[FRANCE] Off The Beaten Track - Cycling in Loire Valley, Tours

For once, the impression of Metropolitan France with bustling streets and various iconic landmarks are diluted in Tours, a city located on the river Loire in the Centre-Val de Loire region. This laid back city is located about 1.5 hours commute time Paris, and provide a sweet escape from the burgeoning Chinese tourists crowd in the France capital. Cycling aficionados will be familiar with this city as the renowned annual Paris-Tours cycling race end point is the Tours Cathedral. 

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France
En route to Chateau de Villandry

We had a most remarkable at proud experience at Tours for completing 60km+ return road bike trail from Tours to Chateau de Villandry & Château d'Azay-le-Rideau despite cycling is not our forte. Consequences are sore legs, exhausted body and a total lethargic even for a dinner! 

From Belgium to Tours


Getting from Belgium (Brugge) to Tours was an inconvenient trip. Not only we were troubled with frequent train changing (Brugge -> Kortrijk -> Lille-Flanders -> Paris Gare Du Nord -> Paris Gare d' Austerlitz -> Tours), the SNCF TGV strike also forced us to change our ticket to a later time. 

Due to delayed trip, we were unable to make a short visit to Chinon, an UNESCO World Heritage Site served by frequent train from Tours. A tiny taint to our visit to Tours unfortunately.

Things to Do in Tours

1) Cycling Holiday


Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

I used to have a dream - owning a road bike and cycle every Sunday to explore bits of natural spots in my hometown. However that stayed as a dream till now. Endless work, busy schedule and etc are some of the lame excuses I have made up.

Therefore, we came up with a plan upon knowing Loire Valley in Tours is an unique 800km cycle route that features UNESCO World Heritage site, beautiful rivers, small villages and lush greens - a cycling holiday in Tours! There was no physical training prior, and our physical limit was indeed stretched to the maximum during this cycling trip.

a) Renting a bike at Tours

We engaged the service from Détours de Loire for bike rental and it was topnotch service. They are friendly, recommended the bikes based on the distance we planned to cover and the price was affordable. 

There was no need to book the bike online as they have plenty of bikes. However if you are travelling on peak session or bigger groups, it is recommended you do so.

Each classic bike cost €16 and 2 of us share a bike lock and a repair kit. Before commencing our cycling holiday, they shared us the basic tips on how to maneuver the bikes.


b) Food During Cycling Tour


Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France



Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Vagaries of our cycling pace ruled out the choice of dining at any restaurants in the small town along our route. Therefore, the classic French pastries - croissant and baguette were our best remedy. Not only it is a good source of carbohydrate to supply our energy needs, these tasted good as well!

c) Safety

We felt relatively safe during the entire cycling route. Met a lot of cyclists, both professionals and amateurs along the route and we greeted them with a friendly "bonjour" and they responded back the same with a "smile". The only concern is if you plan to cycle at night, then you will need a real good lamp. Otherwise you risk yourself submerge in a total darkness.

d) Cycling Route


Cycling here was not a daunting task as we expected. Terrain was mostly flat with minimum challenging slopes en route to Chateau de Villandry & Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, though physically it was quite an uphill task. The muscles, especially at thigh area started to hurt and our bums were getting store. 

We were glad to discover that the entire Tours city is bicycle friendly with proper cycling path. Proper signage is in place for those following the Loire Valley cycle route.

- Chateau de Villandry

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

The 16-th century Chateau de Villandry was one of the last of the Loire chateaux of the Renaissance period. It was built by Jean Le Breton, Minister of Finance for Francois I. It is an architectural wonder combined with a beautiful formal garden, making it a world heritage that you shall not miss out.

Nevertheless, the chateau lost its character as a result of architectural changes made in the 18th century. Not until in the early 20th century, Dr. Joachim Carvallo and his wife Ann Coleman purchase Villandry and restored the chateau to its former glory.

Admission fees was €11 per adult, including visit to the interior of the chateau. You can choose to visit the garden only at €7 per adult (As of July 2018). An audio guide can be added for €4 for those who enjoys to know bits of the history.

The chateau provides many opportunity for Instagrammable pictures. Spend your time for a great afternoon here. Scroll down for a lot of pictures taken inside the chateau and the majestic garden.

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

We cycled another an hour from Chateau de Villandry to Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau, which features early French renaissance architectural. Entrance fees is €10.5 but we decided to give it a skip due to limited time for us to cycle back to Tours town to return the bicycle before the shop closes.

