September 2014

Once more tethered to the ground

Submitted by mag on

We've spent so much time in Haarlem it is starting to feel like home! Our apartment this time is not as charming or spacious as previous apartments - no balcony or garden and a very steep stairway - but very conveniently located and adequate for our needs.

We've been doing our favorite things, lunch in the Grote markt, beers at a brewery in a church right near our apartment, coffee with old friends Willy and Gert at the Saturday market.

Then a spectacular ride through the dunes of the Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland, a short ferry ride, and alas it was time to take the bikes to Ernst's shop where I bid a sad farewell to Scout. Ernst has kindly agreed to store them for us until next year.

So.... after a tearful farewell, we are once more tethered to the ground ... no more can I "slip the surly bonds of earth" and "chase the shouting wind" - at least not until next year.






High Flight

by John G. Magee

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth 
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds,
— and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of
— wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence.
Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...."

Our apartment is compact!
not as charming as some
with a very steep stairway
but adequate for our needs
lunch in the grote markt
lunch in the grote markt
Brewskies at Jopens brewpub (in a church)
Coffee with Willy and Gert
at the Saturday market
Jim confronts his nemesis!
and tilts at a windmill
windmill in Bloemendaal
the trail through Nationaal Park Zuid Kennemerland
on our way to Ernst's shop Beverwijk
Ferry to Beverwijk... the last mile
Sad farewell to trusty steeds
once more tethered to the surly bonds of earth

Go to sleep in Offenburg, wake up in Amsterdam!

Submitted by mag on

From the bridge at Deux Rives Garden, it was an easy and traffic free ride to the Offenburg train station. We found that once we crossed into Germany our comfort level immediately clicked up a notch since we could actually understand the signs and the way things work. We tried to get our tickets changed to travel that same night, but ours were the non-refundable type so we couldn't do that. So we pedaled to a typically German guesthouse the Rammersweier Hof just north of the city. We had a most pleasant and enjoyable dinner there.

The next day we had the whole day to kill waiting for our night train at 11:45pm. We had a good time exploring, eating and then sitting in the wonderful library.... but then it got dark and we still had hours to go.

It has to be said the Offenburg train station is totally inhospitable with only a few cold wire seats right on the tracks with the huge oil and gas freight trains barreling through at top speed all through the night.. But eventually our train did arrive, right on time of course, and we "checked in" to our lovely little sleeper cabin complete with bottled water, fresh linens and a sink/vanity... The Germans really know how to run a railroad. We were immediately rocked into a most pleasant sleep and didn't wake up until we were passing in to Holland the next morning.

We got off the train in Amsterdam and after a few km of city riding, found our way to a wonderful trail and arrived at our apartment in Haarlem at 11:30 none the worse for wear. So all in all, the dreaded journey from the Loire back to Haarlem turned out to be a piece of cake. Our comfort level clicked up a notch when we crossed the Rhine into Germany.... and about 3 notches when we woke up in Holland. Holland is the most bike-friendly country in the world. There are more bikes than people, everyone bikes everywhere all the time, and every route has provisions for bikes... There are busy highways that have more pavement allocated to bikes than cars, with separate traffic lights and traffic-circle lanes, over- and under-passes, and more separate bike paths than anyplace. No wonder we love it here!

Great dinner at Rammersweier Hof north of Offenburg
Breakfast at Rammersweier Hof
Stashing trash at Offenburg station
Offenburg is a bike-friendly town
Just ask them!
friendly town hall
Friendly sculpture
Not so friendly train station....
freight trains thundering through
But cozy cabin once on board
cozy cabin
even a tiny sink
Good Morning Amsterdam - how are you?
The bike-highway to Haarlem
The bike-highway to Haarlem
The bike-highway to Haarlem

Easy ride to Strasbourg and on to Germany

Submitted by mag on

After so many challenges with French trains, we were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get from the Loire to Germany.

