Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book review of Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

french village diaries book review Half Blood Blues Esi Edugyan Trip FictionHalf Blood Blues: From Berlin to Paris. Two Friends. One Betrayal by Esi Edugyan tells the story of three black jazz musicians who find themselves in Berlin at the beginning of the Second World War. They manage to escape to Paris where they make contact with Louis Armstrong, but their relief is short lived as France declares itself at war too. Our narrator Sid and his childhood friend Chip are American so return visas are a possibility, but the young genius among them ‘the kid’ Hieronymous Falk is a black half German and the friends can’t leave him.

The books jumps back and forward in time between the 40’s and the 90’s, tantalisingly giving you bits of the story, but never everything until the end. It has to be one of the most powerful descriptions of the Paris occupation I have ever read, as well as being a story of the ups and downs of friendship, the good natured banter over the years but also the darker side of jealousy and betrayal. It was very different to my usual uplifting and lighthearted books set in France, but certainly something that made me think. With lots of themes running through the book, jazz music, war, race and friendship it is quite full and complex too.

I will admit that it took me a while to become comfortable with the way this novel is written. Told through the voice of Sid it is written in a black slang dialect that didn’t flow in my head the way English does, but did make for a far more realistic read. However it also made it a slower read than my normal books.

This book is published by Serpent’s Tail and available in both paperback and ebook. Links to Amazon can be found below. I read this book as part of a review for the website Trip Fiction who highlight books set all over the world, ideal for the armchair traveller.

For more ideas on summer reading see here.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Kindle madness

I am a regular trawler through the site for Kindle bargains and freebies for books set in France or with a French theme. It seems there is a summer reading sale on as many of my favourites have been reduced in price, although as these prices will probably not stay low forever I thought it was worth highlighting a few here. At the time of writing, these books are all priced at less then £3 and I've either read and enjoyed them, or they are on my to read list. If I've read them I have included a link to my review. Although the Amazon links are to the site the price is also likely to be reduced on the .com and .fr sites too. Please note these prices may be subject to change.

Two Lipsticks and a Lover: A Year in Suspenders by Helena Frith Powell is on my to read list and is described as 'a smart and witty investigation of French chic and that certain je ne sais quoi'. This book is currently priced at 99p

Swallows & Robins - The Guests In My Garden by Susie Kelly is a very funny account of the years she ran holiday gites in the cottages in her garden in France. You can read my review here. This book is currently priced at £2.50

Head Over Heels in France: Falling in Love in the Lot by Samantha Brick is an open and honest book about a life that didn't go to plan, but did lead to a chance meeting with a Frenchman that brought with it the possibility of a new and totally different life in France. You can read my review here. This book is currently priced at £2.99

A la Mod: My So-Called Tranquil Family Life in Rural France by Ian Moore is a very funny look at family and animal life in rural France. You can read my review here. This book is currently priced at £2.99

Serge Bastarde Ate My Baguette: On the Road in the Real Rural France by John Dummer is on my to read list, but as I thoroughly enjoyed book two in this series I'm sure this is just as funny. John's life as a trader in the French brocante markets is never dull when his mate Serge Bastarde is on hand to lead him astray. This book is currently priced at £1.53

The French for Love by Fiona Valpy is another novel on my to read list this summer. When Gina loses everything she decides to set off for France to the house she inherited from her aunt. But can she overcome the issues and language barrier to make her French dream come true? This book is currently priced at £1.52

Grape Expectations: A Family's Vineyard Adventure in France by Caro Feely is the story of her move to France, with her husband and two young children to run an organic vineyard. This is an honest account of the good and the bad, but there is one thing they are not short of and that is passion and enthusiasm. You can read my review here. This book is currently priced at £2.99

Tout Sweet: Hanging Up my High Heels for a New Life in France by Karen Wheeler is a very readable book about a single woman moving from the fashion world in London to rural France, alone. The French think she is mad, she meets a pretty mad set of expats and the experience changes her forever. You can read my review here. This book is currently priced at £2.99

The Chapel in the Woods by Susan Louineau is an intriguing read from the beginning with three stories set in the same village in the Loire, but at three different periods in time. As the stories unfurl we see links between the past and present so the more I read the more I was gripped. You can read my review here. This book is currently priced at £2.03

Midnight Train to Paris by Juliette Sobanet is the only one of her four romance novels that I haven't yet read. As I have enjoyed the others I'm sure this one will be great too. This book is currently priced at 99p

The Hairy Hikers: A Coast-to-Coast Trek along the French Pyrenees by David Le Vey is on my to read list and looks to be a humorous account of two friends midlife crisis journey on foot across the Pyrenees. This book is currently priced at £2.99

baguettes and bicycles: a cycling adventure across France by Steven Herrick is described as 'a journey across France on a bicycle, meeting the locals and savouring the pleasures of French food', well all I can say is 'how come I haven't already read this one?' This book is currently priced at £1.94

Happy summer holiday reading.

