Day 4: Bléré to Amboise

Walking in France: Morning coffee and croissants with the local paper in Bléré
Morning coffee and croissants with the local paper in Bléré

Wednesday, 1 June 2005
Distance 16 km
Duration 3 hours 40 minutes
Ascent 137 m, descent 125 m
Map 26 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)

Our plan for the day was to cross back to the Loire on a cycle path that we had been told about. It was not very far, so we rose at a leisurely hour and went back to the village for Bléré coffee and croissants in the square.

My toes were individually wrapped in sticking plaster in an attempt to prevent what had already happened. The only reliable treatment for blisters that I have found is not to get them in the first place.

Walking in France: On a quiet road through the forest
On a quiet road through the forest

By the time we got back to the camping ground, the dew had dried from the tent and we set off across the bridge and then on a small side road which took us to connect with the cycle way, marked with green signs.

It was also used by local traffic, but very few cars came past. In fact we met very few of anything.

We walked through rolling fields of grain, then entered a thick forest and stopped for lunch at the junction with a busier road, the one direct from Chenonceaux.

Walking in France: Lunch on the way to Amboise
Lunch on the way to Amboise

We had to follow this road for a few kilometres until we got close to Amboise, where we escaped onto a tiny street and ended up at the door of the Clos Lucé, the last home of Leonardo da Vinci.

Leonardo lived in this comfortable mansion for three years until his death in 1519, supported by François I, purely to provide the king with daily edifying conversation. We went into the grounds and looked around, then took an alleyway down a steep hill which came out at the back of the royal palace and into tourist bedlam.

Walking in France: Being tourists at the Clos Lucé, Amboise
Being tourists at the Clos Lucé, Amboise

A solid line of eateries served the jostling mass, and down along the river it was even worse. As the Office of Tourism was closed for lunch, we sat down at an unspeakable brasserie where the waiters spoke a kind of sneering dog-English.

The coffee took so long to arrive that we were on our feet to leave when it came.

Walking in France: An afternoon nap beside the Loire, Amboise
An afternoon nap beside the Loire, Amboise

At the Office of Tourism we found out that the camping was on an island in the river, just a short walk over the bridge.

When we got there we had to insist on paying our €8 on the spot, although the woman was doubtful. Correct procedure was to pay as we left, after 8:30 in the morning, when the boom gate opened. She seemed incapable of imagining that we did not have car and would be long gone by 8:30.

We found a delightful grassy spot for our tent, looking over the shallows and sandbanks of the Loire through a screen of trees, with the royal château itself just beyond. The big campervans that required electricity could not use these choice sites. My feet were hurting and I collapsed in the shade for a while before I even had the strength for a shower.

Walking in France: Chateau d'Amboise from near the camping ground
Chateau d’Amboise from near the camping ground
Walking in France: The walled courtyard of Le Cadran restaurant where we had dinner, Amboise
The walled courtyard of the restaurant where we had dinner

By evening we were greatly restored and very hungry. Leaving our washed clothes fluttering between two trees, we stepped back over the bridge and strolled around the streets, which were emptying quickly as the shops closed.

The restaurant we chose, Le Cadran, had a walled courtyard at the back, painted in Mediterranean style with trompe l’oeuil windows, potplants and a cat.

Walking in France: Dinner in Amboise
Dinner in Amboise

It was packed with busy diners and we found a table beside a young couple whose nationality we never found out, as they never spoke a word. They seemed to be in the last stages of a marital collapse, and looked everywhere except at each other, with scowling faces.

We had a wonderful meal of omelette, pasta and salad, with two baskets of bread and a jug of wine. As usual, not a particle of food went back to the kitchen, in contrast to our silent neighbours, who sent back most of their beautiful salads.

As we returned over the bridge, the château was lit up rosily by the last rays of the setting sun.

Walking in France: Chateau d'Amboise on the way back to the camping after dinner
The chateau at dusk

Previous day: Montrichard to Bléré

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