The St. Pierre des Corps train station south of Tours is new, and so is the train that goes directly to Strasbourg, with bike reservations and no change in Paris! What a great find thanks to Letitia at Francueil! This saved us from going all the way back to Anjers which would have been an ordeal on the "Loire bike train" not to mention a lot more expensive. Our Kyriad Hotel was right at the train station, but there was literally NOTHING else around there, so we rode in to Tours which is quite a nice town. The next morning we took the train to Strasburg which turned out to be surprisingly easy! Easy to board and plenty of space for bikes and people.

We arrived in Strasbourg at 2:00 and from there rode along lovely canal trails around the southern edge of the city, nearly all the way on bike trails or marked routes. We did get a little lost at one point, but a friendly biker led us to the route, and once there we knew exactly where we were because we took that route last year. But last year there was so much construction it took us forever to get across Strasbourg and into Germany. This year the construction is complete and the bike trail is wonderful - even the traffic lights seemed to be timed for bikers so we flew right across and then followed a trail south to the beautiful new cycling bridge across the Rhine at the Deux Rives Garden.   

So our departure from France was ever so much easier than our arrival - kudos to the French for planning cycle tourism into their new construction projects.  A good example for US to follow.  



Tours is a nice town
with a great old city section
and wonderful trails along the river
easy to get lost... definitely not this way!
The beautiful new Deux Rives Garden bridge across the Rhine
One easy ride and we are in Germany!
Lovers leave padlocks on the bridge


Submitted by mag on

We spent a couple of days at a small AirBNB apartment in Blois mostly resting as I was still sick. The city of Blois is nice with a lovely walking zone and square. We enjoyed the castle although any castle is going to be anticlimactic after Chambord. We had planned on riding 2 days to St Pierre Des Corps near Tours, but since I was recovering we decided to take the train. Although they make a big deal out of bikes riding free along the Loire the train proved to be quite a challenge with all our gear - the doors were very narrow with 3 very steep steps going up and then the bikes had to be hung by the front wheel. But we made it OK with help from friendly passengers.

Our cozy apartment in Blois
Our cozy apartment in Blois - a bit snug!
Our front door
View across the river
Lots of steps in Blois
Blois Castle
Blois castle
Jim wanted to take this guy home for Dominic
Him too!
The Throne room
King for a minute
The Royal Porcupine!
The Royal Porcupine!
The Royal Porcupine!
Who knew there we so many Marguerites in French history
Marguerite de Navarre
Marguerite de Navarre
Heading out for Tours
Umm.... can the bikes get up there?
Not happy with the "Loire bike train"

Chambord - The Big Daddy of Chateaux

Submitted by mag on

From Amboise we had a pleasant ride to Chaumont and a restful stay there. We headed out early in the morning mist in order to arrive at Chambord early enough for a leisurely tour. We skipped breakfast thinking we could get something in one of the many small towns along the route... but we never found anything and every time we left the trail we got hopelessly lost in steep side trails, so did not get our coffee until we arrived in Blois. From there is was a very fine and well marked ride up to Chambord.

We arrived at Chambord in early afternoon and enjoyed a beautiful corner room with views of the Chateau and the square. Chambord is the largest chateau on the Loire. Never a fighting castle or a long-term residence, it was the hunting lodge of Francis I and subsequent royalty. It's so huge it was never really finished or completely furnished - mosquito-infested in summer and impossible to heat in winter... but impressive nevertheless. The central feature is the famous double helix stairway (allegedly designed by Leonardo while at Clos Luce). It's a huge circular column with two levels of steps between each floor - the alleged purpose being so that enemies and competing groups could promenade and show themselves to crowds gathered below without ever encountering each other.