Summer madness

french village diaries summer cycling Ile d'Oleron
Ile d'Oleron
We have had a mad few weeks that if I’m honest have seen me turn a little feral. Firstly the weather has been great with days and days of unbroken sunshine and high temperatures that had many (but not us) complaining about la canicule or heatwave. This last week, great became mad with the weather swinging from extreme heat and sun to violent storms, winds and rain and back again more times than I can remember. We were very lucky; with only a few short power outages and one tasty plum tree lost we can’t really complain at all, many others were not so fortunate.

We have used our time without Ed to really push the limits on our bikes and with the soaring temperatures many references have been made to us being mad. Ed loves his days out on the bikes too, but like any normal 12 year old he doesn’t want to spend every day cycling with his parents, so we have clocked up some kilometres without him. So far in the last two and half weeks, we have cycled 640km, an equivalent distance of London to Edinburgh or London to Paris and back again and have seen some really lovely places in this beautiful area. We have called it our ‘stay at home cyclation’, but time out on the bikes has meant certain things have slipped. Our ‘rest days’ at home have been spent catching up with the courgette cooking, baking and finding interesting things to do with the fruit and veggie harvests, which has left little time for housework, ironing or weeding. My normal attitude to housework could be described as ‘relaxed’ but has now descended to a whole new level of yukiness. The heat, the lack of visitors and the fact we haven’t really been here have all contributed to this. Sadly it is not just the house, as standards have slipped on a personal level too and I can’t remember the last time I used my hairdryer to ‘style’ my hair in the morning. The heat, the cycle helmet, the sweat and the pool water soon put pay to any natural bounce so it’s about as much as I can do to drag a brush through it first thing in the morning. I can honestly say I have spent more time and effort brushing the cat and dog than myself.
french village diaries Talmont sur Gironde summer cycling
Talmont sur Gironde

But there is a problem. Civilisation is calling; we can’t remain child free and feral forever. There will be social occasions and family get togethers to attend where my normal attire of next to nothing if we’re home or cycle lycra if we’re out won’t be acceptable. With the temperatures we’ve had I won’t be surprised to find the few bits of makeup I do own (untouched since my last return from UK) to be a melted mess at the bottom of a drawer. My toenails and fingernails haven’t seen a re-shape or polish in months and no amount of foundation can conceal the fact that my eyes and forehead have the milky complexion I was born with, as they have been shaded from the sun by the cycle helmet and sunglasses. My cheeks however are rosy and weathered and I look like a panda. Added to this is the fact I have the most glamorous sisters-in-law in the world means thoughts about what to wear keep troubling my mind. Despite being born in Chiswick, London and having spent many years commuting to work in the City, since moving to rural France I have definitely become the country relation. Removing ourselves from the UK has changed us and different things are important to us now, how we look and what we buy isn’t as important as time spent together. I hate to admit it, but lovely though it is to see friends and family it is always nice to get back to my comfortable French village life.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Courgette Soup

I have had a lot of recent requests for my courgette (zucchini) soup recipe, as it seems I am not the only one with a potager glut at the moment, so here it is. Bon Apetit!

French village diaries courgette zucchini soup recipe
Freshly picked and ready for the soup pot

Courgette Soup
Sauté a finely chopped onion and 1 tsp of cumin seeds in some olive oil or butter, add 1 or 2 cloves of garlic and then add the diced courgettes (however many you have). Season with salt and pepper, 1 tsp each of ground turmeric and fennel and then just cover either with chicken or vegetable stock and simmer until the courgettes are tender. The great thing about soup is that anything goes, if you don’t like some of my spice choices, or you want some extra heat from a chilli then go right ahead. I always use a homemade chicken stock and find this with the courgettes makes a creamy soup that is more than thick enough for me, but if you want to add a potato to give more body please do. This recipe can also be used with butternut squash, pumpkin or any other member of the squash family.

