Monday, July 25, 2011

LTDF Day Six and Seven

We started the longest ride in the world with beautiful blue sky and sunshine! It wasn’t exactly hot outside but it was dry and the sun could be seen clearly. Our goal was to ride from Loches to Azay-le-Rideau, a distance of 60 km. We figured that at about 10 km/h, it would take us 6 hours of riding time. There were no chateaux to speak of in between so it was 6 hours of solid riding time.

The first 20 k went very smoothly with hardly any effort. We were definitely getting better at the whole ride thing. I had even managed to get into the 2nd crank gear (that’s cyclist talk for “front wheel gear”) and felt pretty good about it. We had shopped for snacks before we left so the baskets were filled with goodies. This proved just too tempting for the children and by the end of the first 20 km, they had eaten most of the snack foods.

After the second 20 km, we felt good and stopped for lunch at a cute little place tucked in behind the City Hall. It is amazing how much more pleasant riding a bike is when one’s underwear is not wet. Forty kilometers is a fair bit of riding and we all felt good, especially after some lunch. Sixty kilometers is a whole different story.

After 50 km, my knees began speaking to me in a very fierce voice with each crank of the pedal. Tom also had decided fifty kilometers was enough and the two of us commiserated as the children seemed to gain speed. At one point, I mentioned how tired I was and Julia replied that we were all tired and then picked up speed and roared off. I did not take this to be a good example of her exhaustion. I kept my spirits up by counting down the kilometers on the roadside markers until we finally arrived in Azay le Rideau. We spent the next few hours recovering in our very comfortable room. We decided we could see the chateau the next day.

Today dawned grey and threatening. We decided to see the Azay chateau first and then begin the day’s outing. The chateau was quite lovely situated on an island in the river. It was built by the King’s financial advisor who had to leave suddenly when the king discovered where the money to build the chateau was coming from. So, the king got the chateau and gave it to someone else he liked more. The 1500’s must have been a real time of construction up and down the valley because it seems like all the chateaux were built right around the same time. Obviously, France was doing well.

We rode to Langeais chateau next and managed to arrive just as the rain began. This one was very well presented with interesting tidbits of information. For example, not many people had furniture before the middle ages. It began from the need for chests. The nobles of the day would travel from home to home to keep control of their land. It was always a good idea to make sure the people working for you knew what you looked like. Because they traveled so much, they needed chests to load up their goods. The chest became a sign of wealth and other furniture was derived from the chest. The chair was a small chest with back support that could be taken apart and reassembled at the next home. The bench was a longer chest with a back. The credenza was a chest with long legs. All of these were designed to store the goods that the nobles moved from house to house.

Langeais was the sight of the marriage of Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany. She was only fourteen at the time. Gads. This was such an important moment in Loire Valley history that they had a whole room devoted to wax figures of the key players at the wedding. I guess the French pulled a fast one and scooped up Anne before her marriage to the Holy Roman Emperor could be consummated. What really struck me (no pun intended) was that Charles VIII was so short! This is the one who died after hitting his head on the door jamb. What was he doing? Jumping up and down as he went through?

Another curious tidbit we picked up is that in the French deck of cards, David (of Goliath fame) is the King of Spades, Alexander the Great is the King of Clubs, Caesar is the King of Diamonds and Charlemagne is the King of Hearts. It didn’t explain how each one got to represent that particular suit but it was interesting none-the-less.

We stopped for lunch at the nearest grocery store and then headed off for Villandry, the sight of our final chateau of the day. Just before we reached Villandry, the Heavens opened and drenched us quite thoroughly. The saving grace is that it was warm. Ironically, we had cycled to this chateau to see their gardens and not the inside but as we dripped up the front walk, we made a quick decision to see the interior as well. It was a good call because by the time we got back outside, the SUN had come out. We dried off quite quickly and enjoyed a hot, sunny rest of our day.

The gardens were spectacular, with lots of well manicured hedges around brightly coloured groups of flowers. There was a labyrinth which we mastered and many beautiful floral displays. After dawdling in the sunny gardens for as long as it took to dry, we hopped back on the bikes and cycled the 13 km back to Azay. We arrived home around 6 pm so it was another full day of weather and sight-seeing!


Anne Affleck said...

Hey, Tom, Holly, Rhys and Julia. Congratulations on your great adventure. Is that what they call living life to the fullest. I always wondered. Thanks so much for all your interesting, informative blogging. We love following along and hearing aobut many places we also have been to. Hope you see this before you live tomorrow. Have a safe, comfortable flight. Hope to see you soon.

Anne Affleck said...

Yikes. Put a ? after fullest, and change the last "live" to "leave".