Leaving Chaumont in the morning mist
Lovely misty bike trail
Lovely misty bike trail
Enroute from Chaumont to Chambord
Enroute from Chaumont to Chambord
Loire boats near Chaumont
Chaumont Castle
The route to Chambord
The route to Chambord
Vineyards enroute to Chambord
Vineyards enroute to Chambord
Chambord - WOW!
Our restful corner room at Hotel St Michel
Hotel St Michel
with spectacular view of Chambord
Jim bringing in the trusty steeds
The famous double helix stairway
The famous double stairway
One of the corner exterior stairways
Chambord roofscape detail
Chambord in the evening
Chambord at night
Leaving Chambord
Leaving Chambord

Amboise - Clos Luce Leonardo's last home

Submitted by mag on

From Chenonceau we cycled over the hills and back down to the Loire to Amboise. I was feeling pretty awful, so we got a small efficiency apartment with a lovely sunny deck with view of the castle, and didn't move much for 2 days. We didn't tour the Amboise castle, but we couldn't pass up Clos Luce where da Vinci spent the last 3 years of his life (1516-1519) as the guest of Marguerite de Navarre and her brother Francois 1, who were patrons and friends as well as clients. Marguerite also maintained a residence at Clos Luce. It is a lovely, small and intimate chateau with massive gardens and woods extending down steep hills and ravines and including rivers, lakes and ponds. Leonardo's multitude of inventions and creations were featured throughout the chateau and grounds, so it was an inspiring and enlightening tour.

Chateau d'Amboise
Chateau d'Amboise
Chateau d'Amboise
Chateau d'Amboise
Chateau d'Amboise
View of Chateau d'Amboise from our balcony
View of Chateau d'Amboise from our balcony
View of Chateau d'Amboise from our balcony
View of Amboise bridge from our balcony
Amboise castle
Dinner on our Amboise balcony
Our small riverfront apartment in Amboise
Clos Luce - Leonardo's last home
Leonardo's bedroom
Marguerite de Navarre's bedroom
Marguerite de Navarre
Clos Luce kitchen
Leonardo's legacy
Leonardo's passage to Chateau d'Amboise
A few of Leonardo's inventions
Leonardo's tank
A few of Leonardo's inventions
Leonardo's water systems
Leonardo's water systems
Leonardo's water systems
Leonardo's water systems
Actual swing bridge of Leonardo's design
Clos Luce

Chenonceau - a Chateau designed by women

Submitted by mag on

Chateau Breze is JIm's favorite castle because of the subterrenian city... but Chenonceau on the lovely Cher River is my favorite. A chateau designed, maintained and cherished by women thorough the centuries. From Katherine Bricconet who oversaw construction in the early 1500s through to Marguerite Pelouze who restored it to glory in the late 1800s it has been the home of a series of brilliant, powerful and influential women, including Diane de Poirtiers and Catherine d'Medici. Everything about it is beautiful and functional. Unlike many chateaus where you wonder how they could possibly have served the demands of nobility from the remote, grim, and unpleasant servants quarters, this one is all about beauty, efficiency, and ease of living. The boats carrying provisions could pull right up to a landing leading directly into the huge and well-laid out servants quarters and kitchen area. The layers of the lovely bridge/gallery over the Cher were added in successive stages over the centuries.

umm... not the best approach to Chenonceau
This is a better approach
this postcard shows a view from the Cher
Evolution of Chenonceau
Diane de Poirtiers
The gallery through a window
Chenonceau gallery interior
Chenonceau kitchen
Water pump in the kitchen
Chenonceau kitchen
Servants quarters
Chenonceau kitchen - the grand spit
The Cher
the Keep
The Keep with its swallows
the Keep
the gardens
Watchful raven?
Chenonceau gargoyl
The gardens are colorful
and practical too!
Chenonceau sur Cher - a Chateau designed and cherished by women

Our Villa near Chenonceau

Submitted by mag on

We were all feeling the need of a few days rest, so we picked an AirBnb place in Francueil near Chenonceau. To get there we passed through another high plateau - this time we were convinced we were back in Kansas!

Leticia was our host at House of Art in Francueil (you probably don't know how to pronounce Francueil either - near as I could figure it's sort of like frawncoya). A most interesting and hospitable lady (why did I not get her picture?) They are from Peru and she is the Peru trade and tourism representative in France. Our quarters consisted of a private wing with 2 rooms and huge bath (I'll let the photos tell the story - the rooms were large but not exactly restful), a private dining area, and shared use of kitchen, piazza, and pool. Since it was Sunday and no stores open, Leticia kindly provided us with enough food to get us through the evening.