French village diaries courgette zucchini soup recipe
A winter warmer
 When cooked and cooled a little, blend until smooth. This soup can be served warm or chilled and also freezes very well. In the winter I love to add a generous sprinkling of grated cheese to warm soup for a comforting lunch, but in the summer a chilled bowl with a swirl of natural yoghurt, or some finely diced fresh tomatoes and basil leaves sprinkled on top makes a very refreshing meal. For something a bit special a poached egg added to either the hot or cold soup is also delicious. I love to serve my walnut bread with this soup.

For me this humble courgette soup is something very important. I love everything about growing courgettes from germination through to harvest, they fascinate me and being able to make something so simple, tasty and healthy during the summer that I freeze for winter is superb. Our winters can be very cold and the warmth of a soup for lunch plus the positive memories of warmer days and good harvests keeps my winter blues away.

This recipe is featured in FrenchEntrée's 100 French recipes to celebrate 100 issues of FrenchEntrée magazine.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Traditional Marais Poitevin market

Following our second night of storms we awoke this morning to a clear blue sky and a fresh day, even if it was a little damp underfoot. I'm not a fan of storms and I'd even go as far as to say that if I was a pet dog I would be one who cried, whimpered and needed to be consoled in your bed during a storm, unlike our Mini who thankfully doesn't notice them.

We packed the bikes and a picnic and set off nice and early for one of our favourite places, the Marais Poitevin. This is a marshland area between La Rochelle and Niort that is a maze of tiny waterways, footpaths and cycle tracks that always provides a quiet and peaceful day out. However today in the small village of Le Vanneau the Marais was packed as the crowds arrived to join in the annual market held in the traditional way, on the water. 

We had a lovely time, bought a few tasty goodies, including a very mature goats cheese that we ate with our picnic on the banks of the river. We also cycled a 28km bike ride through pretty villages, past fields of creamy cattle, herons on the bank and with the air heavy with scent following the rain last night. Here are few photos of the market that is always held on the last Saturday morning in July.

French village diaries Marais Poitevin Le Vanneau market France
The boulangerie barque

French village diaries Marais Poitevin Le Vanneau market France
Vendors on the river

French village diaries Marais Poitevin Le Vanneau market France

French village diaries Marais Poitevin Le Vanneau market France
Decorated barque

French village diaries Marais Poitevin Le Vanneau market France
Le Vanneau traditional market

French village diaries Marais Poitevin Le Vanneau market France
Traditional dancing

Friday, July 26, 2013

France et Moi with author Vic Heaney

French village diaries France et Moi interview Vic Heaney Vic's Big Walk book pancreatic cancer researchWelcome to ‘France et Moi’ where this week I am talking to author and walker Vic Heaney about what France means to him. Vic, who lives in the Pyrenees, celebrated his 70th birthday in 2010 in a slightly unusual way, undertaking a 70 day walk from the South of France to where he was born in the North of England. The walk raised money and awareness for pancreatic cancer research and all proceeds from his book Vic's Big Walk also go direct to pancreatic cancer research.

Firstly, I think France is a special place and it is famed for many things including its cheese, wine and diverse holiday locations plus, dare I say it strikes and dog poo littered streets. What do you think makes France so very unique and ‘French’?

Vic: There is a much more relaxed lifestyle.  There are obviously cultural reasons for this but also the fact that there are roughly the same number of people as the UK but spread out over a country which is more than three times the size helps – less people per square mile. There are many fewer cars per person, again spread over much more area and better roads. More people in France still seem to live in rural areas and to work in low pressure jobs. So everything seems to be so much calmer.

Add to that all the visible history – in England most of the town centres were demolished in the 60s and replaced with concrete blocks with or without coloured plastic panels.

The strikes here do not affect us much so they play no part in my attitude. But I do loathe the fact that in any town you have to walk round with your eyes glued to the ground because of the dog droppings.

2) What is your first memory of a trip to France? What is your favourite holiday location in France?

Vic: My first visit to France was as we drove across it on the way to visit my daughter in Italy. As we drove down the autoroutes, the overhead temperature signs dropped to below zero. We stayed overnight somewhere in the middle of the country and awoke to find the place covered in deep snow. This was in late May! 1991 I think. The wine growers had lost much of their crop. It was not a good introduction but we had seen enough of this beautiful country to visit many more times and eventually to move here as a resident.

The first place to which we made a deliberate trip was Carcassonne, because I had read a description of it in a book. For the past 16 years I have lived within 55 kms of Carcassonne and I still think it is one of the most stunning sights in the world – especially on 14th July, when the spectacular fireworks display multiplies the population of the town to an epic degree.

