This is new and a big improvement!
I dress and go down to the dining room with a queasy stomach. I’m not used to such a fatty diet and being celiac, often there’s nothing else for me to eat but fatty meats and cheese. I’m also underslept, having had chocolate the night before (can I really complain about this?).
At the morning route talk, we get directions, tickets for entry into the chateaux we will be visiting, and lots of do-it-yourself trail mix snacks, which I figure I won't need.
Here is our over all route map for the first three days. But of course we get the more explicit directions to use with our odometers (I can't seem to get mine calibrated correctly).
Francois 1 was a huge patron of the arts (also standardized the French language from its many dialects), and invited Leonardo da Vinci to work on Chambord (he brought the Mona Lisa with him). Architecturally, Chambord is a combination of French Medieval and Renaissance influences. That said, it’s entirely unique.
Over its lifetime, several descendants of the King tried to renovate it, draining the swamps, building walls of containment and devoting their lives to it - but Chambord was a demanding mistress. In no case was it ever made more habitable - or convenient (though I did not notice mosquitoes) - and it was ultimately taken over by the State. But it is breath taking, and tourists rightfully flock to the place which funds its upkeep.
It’s frightening to find myself in the French countryside with dwindling strength and mental faculties; I am glad I at least have sugar, but I rue that I did not bring my own gf bread, peanut butter and jelly from home. Next time, I resolve to stock up on that trail mix in the morning.
Incidentally, the Back Roads van sweeps by us periodically. We've been instructed to signal if we need help - yet it never occurs to me to do this, since it's not bicycle help! In thinking about it afterwards, I realize that trail mix and other first aid are probably all available in that van. This trip is all about setting your own pace, and it's put me in a very self-sufficient frame of mind. But if there's a lesson here, it's that there's such a thing as being too self-sufficient; it would have been smarter to ask for help.
That said, my biggest regret about this trip is that I am celiac and cannot enjoy one of France’s most outstanding aspects: its pastry and its breads. It is truly sinful to have to skip them. I am grateful though, that I can at least have the wines.
Our next destination is Chateau Cheverny, and this time I tag along with a couple who cycle at a speed that affords some dawdling. We ride on coach roads still within the walls of Chambord.
There is an option at each of these stops, to take the shuttle back to the hotel, but I wouldn’t dream of missing a kilometer of these rides. They – and their destinations – are a virtual beauty overload. Just what this New Yorker has been craving.
Dinner is beautifully presented and prepared: