We advise you arrive before 1830hrs in order to collect your bikes from the Cycle Richard shop (open until 1830hrs and closed all day Sunday and Monday) and make any adjustments necessary with our mechanic. If you arrive on a day when the shop is closed or after the shop has closed your bikes will be delivered to the hotel. There is an allen key provided in order to adjust seat and handlebar heights however these will have been set up in advance for you. If you are bringing your own saddle or peddals, please let us know before you arrive, particularly if you are arriving outside of the shop opening times. Amboise is located right on the Loire River. On the south side of the river lies the town centre and castle, where the French kings spent their childhoods during the 15th and 16th centuries. The beautiful gardens here offer splendid views of the river, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout July and August there is a Son et lumiére show at the castle (not included). In town there is also a museum displaying many of the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci, who spent the last few years of his life here until he died in 1519.
The highlight of today's ride is the Chateau of Chenonceau, described by French author Flaubert as 'floating on air and water', Chateau de Chenonceau is one of the most striking of the Loire Valley chateaux. King Henri II gave Chenonceau to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, which greatly angered his wife, Catherine de Medicis. But after Henri II died in 1559, a vengeful Catherine soon took Chenonceau away from Diane. Our hotel is in Montrichard. When you arrive you can explore 11th Century ruined castle that dominates the town.
Today there is an option to take a longer ride for those who want to push themselves a little. Both routes take us away from the main rivers, the options divide just after the chateau of Gué Péan, a vast castle built in the 15th and 17th centuries. The short ride continues north through the attractive village of Fougères sur Bievre, with its 19th century public laundry beside the river and castle with 16th century arcaded gallery. If you wish a lift can be offered for the first 20km to shorten the ride further, if you would like to do this, please arrange it with our local representative on arrival. Alternatively, anyone looking for a challenge can head east deeper into the lovely rural area of Sologne, known for its ponds, lakes woods and villages.
Both routes end in Bracieux, a delightful small village in the heart of the Sologne and a former stop-over between Paris and the chateaux region of the Loire. Tonight we recommend treating yourself in one of the best restaurants in the whole province, Relais d'Artemis, 5 minutes walk from the hotel (closed on Tue and Wed).
Two circular rides are offered today to explore the countryside around Bracieux. The near-by village of Cour Cheverny is a perfect example of the Sologne architecture. Also, the castle here is one of the best-preserved private chateaux in France, and was a regular spot for large royal hunting parties.
North of the village lies the amazing chateau of Chambord, the masterpiece of the French renaissance, completed in 1545 and used by kings and presidents from Francis I until the 1930s. 1500 hectares of the enclosed national hunting reserve are open to the public, with viewing platforms for watching wild boar, stags, roe deer and mouflon. The route leads us back through the beautiful forest to Bracieux.
On the way back to the Loire we pass the estate of Troussay, a fine example of a gentleman's estate of the old times in the Loire. Once at the river we can head into the royal city of Blois where Louis XII was born. The fine castle is full of history - assassinations were perpetrated here, and there are beautiful examples of different architectural styles. You can then either follow alongside the river on a quiet backroad or strike out into the small villages nearby to arrive at the village of Chaumont sur Loire, our stop for the next two nights.
On occasion if the hotels are very busy we will stay in Blois rather than Chaumont-sur-Loire. The standard of accommodation is the same and town is a vibrant and interesting place to stay. If this is the case you will be issued with route notes that include this change.
Blois is within striking distance if you choose the longer route, a contrast to the quiet villages that have featured along the way up until now. The more energetic can explore the lanes to the south, passing through the town of Pontlevoy where the museum consists of an open-air display of information and photos that lead you on a tour of the streets. Then it's back to the broad waters of the Loire and the hotel at Chaumont. If you like there is the option not to cycle but to relax in Chaumont instead.
The final day of cycling dawns, and there is just one route, so no tricky decisions to face over the croissants. The highpoint is undoubtedly the chateau of Chaumont - this was originally built during the wars between the counts of Anjou and Blois in the 11th century on a very strategic point along the river.
Remodelled and rebuilt over the centuries by various owners including Catherine de Medici, the castle is now a venue for the International Garden Festival. The landscape changes to a more open, rolling scenery for the final run-in to Amboise.