3) Having spent some time living in France do you have any embarrassing language mishaps you are happy to share?

Vic: Nothing specific. My wife spoke decent French before we arrived here. I learned French at school but with no particular interest in the subject and 40 years had passed before I spoke to a French person. I have improved a lot and can get by but I am shame-faced to say that I have always sheltered behind my wife in this regard because it was so much easier for us to get things done.

4) Imagine you are sitting outside a French café at 10.00am on a sunny morning watching the world go by, what do you order from the waiter?

Vic: I am a simple soul. I would order a grand crème and drink it while I munched on a pain aux raisins or croissant amandes which I would have bought separately at a boulangerie. France is the only country I know where this is an acceptable practice.

5) What is your favourite aperitif and ideal location to be drinking it?

Vic: Blanquette de Limoux, our local bubbly and 100 years older than champagne. We are not in the Champagne region so they can not call it champagne, despite its history – it is said that the champagne makers came to Limoux to find out how to make it. But there is a silver lining – because it can not be called champagne it is considerably cheaper.

My favourite place to drink it would be at the buvette by the lake here in Puivert, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, surrounded by spectacular scenery and my closest friends and family.

6) France has many different cheeses, a silly question, but which French cheese are you? A hard and mature Tome, a soft, fresh and lively goat cheese, the creamy and rich Camembert or maybe the salty and serious Roquefort?

Vic: I have not yet met a cheese which I did not like so I will not choose – just bring it on.

7) Do you have a favourite French regional dish?

Vic: As a vegetarian, one of the worst things about France is that they do not understand the concept of not eating meat. So there is not a regional main dish which interests me. I don’t eat many sweets but I am very partial to a crème Catalan, something I discovered late in life and a specialty of this region.

8) When you were walking through France did you have any strange encounters or nice surprises?

Vic: Nothing specific but I did meet many lovely people and continued to be impressed by how much beauty there is in this country. And, unlike the rest of my journey which took me through England, there were many days when I could not hear traffic.

9) If money and commitments were no object where in France would you like to own a property and what sort of place would it be?

Vic: I could think of no better place to be than the area where I live, which I have heard described more than once as “Paradise”. But it would be nice to have a place by the sea as well. It is the one thing I miss, having grown up by the sea and having worked upon it as well, in my first job as a Merchant Navy Radio Officer.

Finally, do you have any current projects you would like to tell my readers about?

Vic: My first two books are out there – Vic's Big Walk and Living In The Real Cyprus . Two more are planned – “Swim The Atlantic?” – a memoir, and “Vic’s Shorts” – a selection of short stories. The proceeds from all books go to pancreatic cancer research. I also seem to have moved into another career presenting my book, mainly reading from it with some humorous links, then selling (no obligation to buy) personally dedicated and signed copies. I am happy to be approached to do these talks.

Another project I have on the stocks is that my wife and I have decided, for family reasons, to move back to UK after 20 years of living overseas. If you had asked us 6 months ago we would have said “no way!” but things change and it is time to move on. I have little hope of selling our house – built by a drum major in Napoleon’s army – in the current French financial climate, so we may end up shuttling between the two places, as many do.

Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you.

Vic: Thank you also, Jacqui. Any time.

You can read Vic's guest post he wrote for me last year here and read his latest news here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Courgette Caviar Recipe

In honour of the new Royal baby, well as this is just about the poshest sounding courgette (zucchini) recipe ever I definitely think it is one fit for royalty, I thought I would share my courgette caviar recipe. This was introduced to me by French friends Hélène et Françoise last year we are now hooked - it is so delicious and a real taste of summer aperos.

The flavour combinations are sublime, it is fresh and zingy, plus it is a great way to use up the inevitable courgette glut (that I know so well). It is easy to make and it keeps well in the fridge – it is the perfect recipe. I have also tried freezing it and although it comes back a little watery it works fine.

We have it with our aperos; spread onto toasts or baguette slices, plus as a dip for breadsticks and carrot sticks, or for a lunch we spread it onto grilled vegetables (aubergines, courgettes and squashes) and top them with grated cheese.  It is delicious all ways. Go on, give it a go, you won’t regret it.

