Starting up the Loire Valley

Wednesday 19th July, Saint Nazaire, 60 km

Pleasant riding towards the city of Saint Nazaire, just on the north side of the Loire estuary from the start of the EuroVelo 6, our chosen route across France. Everything so far has been to get to the start of this route. We didn’t have any expectations for Brittany but it what a great start to our trip!

A long straight cycle path led us into the city and finding the hotel we’d booked was straightforward. The hotel was next to the railway station, apparently full of people travelling for work, and was not very special.

The route begins. Thursday 20th July. St Brevin-le-Pins to Migrand (Municipal Campground) 30.3 km.

There is a long, busy, impressive bridge over the Loire at its estuary. Horror tales abound from cyclists: high winds, narrow cyclepath, speeding traffic… Since the EV6 hadn’t actually started yet, we had no qualms about ordering a taxi, equipped with racks for four cycles, for the 20€ ride to St-Brevin-les-Pins.

We found our way easily enough to the marked EV6 route, pausing to dip our toes in the Atlantic before heading inland. (I’m not sure how hygienic this is, at the mouth of the Loire…)

Along the river for a while, then inland through farmland. All very flat, quiet and peaceful. In one small town, we passed some ingenious (and somewhat ‘anatomically correct’) sculptures…

The route passed through nice villages, each with a prominent church. In contrast to the United Kingdom, most of the churches are open.

We stopped for the day at a very nice municipal campground in Migrand. Dinner at a restaurant a couple of hundred metres walk away was a long drawn out affair, plagued with miscommunication and an easily distracted waiter. Bev and I won’t need to try frogs’ legs again. (Less taste and more bones than chicken.) It felt good to be sleeping in the tent again after a couple of nights in stuffy hotel rooms.

Migrand Municipal Campground the next morning; yes, we were the last to leave :)

Friday 21st July. Migrand to just west of Nantes. 46km.

People were stirring at 7:00 when I woke. But I nodded off and it was 11:00 before we were packed and on the road again. Followed a (now) disused canal and stopped for brunch about an hour later where we crossed to the north side of the canal. At Le Pellerin, we crossed the Loire on an RORO (roll-on-roll-off) free ferry.

Increasingly built-up areas brought us into Nantes, passing a Lidl on the way where we stocked up on bread and cheese. A tarmac path took us east of the city where we camped at the excellent Bel Riviere Campground at St Luce. Cyclists are treated to a free aperitif!!!

Saturday 22nd July, Montjean-sur-Loire, 44.8 km

I slept through a storm during the night and the tent was a bit damp in the morning. Pleasant riding through clean, lovely countryside all day. 

Stayed at La Promenade Campground, setting up the tent in a brisk wind. There has been quite a lot of wind but, thankfully, most of it has been at our backs and blowing up the river valley from the Atlantic. Definitely easier to ride west to east, as we are. There is an impressive church up on the hill to our east.

Église Saint-Symphorien

Sunday 23rd July, Pont-de-Cé, 49 km.

Rode up to the church in the morning – a steep start to the day but worth it. It was very calming, sitting inside. Nice stained glass work and high stone ceilings.

There are light bulbs up there. It can’t be very convenient to change them. The outside of the church was impressive, too, with flying buttresses.

As forecast, the afternoon was wet. Very wet. And chilly. We decided against setting up camp in the rain and then I made an unfortunate choice of hotel. In retrospect, we should have detoured to Angers, where there were both a nice-looking chateau and the nice-looking Royal Hotel. Instead, we hunkered down at a budget ‘Premiére Classe’ chain hotel, dirty and run down, in an industrial park. Although the bed sheets looked clean, the blanket underneath the lower sheet was covered in stains and hairs and had not been laundered in ages. This was according to Bev; I never think to check such things. We slept on top of the bed. But it did give us a chance to dry our clothes.

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