one side and fields of wheat or corn on the other. I am sure the farmers are not enthused, but wheat fields heavily sprinkled with red poppies sure are beautiful.

Our early morning escape from the Cheval Rouge
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One and ony look at the Villandry chateau for this time
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Early morning boats on the Loire
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Glorious poppies - are a weed here
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As we cycled, we considered our options. Even at Grampies speed we would be in Orleans in a few days (max). A few more days and we would be in Paris. Actually, cycling Orleans to Paris had not been thrilling, and a train for that bit could also happen. Overall, we were getting ready to arrive too soon.

So we considered overshooting Orleans and zooming off toward Switzerland. And we considered going to Paris and then shooting north, chasing the Alstons. But in terms of interest, Normandy or Bittany beckoned. How about heading up the Velo Francette, the way Ken and Judy Nicholson had come down (they are nearing Santiago now!). Yeah, let's do that. Where does that Francette run from anyway?

The answer was that the Velo Francette runs from near Caen down through Angers and finally to la Rochelle. Angers? Angers! Angers is where we left from three days ago. Remember, we fought our way through the slate park and then crossed the dangerous bridge with " are all eyes"?

So we hatched this plan. Continue into Tours (easy, since by then we had already arrived). Tours is the launch point of the Via Tourensis, one of the four main ways on the Chemin St Jacques in France. Tours has the Saint Gatien cathedral from the 12th century, and it has the Basilica of St. Martin from the 19th century, but containing in the crypt the tomb of Martin. So Tours is an appropriate way point for our pilgrimage, martyrs, and miracles tour. After that, we would jump a train, return to Angers, and strike off north for the D-Day beaches, soft cheeses, and who knows what else!

Tours, and in fact the whole day, turned into a great experience. We came in on a rather large street with lots of cars, but even this had a bike lane. As we moved more into the old town, the number of cars dropped and we found that every street has some provision for bicycles.

With a town like that, it was easy to go to the cathedral. The building is tall and ancient, looking kind of isolated among more recent buildings in the vicinity with an open square, more of a parking lot, out front. Still, it had not lost its magic. The flying buttresses and stained glass viewed from outside made a striking image, and inside te glass, again, was gorgeous. The rose window, with a statue standing in front of it on a pedestal was I think particularly dramatic.

As a special attraction, a large number of elementary school kids had appeared and taken seats. By the altar, a choir of 4 or 5 year olds was singing. What little angels.

A big street in entering Tours - but it still has a bike lane
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The train station seen in passing, but we will be back here soon
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Bikes, cars, people on the street leading to the cathedral
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Flying buttresses make a good photo subject
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The stained glass as viewed from outside
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The ancient cathedral stands quite alone
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A choir of little kids
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Glorious rose window. This was renovated around 2010. The rose window is a masteroiece of the 13th century!
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The glass in the cathedral is beautiful and so old.
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Nice intertwining of stone and glass
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Outside the cathedral, we are not the only cyclists who have been drawn here. Note the parking lot like nature of the space in front of the building.
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Next we shifted neighbourhoods slightly to the St Martin basilica. Outside was a St Martin statue with the well known sharing of a cloak with a beggar metaphor. Dodie went in to the building first, but came out quickly, In the crypt she had found a mass with singing nuns. The singing nun at Santiago had been a favourite for us, adding a special touch of mysticism to the thing. So I went in to capture the moment.

Not only did I do that, but I came out with not one but four stickers for our handlebar or other bags. They depict the cloak sharing thing, the tomb in the crypt, the basilica building, and the fact that 397 to 1997 was the 16th centennial of the death of Martin. I liked the graphic depiction of the buildings most of all.

The St Martin basilica
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a statue depicts the well known cloak sharing scene
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Inside the basilica
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Stickers from St Martin basilica
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I like the graphic on the one sticker.
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Back on the street, I found Dodie conversing with a lady who was just intrigued by the bikes and the yellow clad cyclist standing by them. It was the typical situation. Later in the day, when I had been left with the bikes, I attracted the attention of a man who had walked from here to Santiago. That's more than 1700 km! We reminisced about various aspects of the trip. we are finding that Camino "graduates" have something in common and often seek each other out.

In the easy to navigate Tours it was a snap to then go to the train station. This is where the French train system really shone. There was a train to Angers leaving soon. The platforms were all on one level, and it was a level push of the bikes onto the train. In the train there was tons of room for the bikes. Although just a regional "TER", the train moved smoothly and swiftly, and was totally relaxing. It was sort of pleasing and sort of disconcerting, though, to see that it took quite a long time for the train to undo our two and a half days of pedalling.

At Angers we of course just rolled off the train and though the platform required going down and under, there was an inclined walkway. So we just rolled on out into the Angers afternoon sun.

This major street in Tours is devoted only to street cars. Note how I risked my life to shoot this from the middle!
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On the way to the train station
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Trains in Tours are perfectly accessible
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Lots of room for bikes. The train ride was easy as pie.
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Back at the station in Angers. We had passed this as we cycled out of town.
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Aha, on the right track. The red one is the Francette.
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Dodie scopes out her new Francette book.
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One last stop at our bakery. told the lady we came back from Tours just for this!
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a look toward Angers from across the Mayenne.
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The cathedral of Angers from across the river.
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On the Francette, they seem to invite users to jump in the river.
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Surprisingly they were actually doing a bit of work.
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After about 15 km the day was advancing, so we decided to look for a place to stay. We were at the hard to remember (and spell) town of Montreuil-Juigne. (And if you think that's tough, try remembering that in 1973 the town was formed by a union of Montreuil-Belfroy and Juigne-Bene!).

The techie part of our team wanted to check Booking, but the people person went over and asked an actual human. The human directed us to an info kiosk at the municipal camping. There we found Amandine (nice name, nicer person!) and found that we could have a large canvas covered cabin (with cots, stove, fridge, microwave, dishes) for 40 euros. It was heavenly, and also included a deck for the bikes and a view of the river (the Mayenne, eh).

Because of past problems, the camping was now requiring a deposit - a problem because it would have meant waiting for a person to show up tomorrow to do the refund. But Amandine showed good judgement and took a risk on the Grampies - so no deposit. Even so, there was an extensive checklist of all the contents of the cabin to be verified and signed off. I took the opportunity of trying to learn the names of all sorts of cabin and kitchen equipment, and Amandine - sweet girl - patiently tried to teach them to me. I would need several days of study to master the list, but fortunately she said there was no exam.

One interesting point from my language lesson - there was a hotplate, that I called a poele. But Amandine pointed out it was a "plaque" and that a poele is actually a frypan. However she conceded that a woodstove is a poele a bois. So my standard claim - yeah, that's how we say it in Quebec, might have a chance of being true here. With Quebecers having left here 400 years ago, they (and I) may still be calling a stove a poele.

So that's it folks. We did an about face and are now charging madly off into unknown territory. We have some maps and tracks but no other idea about what we are doing. Stay tuned as the adventure continues.

As we proceed up the Mayenne - a town across the way.
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Our tent house - so cool!
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The view from our tent house.
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Part of my "vocabulary list"
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Amandine tries to teach me the difference in French between an spatula and that other thing.
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Where we are going.
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Today's ride: 41 km (25 miles)
Total: 3,541 km (2,199 miles)

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