La Joie de Vivre

Living in France!  What a concept…even if it is only for a few weeks.  We have settled into a ‘home-away-from-home’ routine that fits us to a “T”!

Although we don’t have croissants with our coffee every morning, when we do, it is always a real treat.

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Every day we plan either a hiking or cycling adventure including a picnic and sometimes visiting a new town to explore its cathedrals and castles/roman ruins and often it’s market day.

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The best ‘marché’ we have found is the Sunday market in St. Chinian…wow!  So many kinds of olives and olive oils to taste (the Lucques or Luccas are my fave!)  and cheeses…cow, goat and sheep.  A huge head of butter lettuce and some handfuls of fresh arugula (roquette) provide us with a weeks’ worth of salads!  The leeks are superb in omelets and rabbit stew.

We have cycled a few more kilometres on the Canal du Midi…very lovely with gorgeous views of the snow capped Pyrénées!  But prospective cyclists beware…it is quite a rough track and in places quite narrow…we are VERY glad we did not bring our touring bikes and it is wonderful that our hosts where we are staying are providing us with super light and fully equipped mountain bikes!  If only we had not sent our bike shorts back to Hilversum!  Oh well, the days are getting shorter so we don’t have as many hours in the saddle anyway.

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The mountain bikes have also allowed us to explore the rail trails, side roads and vineyard paths up to hilltops with long and beautiful views.

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Today was super windy so we hiked up a hill across the road and discovered some ancient (?) ruins among the vineyards.

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And yesterday we met an elderly Frenchman walking his dog….and his goat!

and then there is the foraging….today we discovered delicious ‘raisins on the vine’ and almonds…

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Well tomorrow is Sunday…we will be off to the market in St. Chinian and then to a hike in the hills….stay tuned….

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Paradise!

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After saying good-bye to our trusty steeds and a day of riding on trains from Tours to Narbonne (via Bordeaux) we really needed a stroll to get some air.  Narbonne is another lovely ancient city with a canal running through the center.  It was a major crossroads during Roman times with the Via Domitia connecting The Iberian Peninsula with Rome.

The next morning we visited ‘Les Halles’ (or covered market) where I bought a collection of spices, since we were soon to be heading out in our rental car to our gite in the country just north of Narbonne.  We took the back roads and stopped at a few towns along the way…walked along the Canal du Midi in Capestang and a picnic by a vineyard in Puisserguier.  Next stop at the SuperMarche to load the car with groceries…wow what a treat that was…no longer limited to a trunk bag on my bike!

Finally we arrived at a very bumpy narrow road that led us down to the Orb River where our little house awaited us.  Quelle surprise!  It is exactly what we have been looking for for the past few months while researching places to stay in this area!!!  Actually even more than we had hoped for!  Peaceful, tranquil, on the river with kayaks and a dock, big windows and doors leading onto a patio overlooking the river and green hills, all the amenities for a comfortable stay…and 2 mountain bikes!!!! So we don’t have to give up the cycling yet!  The owner, Celine, gave us a heap of red and green peppers, cherry tomatoes , rosemary and thyme from her garden.  And the Mediterranean climate is so much warmer than the Loire!

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Despite the morning drizzle we went for a stroll around the ‘neighbourhood’  through olive groves and vineyards on a hilltop with views all around to other hilltop towns….Murviel-des-Beziers is our closest…about 5 kms away.  It is all so beautiful…I have run out of words…stay tuned for more pictures…

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Happy feet!

Back in Tours!

Hey, we actually made into the city this time around…via the train.  It is probably the biggest and most beautiful train station we have been in this trip…and so easy with bicycles!!!  No stairs or elevators needed as all the trains come in and end at the platform.

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Our hotel is not more than 100 meters from the station but sooo quiet as it is located on a side street…The pedestrian shopping and restaurant district is close by too.  We strolled down to the main square/city hall all decked out in shades of pink for ‘breast cancer awareness month’ (October)…also very beautiful!!!

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Today we wandered through the flower market in the sunshine but with cooler temperatures that we were used to…4C!  Too cold for us to be cycling, for sure.  We carried on to the banks of the Loire River and took in some tourist sites… the Chateau de Tours and St. Gatien  Cathedral with it’s beautiful stained glass!

Le Fin du Veloroute!

Yes, we are nearing the end of the cycling portion of our trip.   Although today here in Angers the sun was shining, there was a cold wind blowing down the Maine River.  We were busy organizing ourselves as we will be shipping the bicycles back to Hilversum from Tours.   We posted a small box of cycling gear today to Hilversum and bought our train tickets through to Narbonne in the South of France.  The rest of the day we toured some of the local sights…it is a very lovely city!

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We have had some excellent riding in the past few days…breaking away from the Loire Valley which was actually quite foggy for most of the days.  Instead we explored the countryside which is up at about 50 to 70 metres higher in elevation, just enough that the sun shines on quiet roads, through farms, orchards, vineyards and deciduous forests.  The foliage is still surprisingly green with patches of yellow and reds and golds.  And still plenty of flowers blooming….we cycled by an amazing field full of colourful dahlias!

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We stayed for a night in the town of Beaulieu which is built into the side of a cliff….through caves and narrow streets…most of the houses are built right into the side of the cliff with great views overlooking the Loire….and of course, more Chateaux!

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The Castle at Saumur

We just got back after a beautiful stroll taking in the shimmering moonlight on the Maine River!

 

The Detour tour of Tours!

After our previous day of getting de-toured into the burbs of Tours, I decided to take a look at an alternate route to completely bypass the detour into Tours.  With Pocket Earth on my side, I managed to find some quiet side roads, the first part, not exactly what you would call scenic, as it was a lot of train tracks on one side and industry on the other but after a couple of kilometres we found our way to a lovely bike path along the Cher River which led us into a huge island park with all kinds of hard packed trails for running, walking and cycling.  From there it was a piece of cake and into the countryside we went mostly following the Cher River.


Hey, they even play Disc Golf in France!


And then we came upon this very old Mill dating back to the 1500’s, still standing and had been in operation up until 1973!


Well, it was all pretty smooth until…the next big hill


Once at the top, it was fun again as we rode through fields and a lovely deciduous forest with a few gently rolling hills.  After a quick stop for groceries we carried on to our Gite just past Azay-le-Rideau right on the banks of the Indre River.   Wow!  What a house and what a fabulous property.


I was pretty happy that we had booked it for 2 nights.  Today we went for a beautiful hike up the hills through the forest into the vineyards and orchards stopping to munch on apples and grapes with views across the valley….we even spotted a Chateau from the top.


Found these very delicate looking flowers..I think maybe Cyclamens?