So we left you on a sunny morning in Tours and you now find us on a sunny afternoon in Blois. In the meantime we’ve experienced one massive day, two shorter days, French hospitality at its finest and an impromptu swim down the Loire.
First to the canoeing… We were both pretty happy to be leaving the city of Tours and the shock it had given us. So, upon being told by a friendly Canadian assistant in the
Tourist Office that the city of Amboise wasn’t too far upstream, had camping on an island, beneath a chateaux, with a lot of bars and cafès chucked in for good measure… Amboise seemed the perfect antidote for our troubles. This was at 2pm. By 7.15 her estimated
two hour paddle had become a bad joke. Then at some time around 7.22pm (I could be more precise, every extra second paddling at this point seemed a second too far) we spotted the famous bridge on the horizon. Beautiful as they are, historic bridges generally mean strong currents and it was therefore another hour before we had negotiated both canoeing the bridge and locating the biggest campsite I have ever seen (in my lengthy two week experience of campsites that is). Once again, finishing the day in a picturesque square with a glass of wine and a cake made up for everything the Loire had thrown at us.
Since then we have had two shorter days as we canoed to the next town and adjoining campsite, and then on to Blois for a stay with a young man met through warmshowers.org.
In hindsight, these days were pretty easy going with slower water, and only the heat, the massive fish, some stoned Bastille Day revellers as well as an impromptu swim (completely over-dramatised by Jzimmee in the alternative blog) to keep us on our toes. I’ll therefore take this opportunity to fill you in on the unwritten routines that we have fallen into on this trip. I’m still running three or four times a week. Jimmy’s still saying how much he’d like to go for a run three or four times a week. So that's the exercise regime outside of canoeing.
Two weeks in, diet-wise we are both agreed that we have better main meals than either of us enjoyed during university. Saucisson makes regular appearances here, while lunch takes in the wide variety of cheese, cheese and ham or jam and peanut butter, brown bread or a baguette where convenient. These main meals are accompanied by fruit, nuts, more sandwiches and our dwindling supply of energy and protein bars as the day wears on. We try and do a large shop on rest days and then top up on milk, fruit and vegetables in any towns where we stop. There you go, the all-you-can-eat canoeing the continent diet laid bare.
So that's the canoeing, the daily regime and now for the French hospitality. While the gendarme took more than a bit of convincing and we've met our share of aloof waiters, the mother and son that we find ourselves staying with for nights 14 and 15 provide all and everything you could ever want from a French household. Having spent two hours dragging the canoe, our equipment and our food supplies through a hilly city centre as the restaurants began to fill, we would have willingly accepted a backgarden to camp in. Instead, we were given cool drinks. Then a hearty meal. Then some local cheeses and finally some ice cream. All served by life-long friends we had known for no more than an hour but who were excited to host us in a house so vibrant, homely and uniquely French that speaking English to one another sounded foreign. And finally after the desserts and the cheese, a midnight jaunt to be inspired by the Chambord chateau, illiminated on a balmy French night.
As ever the focus is now on the next target city. However, while Orleans will provide the next set of built up bridges, organised tourism and hopefully another plat du jour, we are both hopeful that in 7 or 8 days time it will be the Loire that has been conquered as we meet our point of departure on the canal de Briere. After a week of hard work punctuated by French culture, followed by catastrophes, I'm not going to hope for anymore than that.