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Biking in Loire Valley - Questions on Picnics/Stops

We have booked a 5 night self-guided bike trip through Loire Valley with myself, husband, and daughter (7). While the tour company we are using is very helpful, I would like some advice outside of them.

The towns we are staying each night are: Amboise; Chenonceau; Chitenay; Blois; coming back to Amboise
-where are good shops to pick up picnic supplies for lunch during our ride (note: we will not be in Amboise during market hours)
-dinner recommendations for Amboise and Blois

The chateaus/stops that are highlighted on our itinerary are: Chenonceau; Montrichard; Chambord; castle at Blois; Chaumont-sur-Loire

-Any suggestions of best ways to visit these sites, ones to skip, or other area attractions that might be more fun that chateau-ing each day (vineyard, art gallery, etc)

Posted by
1241 posts

As chateaux go, Chenonceaux is tops. Take your time there - filled with history, great art and don't overlook the kitchen.
Nearby Loches is one of my top five and therefore worth a detour.

Posted by
250 posts

Loches is great , but it would be a 70km (45 miles or so) detour, probably not feasible to do on a schedule.

I would skip Chambord and visit Cheverny instead. Much more interesting, and a shorter route. That means that between Montrichard and Cheverny you woo uld have time tvisit Fougeres sur Bievre, which many people miss.

Posted by
398 posts

Sorry, can't help with specific shops, but you reminded me of how much I enjoyed my bike ride from Blois to Chambord and back. Kudos for doing this.

Posted by
5525 posts

I have done both Cheverny which has interesting interiors to be sure and Chambord and would never skip the latter for the former. Chambord is perhaps the most impressive building of all the Loire Chateaux -- athough Chennonceaux is also amazing.

Posted by
250 posts

It's interesting how different places strike different people. After visiting Chambord the first time I now snooze in the car whenever we take people there. I guess I am amused at the concept of almost building a hunting lodge and leaving it empty for 300 years, but apart from a glance at the exterior from across the ponds, I am totally uninterested. Whereas at Cheverny I can (and do) visit 20 or 30 times a year and always find something new.

Posted by
1241 posts

Loches is much closer to Chenonceaux than you cited, Simon - about 25km - about as far as Blois, which when I went about 20 years ago was not worth entering. Loches has several areas of interest.

Posted by
250 posts

Andrew you're right - It is closer, as long as you're prepared to let a 7 y/o cyclist ride along a Departmentale with a very bad record for road accidents. I think that Chenonceaux-Loches-Chitenay, at over 90km (avoiding main routes), would be pretty hard going and leave no time for sightseeing. Or lunch - which would be a shame :)

Don't get me wrong - I love Loches, and it's the one off the beaten track place we recommend people visit. But I wouldn't like to cycle to there from Chenonceau via the shortest route

Posted by
5139 posts

I would be very cautious taking any route advice from this forum unless the respondent is a touring cyclist. For picnic supplies and/or lunch stops the local knowledge at your overnight stops may be your best information source.

Will your daughter be riding her own bike or are you on a tandem? What kind of distances can your daughter ride and can she handle hills? Is the self-guided tour luggage supported or are you riding self-contained? Answers to these questions will affect your options.

Posted by
4836 posts

Chenonceau is quite tiny — I can think of a bakery there but not too much of any supermarket (even a mini-mart) although I may be wrong. Perhaps the best would be to check with your lodging to see if they could prepare a sack lunch for you (are you staying in hotels or camping I guess is a critical question!).

Chaumont is a bit bigger and has several bakeries and at least a mini-mart or two in the town down along the river.

Amboise is easy and will have plenty of choice.

I tend to be like Simon and enjoy the splendor of Chambord from the outside. There are little tourist shops (including places to eat) near the parking lot but I don’t know enough about what else is nearby.

Blois is a city, so no problem there. I don’t know Chitenay at all.

Chenonceau is also my favorite — the grounds, the castle. It has a romantic feel to it and is small enough to feel “intimate” and big enough to be impresssive. Its siting is also magnificent.

I am sure this will be a wonderful trip.

For Blois and Ambroise, i would look at Google maps and see what kind of grocery stores, cheese shops, butchers etc pop up.

Posted by
1241 posts

Simon, thank you.
I confess to not having read all the details of OP's trip.
I just saw only one chateau I prefer and noted that they would remain east of Tours.

Posted by
22987 posts

Chenonceau has good catering on the grounds. There is a decent selection at a place near the car park for picnics in the trees, and a reasonably priced very tasty restaurant inside. I've happily enjoyed both. I wasn't looking in the village.

Posted by
20 posts

Yes, I’m sorry, I may have been unclear in my original post. We have booked with a company so the route I have listed is what they have provided us and what we will be riding. Since we will be spending a lot of time on the bikes, my question is would we want to visit the chateau listed or would there be something else in the immediate area we might enjoy more. For example “Don’t bother seeing the castle at Blois, because you can do xx in Blois instead (ie vineyard, park, art gallery, etc)” I don’t believe there are a lot of other attractions in the area, but I’d hate to spend all day at a chateau and then find out about something else we could have done that we may have liked better. And we don’t mind if the chateaus are the best thing to do, just trying to gain some insight into the area around what I have listed.

I very much appreciate all the thought put into all your responses! Thank you!!

Posted by
20 posts

She will be riding on her own and we do have luggage support, but again not looking to add a lot of miles to our path, but might not mind taking a detour from the sites listed.

Posted by
398 posts

I found Blois very interesting, but you may be able to tell by my last name that I have an ancestral connection there. The Chateau de Blois is not picture perfect like Chenonceau or Chambord, but has very interesting architecture (four wings, each of a distince architectural era). Leonardo da Vinci stayed there and is reputed to have designed the spiral staircase but that may be local legend. The bike route from Blois to Chambord is partly on quiet departmental roads, but the last half is in a dedicated bike path through the forest.

Posted by
1 posts

ADS - My wife and I have done 12 self-guided bike rides in Europe, including the Loire Valley. The outfitters we have used always supplied us with things to see/ do on the daily rides, along with restaurant suggestions for lunch and dinner. The Loire is beautiful; full of castles, rivers, and forests. Enjoy your trip, as we feel biking is the best way to slow down and learn about the culture and people away from the tourist spots.

Posted by
5 posts

I haven't been there (yet), but watching Rick's show on the Loire, I think your daughter might enjoy Clos-Luce in Amboise. It was the home of Leonardo da Vinci, and they have models of many of his inventions. Seems kid-friendly, and we plan to go with our 13-year-old who has an interest in Leonardo.