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They say an Englishman’s home is his castle. So what did data guru Oli Mills make of the many chateaux when he escaped his data crunching to try self-guided cycling in the Loire Valley?
France was bathed in gorgeous sunshine as we slowed to a halt at the gate of Chateau D’Amboise. Famous for once housing Leonardo Da Vinci, it was truly breathtaking.
Leaving our bikes, we headed for Amboise, a lovely town with enough shops and people to feel welcoming but crucially never crowded. I could quite easily have browsed the markets and homemade goods stores for hours. Atop the beautiful arched bridge, we were able to catch the sun setting, and it was unlike any other.
The rides were a good length and the terrain was almost entirely tarmac, although getting the steeper climbs out of the way early each day was definitely a wise move, leaving us to joyously free-wheel down the gentle downward slopes and through the fields and vineyards. On the journey, we came across many local ‘wine-caves’, the owners of which were more than willing to let us taste (and purchase) their delicious wines!
Staying in the Loire
The accommodation was superb – despite only boasting 2 or 3 stars, the hotels well surpassed my expectations and the food was delicious every night, with perhaps the only criticism being that there were limited vegetarian options. It’s a tough decision, but my favourite had to be a rabbit terrine with roast veg and potatoes.
The first night we were greeted by the local operators, who got us settled on our bikes and gave us everything we needed, from maps and route notes to tips on where to eat. They were friendly and knowledgeable and it was reassuring to have support if needed, which gave us the freedom to visit exactly what we wanted to see when we wanted to see it.
I enjoyed being left to my own devices, knowing their advice would always see us through.
Cycling in the Loire
The two 40km rides were just the right length for us, giving us the opportunity to stretch our legs and feel we deserved that extra glass of white wine. Although we probably could have managed a few more days, I think the trip length was appropriate for us and made the perfect weekend escape.
Feeling inspired? Browse our trips below and find out more about cycling in the Loire.