Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Eurovelo 6: Loire Valley

Sunset over St. Nazaire
As this is my first long bike trip and the first time I am flying with a bike I was very excited. But despite all my worries the start was easy. I had disassembled the bike the night before and packed it into the bike box. Wulf brought me to the airport and my nicely packed bicycle was easily accepted. It even turned up completely unharmed in Paris. And it took me only 30 minutes to assemble it again. I had done a lot of research on how to get from the airport into Paris centre and everything worked out just fine - no problems on the subway or cycling a bit through Paris. Even the trains to St. Nazaire was on time. It took me the whole day to get from Berlin to the start of my bike trip St. Nazaire and I just got there for a beatiful sunset. Life as good and everything had worked out.

Cinderella Castle
After one night in a fully booked Etap Hotel I started on the Loire Valley Bike Trail that coincides with the Eurovelo 6. I was very happy to see my first Eurovelo sign - although it would be the last for a long time. At least I had a Bikeline guidebook for the Loire Valley. To my big surprise my butt does not hurt despite the new and hard Brooks leather saddle. My legs do not hurt either, but I am not doing a big mileage because there are so many castles to visit.

The Loire Castles were something I have really been looking forward to - but I did not expect them to be that expensive. There is no "castle pass" and you have to pay for each individual castle. For example there is Cinderalla castle that was used as a modell for Walt Disney movies. There even is a Cinderella exhibition inside. Chambord - definitely the highlight castle. It is huge! And then there are so many others.... All those castles have one big disadvantage: They are awfully cold. My favourite place in a castle was always in front of the fireplace no matter how ugly that room is. After a while all those castles started to look the same anyway.

But there is more to see than castles: By chance I saw a sign for a "mushroom farm" which sounded so weird that I decided to go and see it. I learnt that mushrooms do not need light and can therefore be grown underground in caves where the damp surroundings are ideal for them. Light is only needed for the humans picking them. You don't even need soil to grow them - just some carrier material for the nutrients they need. I saw all kinds of weird mushrooms but decided not to taste them in their little restaurant.

Unfortunaley, the weather has turned bad today, I mean really bad. I already had one night in my tent with -4 degrees Celsius - my water bottle was frozen in the morning. But I have a good sleeping bag and the Vapor Barrier Liner worked absolutely great. But now it has started to rain really bad, raining cats and dogs. And it is cold rain. I have not much idea of how to cope with that rain, it is easier when you are hiking. I want to meet Ursula in Basel so I have to keep going but I am considering taking the train for a short bit to be in Basel in time. Hope for better weather - this is supposed to be spring after all!

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