Day nine: Chartres to Blois

Ah yes.  This was a long one: 147km in two long stretches.  Looking back at the gpx record I see that I didn’t get away until 10.00 and I didn’t arrive in the next of the B&Bs in Blois until 19.40.  I honestly have NO idea how google maps and I managed to make the departure go so obviously well:

That is sensational isn’t it?  “Why don’t we just hop over to the roundabout, across it and straight off towards Orléans? We’ve go a long way to go today and we know we need to get a move on if we’re going to make it to Compostella.”  “Oh no, let’s go off in completely the opposite direction and then go on a loop, with a couple of side stabs for the sheer hell of it, before returning to almost exactly where we started and heading off.”  To be fair, I think it actually started with a very convincing combination of google and a road sign both saying that that first “L” was the right way to go.

Not a good start.  Then there was a long run from Chartres to Orléans on a fairly busy and not very attractive N road, the N154 by the look of it.  I remember cars, vans and artics coming past at speed.  I can also remember that kept up pretty much the longest, fastest stretch of cycling that I managed in the whole trip.  It wasn’t pleasant but it was pretty flat, the road surface was good, is suspect there was a bit of a tail wind or tailish cross wind and I can certainly remember thinking “Wow, I’m holding a faster speed than I manage to and from work [those were the days] in London despite the weight.  Feels good.  Will it last?”  That means I was rattling along at 27-30kph which I think wasn’t bad at all.

I had a late lunch in Orléans right next to the cathedral.  It’s a funny late gothic edifice with very strange (to my mind) towers with what look like circular temples on the top.

I’ve seen it, albeit briefly, before and remembered being underwhelmed.  This time, with a nice lunch glowing in me and a buzz from the distance I’d covered, I gave myself a while to look at it again and really liked it.  But enough of that now or I’ll never get to sleep.  As you can see from that ‘photo, it was quite a cool, cloud covered day that kept threatening to rain but never actually did.  I think that had helped the speed as there was no danger of overheating.

I set off along the cycle route on the south side of the Loire that would, in principle, take me all the way to Blois.  At first it was lovely.  Lots of other cyclists, mostly I would say, locals only going a short distance and often with children.

I managed to overtake him pretty soon after taking the ‘photo!  His parents were behind me and that was the rather lovely modern bridge to the west of Blois that takes you over and then you pick up the cycle route off to the right.

And you start seeing these:

And for a while everything is nicely signposted and grand.  Though actually, on a road bike, some of it isn’t easy going, very rough track.  One odd thing about this stretch was that I realised that I was exactly retracing a route we’d done as a family a year or so earlier on two hired tandems.  It was funny just how precisely some bits of the route, and even the individual trees and houses, came back.

Cycling was harder now and quite suddenly, the signs on the “voie verte” stopped … I think I wasn’t concentrating enough and missed one sign and took a while to realise it as it seemed I was following the obvious route.

I don’t know if you can see it but I am sure the voie verte takes a right just in the top right hand corner and ends up running right along the river bank there.  You can see a little stub at the point at which I had realised I was off the route and then that lovely straight bit along what was a pretty deserted local road, only for google to tell me, when the bridge over the Loire I needed must have been all but in sight, that I should hang that left to get to Blois. At first it was plausible and very straight but gradally that spike deteriorated into a dirt track that felt increasingly dangerous for anything but a mountain bike … so back I went, and was led literally into a farm yard and a complete cul de sac with quite literally no way out, and finally, with me deciding to guess where the river was from the sun (honestly) I made it back to the bridge.

Over to the north bank of the Loire and still a long hack into Blois:

I was exhausted when I made it to the latest B&B, another of the industrial chain of them that were proving convenient to book, but, as you can see again, tended to be on the edges of towns.  I was so tired that I opted not to cycle about 1km back up the road to the nearest cafe/bar for a drink and a last intake of food.  I just ate up what I suspect was the last of the Canterbury chocolate and some other iron rations (nuts I think) and collapsed into the bed.  I was frustrated by the diversions but proud and relieved that I was a 147km, further, well probably about 100km as the crow flies and I’d really enjoyed Orléans cathedral and quite a lot of the voie verte.

And, by some serendipity, I have just found the perfect quote:

“I think [the Merry-Go-Round] is a very good way of travelling if you don’t want to go anywhere … Especially if you have plenty of marmalade sandwiches to keep you going.”

It had been a bit of merry-go-round, but it was still proving a very good way of travelling, and Paddington Bear was right about the principle that you need a lot of food, though I found French patisserie much better than marmalade sandwiches.  How did Paddington end his stories?  I was looking for “and that was another good day” but that’s not popping out of google.  Hey ho, neither are PhD dissertations about heat related illness and death on the Haj!

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