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From Tours to Villandry by bike

My journey from Tours to Villandry

on the Loire à Vélo trail!


9 am

The sun reflects off of the sandstone of the Tours railway station.

Turning through 360° to admire the lilac of the Indies in flower, and the contemporary buildings I find before me, the Vinci convention centre, designed by Jean Nouvel, stands out with its extraordinary roof.

Today, though, I intend to leave the town behind and immerse myself in the wild and unspoilt nature beyond.

Going up the famous Grammont Avenue, I look here and there at the grand bourgeois mansions, some of them calling to mind the world of 1900. Past the river Cher, and suddenly I'm outside Tours. It looks like the river is going to lead me all the way to Villandry.

A huge lake comes into view outside town, and there is the aquatic centre Note to self: a swim later!


9.30 am

I discover what the locals call "La Gloriette," a grand natural plain with gardens, bordered by a golf course hugging the river bank. What a sense of grandeur!

I'm on the river path where a wilder vegetation replaces the well tended gardens I have left behind. A few minutes ago a small brook - I later learned that this was the "old Cher".

I continue my ride and come face to face with a number of old flat-bottomed boats. The boatman explains that Batellerie boat rides are a great tradition of the Loire Valley. The boats, called “clinker” boats, referring to the boards used for their construction, have been built here along the banks of the Loire & Cher since the Middle Ages. Their flat form and shallow draught mean they can pass along the even when the water level is very low. I'm tempted to discover more by boat tomorrow!


10 am

Still on the Cher, I arrive at a place called the Grand Moulin. I don't quite understand what these industrial buildings are, when I realize that this is a flour mill, and it's still in business.

Circling around the building, I discover a gem of regional heritage, hidden behind the mill and the trees, it turns out that this is no ordinary mill, it is actually a beautiful water mill, which reflects an astonishing light, as the stone is white. I see that the wheel is still turning, even though parts of the mill, built by Jacques de Beaune, date from the twelfth century.


10.30 am

After following the Cher along its sometimes grandiose, sometimes intimate banks, a road sign tells me I've arrived in Savonnières. This was once a soap producing town, and the name is derived from the saponaria plant, a type of pink.

Campers enjoy the Cher, where charming village houses seem to sprout from its banks. Here are more of the flat-bottomed boast, moored at jetties along the watercourse. I really want to try one of those!.

For now I prefer a refreshing drink by the river, next to the church and the “100 steps, which I don't feel brave enough to attempt straight away!


10.45 am

Here we go again! If my plans are right, I have a few kilometers to Villandry. The banks of the Cher are wonderful here too. Down the road, I am invited to pass through a tunnel of trees that seems to engulf me on the road to Villandry! These are the lime trees of the Avenue Coleman Carvallo - better than any guard of honor turned out for the valiant rider!


11 am

After an informative visit to the Tourist Office, a final push to the gardens of Villandry ... what an experience!

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