The chateau has a river passing through beside it. Its mirror reflection on the still water gives the chateau a fantasy feeling, which regrettably we did not make for it. 

Wonder will we have a second trip back here? 

By the way, the slopes at the town of Azay-le-Rideau before and after reaching the chateau was testing our physical to the maximum! 

Of course, there are other chateau to visit around Loire region. The most well known will be Chateau de Chambord (which will be impossible to reach via cycling - close to 80km) and many more. Google them for more information.

2) Les Halles

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

The covered market in Tours - Les Halles is a true gastronomic gem of the city of Tours. Its establishment can be tracked back to 150 years ago, and you should really visit places if you are after some great gourmet experiences. The charming market is a great place for a shopping for fresh produces, breads, French pastries, delicatessen, cheese and wine under a single roof. 

Coincidentally we have not had our late lunch or early dinner during our visit so we bought some French pastries to try. Having limited knowledge on what is offered on the shelf, we simply pointed to them any pastries that caught our eye and appetite, and mention "un" (one), s'il vous plait (please), and asked "combien" (how much) in case we need to pay. 

Je suis desole (I am sorry) for our bad command of French but we tried our best to pick up basic French prior the trip.

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France
Tarte Pommes (€ 2.80)

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France
Quiche Fromage (€2.60)
Needless to say, the pastries are amazing! We still yearn to get back the taste of the Tarte Pommes till today.

3) Place Plumereau

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

The center plaza of the city of Tours is the most happening place of the city of Tours and has dozens of restaurants & bars. There are beautiful half-timbered house for you to take some pretty pictures too.


4) Basilica of Saint Martin

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

The Roman Catholic basilica was built between 1886 and 1924 by French architect in a neo-Byzantine style, on part of the site of the original Basilica built in the Middle Ages and thoroughly demolished during the French Revolution. It is dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, the third archbishop of Tours, whose tomb it was built.

5) City Hall / Hôtel de ville de Tours

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

The beautiful Neo-Renaissance building of Hôtel de ville de Tours (Tours City Hall) is an iconic building of the city. It is very beautiful, especially when the dusk sets in.


6) Rue Nationale 

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France


The symmetrical building across the street with a tram path passing through the center makes this shopping places a great spot for photography. Plenty of fashion, cellphone and department stores located at both side of the road.

7) Along the Loire River

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

We enjoyed a quiet stroll along the Loire River while enjoying the breeze wafting our face. It is real relaxing here by enjoying the view and do nothing. 


Foods We Have Taken

1) Irish Company

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France
French Hamburger (€ 14.20)

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France
4 Kaizon Pizza - 4 flavours (€13.30)

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Having no idea where to have our dinner on the first day, we simply stumbled across a restaurant at Plaza Plumereau and walked in. 

The restaurant name is Irish Company and they have friendly staff that speaks good English and patiently answered our enquiries. The 4 Kaison Pizza we had was enormously big, and we had a hard time finishing it due to the copious of cheese topping the pizza. On the other hand, the French Hamburger we had was good. The bread was special with a crispy texture, and sandwiched between it were 2 patties. It was served along with fries and onion rings.

Overall, a pleasant dining experience here and the price is affordable too. 


2) O' Swiss Food - Kebab Shop 

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

On the second day after a long day cycling, we were too tired to walk to anywhere for dinner hence just explore within the vicinity of our hotel. We spotted this O' Swiss Food, a kebab shop by chance and it did not disappoint. Though it does not have a wow factor, the food here are more than enough to give some comfort to our stomach. 

We were totally wasted till we forgot to capture what we took for dinner and simply stuff everything to our mouth. Only thing we could recall was the 7 Up Mojito was awesome!

Accommodation 

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France
The view from our hotel during sunset

We stayed at Sejours et Affaires Tours Leonard de Vinci, a simple room near to train station with an awesome view. It comes with a small kitchen though we barely had time to use it. 

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France
Doing the French way - having a baguette in the bag

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France
Shopping at Rue de Bordeaux

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France
Public toilet at Tours - it is free and clean

Cycling in Loire Valley Tours France
Train station at Tours

This marks the end of our short trip at Tours. Wish we had more time to explore the beautiful and amazing chateau here but we have to move on. Next up, Bordeaux!

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Check out Shirleen & Ee Pin's Instagram for more beautiful photos we have taken.

~End~

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