Leaving the mill
Another puny cup of coffee....
Are we back in Kansas, Toto?
Back in Kansas for sure...
Yep - feels like Kansas all right
ummm ... We're not in Kansas anymore!
Bob & Patty's room at House of Art
They even provide costumes for the lord and lady,,,,
more art...
more art...
Our Rose Room - a bit more restful.
Sunny respite
Our private dining area
Evening overhead entertainment - look peaceful?
Believe me it's noisy up there!
We did a balloon ride in NZ - one was enough!
Moonlit villa
Heading for Chenonceau

Azay le Rideau

Submitted by mag on

After the thrill/challenge of taking our trusty steeds one at a time up the glass elevator to Chinon Castle, we continued on up the ridge and eventually made it to the high plateau above the beautiful Vienne River. I should mention that even though this whole region is called the Loire Chateaux region, many of the most spectacular, interesting and beautiful castles, towns and sites are not actually on the Loire, but rather high up the feeder rivers, such as the Vienne, L'Indre and Cher. So most of our travels were not actually on the Loire A Velo - the bike route that stays along bottom of the somewhat flat, flood-prone and uninteresting Loire Valley, but rather skipping along in the unmarked higher ground between these tributaries, So while our trip was far more interesting and adventurous than simply following the fairly flat and well-marked Loire a Velo, it also meant we did a lot more climbing, exploring uncharted territory, encountering challenges and people who don't understand English, and of course being lost or at least not taking the optimal route. But when did you ever know us to take the easy or expected path? The path less traveled - that's us. Whenever we touch back down to the Loire a Velo route, we are suddenly inundated with crowds of cycle tour groups, but in our typical days off the beaten track we rarely encounter another cyclist.

I also need to mention that unfortunately Bob always seems to get sick when he travels and often shares these riches, thus earning him (since we only meet up with him while traveling) the affectionate nickname of Typhoid Robert. That will also explain the lapse in postings, since I have been too ill to do more than the required riding and exploring each day. Still, the adventure must go on, and we have the photos to prove it, so now that I am finally on the mend I am posting like mad to catch up.

So on the day we left the lovely and very pleasant town of Chinon on the Vienne, we angled back back down to the Loire to take a look at the legendary Chateau Usse - Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty's castle) , following the Loire a Velo for a some distance before heading back off track up the L'Indre toward Azay le Rideau - another serene and lovely castle with a checkered, unintelligible history and yet another vestige of the French nobility's excesses and fickleness.

Leaving Chinon
Uncharted territory across the high plateau
Share the Road makes sense in any language!
Crossing the River on the route toward Sleeping Beauty's Usse Castle
Route to Chateau d'Usse
Route to Chateau d'Usse
Sleeping Beauty's Castle rises from the mist
Patty approaches Sleeping Beauty's castle
The legendary scene of the tale of Sleeping Beauty
Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant
Sleeping Beauty's chapel?
On to charge the next castle!
Le Chateau d'Azay le Rideau
the castle of Azay le Rideau
the castle of Azay le Rideau
the castle of Azay le Rideau


Submitted by mag on

In the morning we set off for Chinon and yet another amazing chateau - this one a real fighting castle and a medieval fortress where the knights of Templar were executed. A truly awesome castle and a lot of history and stories associated with it. It's high up on a rocky promotory - so high that they actually put in an elevator to whisk you partway up to the base of the castle!

Heading out from the Abbey
Heading out from the Abbey
Wrong turn on the way to Chinon Castle
Oh no - not another double-track!
Lunch in Chinon
Looking down from Chinon castle
Chinon castle
Chinon Castle
Chinon Castle
Chinon Castle
Chinon Castle
Chinon Castle
Chinon Castle
Chinon riverfront park
Joan of Arc monument
Chinon castle by night
Chinon by moonlight
Breakfast at hotel Diderot
Leaving Hotel Diderot
Elevator gives us a boost halfway up the mountain
Still a long way to go to get out of Chinon