Days 4 to 6
Angers to Vivonne
D160 + D132 + D751 to St Jean des Mauvrets; D132 to Blaison Gohier, St Rémy la Varenne & Gennes;
D751 to Saumur; D93 + D205 + D145 to Fontevraud;
Distance 38.57 miles
Breakfast was"light" this morning (no fruit, no cereal). The weather however was excellent. It wasn't long before we were crossing the Loire - a massive river. We then followed the river most of the way to Saumur amongst many hundreds of other cyclists, very few cars and occasional packs of motor cyclists. The roads were flat, the wind was behind us and we made good time. We were concerned that as it was a Sunday we would be struggling to buy lunch. Boulangeries were open but not for sandwiches. On the third attempt we were successful. TW immediately praised the Lord "Merci mon Dieu" which got a laugh from the ladies behind the counter.
We arrived in Saumur just after lunch, where we ascended an almost vertical wall to the Chateau and gained a fantastic view of the Loire valley. The chateau is in the middle of renovation but is none the less very impressive.
Our last stop of the day was Fontevraud Abbey whose size and architecture has to be seen to be believed. TW says "Early Norman architecture en par with the great Durham Cathedral". We spent two hours exploring this wonderful structure and learning about its history including the fact that it was a prison for more than150 years. We proceeded to our B&B only to find no one in. We retired to the bar/restaurant just up the road where the patrons sprang to our rescue and found us another B&B just a short distance away. We returned to the restaurant later for a superb meal.
The stats for the day were 40.7 miles : 11.5 mph : 1239 ft climbed
D947 + D147 to Loudun; D60 + D19 to Moncontour; D46 to Airvault;
D138 + minor road to Parthenay;
Distance 44.86 miles
The alternative B&B was very good and we had a good nights rest. Today there was little wind and the temperature soared as the day went on. Leaving Fontevraud we could hear gunshots - we were passing through a military zone. The road to Loudun was dead straight with a few ups and downs and at times quite busy. At Loudun we had our mid morning tea and bought food for lunch. We had lots of loose change and so gave it the lady who was begging outside the boulangerie were we bought our sandwiches
We stopped for lunch at Montours in a picnic area beside a stream. We were the only people there. TW spotted a brightly coloured bird which he had never seen before and needed TT to identify it as a redstart.
The day was now getting very hot and we were slowing down. By just after 2 we had reached Airvault and our route skirted the town centre, but we were desperate for liquid refreshment. The centre was at the bottom of a very steep hill and the only tabac was fermé. A French lady guided us to another which happened to be near the top of the hill where we had started! From Airvault to Parthenay the road climbed slowly upwards - we found ourselves stopping every couple of miles to take on more water. Fortunately we had filled up our bottles several times during the day.
We entered Parthenay through the entrance to the old fort and from here entered the old town with many interesting medieval buildings. We were soon at the B&B and were welcomed in fluent English by our hosts and again in the evening at the restaurant the waitress 'Stephanie', who had perfected her English at Windsor, also spoke to us throughout the evening in English.
The stats for the day were 47.5 miles : 10.2 mph : 2035 ft climbed
D938 + D21 to Ménigoute; D3 to Sanxay; D62 + D26 + D94 to Lusignan;
D97B + minor road + D742 to Vivonne;
Distance 34.07 miles
We had an excellent breakfast provided by Dorit and Trevor, our English hosts - we could even have had eggs if desired. We stuck with cereal, fruit, baguette, croissant and two different sorts of cake. There was a third on offer but we couldn' t manage any more! Parthenay is perched on the side of a steep hill and a lot of the old fortifications still exist.
The first town of any size was Sanxay - no tabacs for the first 20 miles of the ride. Just outside Sanxay is a Gallo-Roman settlement with amphitheatre, baths and a temple. This is considered to be one of the most important and best preserved historic sites in France. We had a quick tour of the site but had to leave to get to Sanxay before the boulangerie closed for lunch.
The shop couldn't provide sandwiches so we bought a dissected baguette and then visited the Coop for ham, tomatoes and oranges. The lunch was truly DIY including the positioning of the park bench. While lunching we spotted a green woodpecker. A few miles after Sanxay we stopped for our first pot of tea at Jazeneuil, before carrying on to Lusignan and Vivonne.
It was very hot by now, so we cooled off in the church while waiting for the hotel to open. The next big challenge was to find the Laverie Automatique. We were directed to Super-U where in the car park was a cabin containing several complicated machines way beyond the wit of men (well almost!). Needless to say our clothes survived the experience. The evening meal was taken in the hotel restaurant.
The stats for the day were 35.6 miles : 10.2mph : 1580 ft climbed