Birthdays, rest days and BIG cycling days

Week 3: Angers to Poitiers

I don’t think there’s a better way to start a (birthday) day’s cycling than in newly-laundered clothes, freshly showered, fuelled by half a loaf of brioche (chased down by the obligatory pain au chocolat), and singing along to your favourite musicals obnoxiously loudly while bombing along a river path. But that’s about where The Amazing Birthday Cycle stopped being so amazing.

Feeling revived by the hospitality of our Warmshowers hosts in Angers and excited for the journey ahead, Chillo and I set out on the morning of my birthday for the ultimate treat after two weeks in a tent – a B&B. I’m talking ensuite bedroom, welcoming owners and delicious food. We were barely two weeks into our trip, but two nights of home comforts (generously supported by family and friends) were oh so tempting, and if you can’t spoil yourself on your birthday, when can you?

The Birthday Cycle was too stressful to even think about taking photos, so here’s a picture of a bridge COVERED in wisteria instead.

Of course, the supposedly easy ride there was scuppered by my appalling sign following and my first fall of the trip, resulting in a delicious scab on my knee that Chillo keeps telling me not to touch. Google Maps was taking us on a merry dance: we had no idea which direction to go in as the location marker kept jumping all over the place, we kept ending up on horribly busy roads that we couldn’t figure out how to avoid and when we thought we were getting on to cycle paths they just ended up on construction sites with nowhere to go.

By this point I was pretty close to having a full on birthday hissy fit, and at the side of the road I came embarrassingly close to just sitting down with my legs crossed and refusing to budge. But after some calm words from Chillo and a few deep breaths we eventually made it to La Rive Gauche, two hours later than planned, but having reached some great speeds on the beautifully straight road there with a hefty tailwind, so things were looking up.

“Look like you’re really happy in the Loire valley!”

It’s amazing what a day or so’s rest, a warm bed and bathroom to yourself can do. We were already feeling pretty good from Angers, and this was just the extra bolster we needed to help us reflect on our first couple of weeks and take in what’s ahead. The owners Sheena and Joël, a British/French couple, made us feel so at home, and painstakingly pored over maps to help us plan the ideal route through the Loire Valley, gave us some delicious home smoked meat for the journey and we also knocked back some rum they’d brought from travels in Myanmar.

So with morale levels at an all time high we bombed it through the Loire, struggling not to stop every five minutes to take in the view. It’s a very rich area and it shows – every village along the river was just full-on property porn and with the 1st May labour day coming up there was a holiday mood in the air. We eventually stumbled on the stunning town of Chinon, and rather than heading away from the river and finding a patch of field to sneak into as we had originally planned, we took one look at the campsite facing the medieval town, framed by a glorious sunset and decided that we couldn’t tun our backs on it. Looking across the river from out tent while stuffing our faces with Carambars, it was very clear we’d made the right decision.

How about that sky though

And on to Poitiers, where the lovely Vincent, Julie and their dog Houston from Warmshowers were waiting for us. It was our first time trying to navigate our way into a big city and it definitely tested our patience – with navigation apps and each other. Trying to avoid dual carriageways, taking meandering paths through industrial estates and theme parks (shout out to Futuroscope, still inexplicably going strong), all while not actually being able to see the actual city led to a couple more deep breaths and (sort of) calm words. But after some last minute hills and a bit of rain we made it to the centre of Poitiers and washed down the 80kms with a beer.

The couple of days spent getting to Poitiers have seen us go off the easy-to-follow cycle routes like the voie vertes and actually do a bit more navigating around the roads, as well as pushing ourselves further to get in more distances and climbs. Dare I say it, but I’m kind of starting to feel like a cyclist…

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