French village diaries recipes courgette caviar aperos
Courgette caviar perfect for aperos


4 courgettes
2 small onions
2 garlic cloves
85g black olives (optional)
4 mint leaves
3 large basil leaves
A bunch of parsley
Juice of a lemon
1 tsp of thyme
Natural yoghurt or crème fraiche (optional)

Wash and cut the courgettes into small cubes, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast until soft.

Stone the olives, if using, and chop finely with the onions, garlic, mint, basil and parsley. When the courgettes are cooked, mix with the herb mixture and leave to chill. Blend when cold then add the lemon juice and thyme and check seasoning. If you would like, add natural yoghurt or crème fraiche just before serving to get the desired spreadable or dip-able consistency.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Loving the colour Yellow

Following Chris Froome's fantastic win in the 100th edition of the Tour de France I am celebrating the colour yellow in a Much love Monday post today. Chris had held the Yellow Jersey for two weeks of the three week Tour and crossed the finish line in Paris yesterday all bedecked in yellow and with his team at his side. Congratulations to Chris and Team Sky.

Still on a yellow theme is that it is one of my favourite times of year when the sunflowers are in full bloom. We are so lucky to be surrounded by fields and fields of these bold beauties and I never tire of seeing them or taking photos of them either. Here are just a selection of my favourite pictures to share with you today, I do hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Much Love Monday Sunflowers Yellow Tour de France French Village Diaries

Much Love Monday Sunflowers Yellow Tour de France French Village Diaries

Much Love Monday Sunflowers Yellow Tour de France French Village Diaries

Much Love Monday Sunflowers Yellow Tour de France French Village Diaries

Much Love Monday Sunflowers Yellow Tour de France French Village Diaries

Much Love Monday Sunflowers Yellow Tour de France French Village Diaries

You can also watch my time lapse video of a field of sunflowers growing from seedlings to harvest on YouTube by clicking here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cycling the Loire part two

french village diaries cycling Loire Saumur to Tours Holidays France
Place St Pierre, Saumur
Here is part two of our cycling trip to the Loire, you can read part one here

Despite our packing being very minimal, (even the hotel owner was surprised by our lack of luggage), we had packed a change of clothes for an evening in town and I even had a pair of flip flops to wear with my sundress too. Saumur was a lovely place to stay and after a stroll around town we enjoyed a spot of people watching over a refreshing beer in the Place St Pierre before eating in an Auberge in Rue St Nicolas where we sampled the local speciality of fouées for the first time. This is a bread cooked in a wood fired oven that puffs up to form a pocket you fill with local delights including goats cheese, white beans, garlic butter, lardons, rillettes and a confit of onions and blood sausage. It was delicious and full of carbs, which was ideal to replace our energy.

french village diaries cycling Loire Saumur to Tours Holidays France Fouées
Fouées, a local speciality
As cyclists, the following morning we were allowed cheese with our French breakfast – an option not given to the other residents at the hotel and one we made good use of. It was then time to head back towards Tours, taking the river route past some interesting cave houses to Montsoreau, where we stopped for morning coffee. I have to admit it wasn't much further on when we stumbled upon the delicious aromas coming from a patisserie - it really wasn't an option to cycle past!

french village diaries cycling Loire Saumur to Tours Holidays France
Cave houses

french village diaries cycling Loire Saumur to Tours Holidays France
The Chateau at Montsoreau

french village diaries cycling Loire Saumur to Tours Holidays France
Looking back to Montsoreau

french village diaries cycling Loire Saumur to Tours Holidays France
The patisserie, a girls best friend

We again found ourselves cycling towards the beautiful chateau at Rigny-Ussé where we left the Loire and followed the road to Azay-le-Rideau eventually finding somewhere willing to serve us a croque-monsieur for lunch – we seemed to have our invisibility cloaks on again! Despite the chateau at Azay-le-Rideau being very beautiful the view from before the ticket office isn’t so great and we really didn’t have time to pay to enter any of the chateau on this trip. The run back to the Loire at Villandry was shady and cool and by the time we reached the car we were delighted to have clocked up 200km in our two days.

french village diaries cycling Loire Saumur to Tours Holidays France
The Chateau at Rigny-Ussé

We were lucky that the weather was lovely and warm, sunny and more importantly dry, as we really are fair weather cyclists only. I suppose ideally a little cooler may have been nice, but the sun really gave our two days a proper holiday feel and much of the route was shaded by trees. The architecture is so different to where we live it was difficult to believe we were only a two hour drive from home.

