Thursday 7 June St. Florent, Loire Valley 75 km. Total 405 km
In the deep forest, from my bed, I watch the woods lighten. A woodpecker is tapping above and the woods seem to be a ringing bell of clear light and songs of birds. Getting up breaks and cracks the brittle twigs and leaves beneath the tent.
On the way to breakfast at St. Nort, there is a tranquil misty pond, where large water rats swim, and a man is standing amazed, scythe stilled in his hand, as we pass. The Loire is crossed at Ancenis. [On many trips down through France, the Loire is always the definitive point when you start to feel the influence of the South]
Ancenis is where we see the first chateau of the journey, and is busy and noisy with traffic. Cycle across the Loire at siesta time and follow the Loire valley up steep hills in towns, past red roofed clay houses, sandy coloured soil, dryer land, fewer trees, and vineyards.
Arrive at St Florent hungry and weary so that nothing seems attractive. For lunch we try out croques monsieurs which are new to us, and are disappointed to find that on this occasion they consist of 2 slices of white bread with a bit of boiled ham and a smear of cheese. We are a bit sad because we have nearly spent up and are still hungry. Buy a plain cake and eat it on a green bench overlooking the Loire, beside famous old churches (to explore tomorrow). The campsite is shut – so camp anyway, being glad of a free night. Heavy rain and thunder confines the meal to the tent, which makes me feel cosy if a little grimy and sticky.
Friday 8 June St Florent, Rest Day 0km Total 405 km
St Florent to breakfast at a hotel bar looking over the Loire. The town is quiet at this time. We discover that our campsite is on an island in the river right on the banks of a quiet backwater. The abbey stands at the top of the hill overlooking the town, a cool white place,
We spoke to a photographer who told us about the region we will travel through next and invited us to go on a ride with him to photograph the Loire . We didn’t go, as enough riding had already been done, and instead washed hair and clothes in cold water and walked to the waters edge where thousands of mosquitoes fly out of the grass as we tread it. The frogs begin to sing and the abbey tower of St Florence is looming close above the trees of the campsite.