TOURING FRANCE

August 14 - August 24 1997

Touring France

The character of many a river-district fascinates me. Its landscape and history, the architecture of its the towns along the banks and the differences between the inhabitants. Even along riverbanks in the same district, you sometimes feel a different atmosphere. What is it? Could I visualize that in photography?

Summer holiday 1997.

This year there was only the two of us. We took our bicycles in a caravan and drove south.

Day 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 > Eindhoven - Charleroi - Paris - Orleans - Crouy sur Cosson

A good supper after a long drive

A good supper after a long drive

This year again an extremely hot summer. We started early in the morning, filled up our fueltank and jerrycans near Maastricht - in the deep south of Holland - and had a good trip to Croucy.

A quiet camping and simple, but with all the comfort we needed.

Along river Loire

Along the river Loire

Next day we had a scouting cycle-tour along the banks of the river Loire. Rather flat terrain, nice people and good infrastructure. We decided to stay a little longer. Bicycle routes are safe and the countryside is interesting.

Meung sur Loire

Meung sur Loire

Next day we visited a little town called Meung sur Oise, located on the old north-south route to Paris. There is not much to see.

Of course I read the book of Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers, when I was a boy. Meung is mentioned in the book. From the beginning to the end of the story, the young hero fought someone he met in Meung. It made me curious of what that town would be like. And here I was.

One can still see the boxes where the soldiers took care for their horses. Around that, one sees the little buildings where the hospitals used to be and the officers would meet.

You can imagine Dumas was inspired by Meung.

A little Castle in Talcy

A little Castle in Talcy

Interior

Interior

This region of France is famous for its castles. Most of them are not built as castles of defense, but as a showy status symbol for the French aristocrats. They had their hunting parties and their gatherings with important ambassadors or business partners in these homes. It is obvious in the architecture and in the beautiful gardens.

Most of the interiors and furniture has been demolished in the French Revolution (1789-1800). Thousands of people lost their lives under the guillotine during that revolution. To give an impression of how those castles would have been furnished, many a piece of furniture was collected to serve.

Day 4 - 5 - 6 > Crouy - Amboise - Montbazon

Castle of Chambord

Castle of Chambord

We left our car and caravan in Crouy and started cycling along the river Loire. Most of the riverbanks are private terrain. They are used for gardening and farming, as well as for fishing and recreation.

The terrain is a little hilly, but the slopes are not steep. It was hot, but there was a lot of shade in the woods. A nice cycle-tour with save roads and patient drivers.

Here we saw some really large castles and we decided to visit the castle of Chambord.

River Indre

The river Indre

We crossed the river Cher and went along the Indre. This really was a sight right from a fairytale, with green banks and lovely wild flowers. If you like peaceful nature, the river Indre is the most beautiful river in this district. Cycling gives one the time to absorb ones impressions.

At a little guesthouse just along river Indre

At a little guesthouse just along river Indre

We stayed in little hotels and guesthouses. What we needed we carried in our panniers. We just had a few clothes, food, fruit and water. With a minimum of weight, we prepared ourselves for some climbing, but there was none.

Anything that can be bought in the morning, such as baguettes and cheese, is delicious. But we had to do our laundry which dries within a few hours. In the evening we had good meals in local cafes.

Endless fields of sunflowers, a neglected country road and a railway at the end

Endless fields of sunflowers, a neglected country road and a railway at the end

Endless fields of sunflowers, a neglected country road and a railway at the end

Navigating on old topographic maps sometimes is tricky. What seems to be a good route on the map turns out to be bad, like this one. We followed our compass and our way was blocked by the fence of a new high-speed railway. Never cross the way we did! Only moments later a train went by with a speed of 300 km/h.

Loches, the town, the dungeons and the verdict
Loches, the town, the dungeons and the verdict
Loches, the town, the dungeons and the verdict
Loches, the town, the dungeons and the verdict

Loches, the town, the dungeons and the verdict

There is another story that is important for France and especially for this region. It is the story of Joan of Arc (1412-1431).

She was just a simple young farmer's daughter who had ridden with the soldiers in a long war against the English. She was dressed in soldier-clothing and heard the voice of God. She inspired the French army. She came up in high politics, was captured and then sold to the English. After some long and complicated trials, in which she was accused of witchcraft, she was sentenced to death in the castle of Loches. At last she died on the stake in Rouen.

Loches is a well preserved village with a beautiful Middle Age center.

Day 7 - 8 - 9 > Loches - St. Aignan - Salbis - Gien - Orleans

A last rest in the shade, before driving home

We cycled south and then north-east again. It was an easy trail, all farming country a little commercial activity in the old towns but not too busy. After this trip, my way of trekking changed. I started to cycle with camping gear in my panniers.

A last rest in the shade, before driving home.

My companion Josephine finished her job at the university, where she had been working for years. After that, she left for Indonesia where another wonderful job was waiting for her among the poor.