What struck me a lot along the way was the number of cyclists we saw who were many years older than us, often with their panniers and trailers full of camping equipment and still with a friendly smile, nod of the head and a bonjour to share with us. The Loire really is a cycle friendly area that I can recommend to anyone with an interest in cycling in France, not just serious cyclists. As well as the Loire, Cycling Southern France - Loire to Mediterranean by Richard Peace also has many other great routes from the Loire down to the Mediterranean and was a very useful book for us that we will use again.

If you fancy a Loire break with or without your bike, I have a couple of friends with holiday accommodation and there are many others on our Special Places in France website. My friend Nicole (we grew up in the same road in Surrey in the 1970’s) and her husband have three beautiful gites to the southeast of Tours. We visited them a few years ago so have seen for ourselves how special their place is and you can see details on their website here. To the west of Tours, Facebook friends Le Chant d’Oiseau, have gites and a campsite (see website here). We haven’t visited them (yet), but we have seen the tasty photos of the soirées they hold where they cook pizza and fouées in their wood fired oven, the stuff holiday dreams are made of.

I hope you have enjoyed our Loire holiday pictures; it really is a very beautiful place in France. Now where to take our bikes next?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cycling the Loire Tours to Saumur

This time last week, having eaten our fill at the Quick Palace hotel buffet breakfast in Tours we set off for two days of cycling along the river Loire with a bit of Chateaux spotting. Since getting back I think I have spent most of the week in the kitchen as we found ourselves somewhat over run with cherries, raspberries and courgettes. I have baked quiches and cakes and started stocking the cupboards with chutneys and relishes, however it meant neglecting the blog.

After the madness and excitement that was The Tour de France in Tours it was with a little reluctance that we headed out to the west of the city on Friday morning. The further out of town we got and the more peaceful it became, the more we knew we had made the right decision not to stay with the buzz in Tours awaiting the lunchtime departure of the cyclists. The Tour might have been over for us but we still had a good few kilometres to tackle on our own little tour of the Loire.

French village diaries cycling Loire Tours to Saumur
Morning coffee in Savonnières

The plan was to follow the river Loire from Tours to Rigny-Ussé, cross the river Indre, then loop down to Chinon before following the river Vienne back to the Loire and on to Saumur. This route is well documented in Cycling Southern France - Loire to Mediterranean by Richard Peace, however we didn’t have the space to carry the book with us, but following big rivers, on the flat, how difficult could it be? Well, despite the Loire being a cyclist heaven with over 800km of marked cycle paths and many cycle friendly hotels and campsites it wasn’t actually as easy as I thought. It wasn’t long before the path veered away from the river and then horror of horrors, became a cobbled track. I am a 41 year old body cycling a 30 year old road bike and neither of us do cobbles. The benefits of heading back to the road were that tarmac is a much faster surface for our thin tyre bikes and we followed the route Le Tour had taken the previous day, so the villages and roads were decorated on a cycle theme.

French village diaries cycling Loire Tours to Saumur
Cobbles are a no no!

French village diaries cycling Loire Tours to Saumur
The bridge over the Loire in Langeais

We lunched on pasta and tinned fish, perfect energy food, having seen Villandry (from afar), the lovely bridge at Langeais and got a great view of the Rigny-Ussé chateau that morning. The afternoon took in Chinon, where we stopped for a beer, some lovely shady cycling by the river Vienne then the beautiful village of Montsoreau. 

French village diaries cycling Loire Tours to Saumur

French village diaries cycling Loire Tours to Saumur
The Vienne river

French village diaries cycling Loire Tours to Saumur
Pretty displays in Montsoreau

We were only about 16km from our overnight stop in Saumur but tiredness and the heat were starting to show. When given a choice of a 14km route via the river or a 12km route via the vineyards, we decided to head uphill and save a couple of kilometres. Well, the views were superb, but unfortunately the signage wasn’t. We must have covered at least an extra 10km with lots of hills and lots of heat that necessitated a walnut break under the shade of a tree. The final zoom down from the Chateau in Saumur to our hotel was a fantastic feeling and we felt rather pleased with ourselves having covered 95km.

French village diaries cycling Loire Tours to Saumur
The Loire vineyards

French village diaries cycling Loire Tours to Saumur

The Cithotel was very welcoming with a safe storage area for the bikes and a clean and comfortable room. Never has a short bath in a two-tone peach hotel bathroom seemed so welcoming as that night!

French village diaries cycling Loire Tours to Saumur

Do join me again tomorrow with part two of our adventure.