102 km!!

Time for a rest

102 km (63 miles), that is what Mike cycled the other day without me!  When I write I need absolute quiet so when I was writing the previous article, I asked Mike to go out and find something to do for the day.  Did he ever.  He took the car to the start of our Loire Valley ride, unpacked his bike, stored my battery on the back of his bike and set out in the opposite direction towards the “Gateway to the Loire” otherwise known as the lovely city of Orleans.  One of his plans was to see how far he could go on one battery in “normal” terrain, not too flat and not too mountainous.  We have occasionally ridden our bikes until there was only one bar of battery life remaining.  At that point we either cross our fingers and keep pedalling or Mike leaves me somewhere at the side of the road (i.e. café 😊) and rides on with both his and my batteries, hoping to make it to the car and then come back for me.  We had always wanted to know how far we could get on the last bar and now we do.  We also discovered that our one well-used battery took Mike 75 km before he had to switch to my battery.  Before he left, Mike had told me to update the grocery shopping list.  When he returned home about seven hours later it was without groceries.  I was surprised.  I was even more surprised hearing about the 102 km.  In France, when we don’t have nice places with open cafés and restaurants to stop in on our ride I have been shortening our distance from 40 km with one or two nice stops to 25 – 30 km.  I really don’t enjoy riding 40 km basically non-stop.  A couple of our rides recently have been 40 km but in both cases there was a lovely château to visit at about the halfway point which is great for me.

As I write this, I happened to look at the bike program we use to log our rides and create our routes that we have on the web.  We started using it in the middle of 2019.  Since then I have now ridden over 10,000 km!  I am impressed.  OK, so Mike has ridden 10,000 km plus 102.

One château that we rode to was Cheverny.  I really enjoyed this one.  It didn’t have the fascinating carvings and spires and towers that I love looking at but it felt much more like a home.  It is considered one of the best furnished  château in France.  The current owners and their three children still live year-round in one wing.  I talked to a couple of employees about that and the general consensus was that the lack of privacy must be a real problem.  Cheverny was one of the very first châteaux to open to the public 100 years ago in 1922.  It was obviously designed for comfort and show and not as a defensive building like many others were.

In one room we saw some lovely 17th century tapestries hanging on the wall that had NEVER been restored.  The colour in them is unbelievably still vibrant.  The owners of Cheverny are well known for their hounds.  The kennels house around 100 Anglo-French tri-colour hounds.  The Marquis is the master of the Cheverny hunt which has existed for 150 years.

Château du Clos Lucé

In 1515, the young French King, François I, invited Leonardo da Vinci to the royal summer home, Château du Clos Lucé, near the king’s Royal Château Amboise. In his 60s, Da Vinci reportedly traveled by mule across the mountains from Italy to central France, carrying with him sketchbooks and unfinished artwork.  Today the Louvre is thrilled that one of those pieces was the Mona Lisa. Da Vinci was hired as “The King’s First Painter, Engineer and Architect”.

Mike and I visited the Château du Clos Lucé with it’s Leonardo da Vinci museum.  It was quite interesting.  The château is less than ½ km from the King’s residence in the Royal Château Amboise.  A 400 metre tunnel was built underground to allow da Vinci easy access to the king who considered himself a friend and a fan of da Vinci’s.

When we were visiting some of the châteaux we were reminded about the Golden Ratio or “divine proportion”.  Simplified this says that if, for example, you have a rectangle then the most pleasing size would be one where the length was 1.618 times the width.  Some of the châteaux were designed so that the front of the château had a length 1.618 times the height.  If you are writing articles, the typestyle would be nicely balanced if the heading was approx 1.618 times the size of the normal text. This ratio comes up an awful lot in nature as well as in architecture, music, paintings and more.  When specifically applied you are said to have created a balanced and aesthetically pleasing composition.   Leonardo DaVinci was probably the most famous artist said to use the Golden Ratio in many of his paintings. Just something for the designers in my family to keep in mind.  Mike wonders if the golden ratio will evolve over time as we adjust our sense of proportion to correspond with all our electronic screens.  I don’t think so.

Leonardo da Vinci museum and courtyard

Mike and I talked with one couple in our campground who had been invited to an event at a private château.  They told us that they talked with someone in real estate who was saying that the town wasn’t really happy that the château was private as it didn’t help bring in money or tourism to the town like other châteaux did.

Most of the campgrounds that we have stayed in have been full of French campers. I thought this might be because of the pandemic which caused lots of people to stay within their country borders when camping. We have been told that, unrelated to the pandemic, the French people often just stay in France for their camping trips. Based on what we have seen in previous years I can believe that. The campground that we are now in on the Loire is certainly the exception to the rule. I would guess that 50% of the campers here are from the Netherlands. It is amazing how many campers we see everywhere from such a small country.

Mini Châteaux

Châteauu de Chambord at the Mini Châteaux Park

Mike and I spent an afternoon wandering around a park of 41 Loire Valley miniature replica châteaux 1/25th of their full size .  They also had a replica village onsite.  It was fascinating.  You got a much better idea of the various sizes of the châteaux seeing them all in one area.  You could also the different styles and the ones that started life as defensive fortifications.

The picture above is of Mike at a replica of the Château de Chambord that we visited a week ago.  The picture I recently posted showed the château currently covered in scaffolding as renovations or upkeep was in process.  This replica shows us how lovely it really is.

Compare this replica to Cheverny above

Here is a picture of the replica of the Château de Cheverny, near the top of this article.  The colour difference is largely because of the sun and using two different cameras.  As you can see, it is just great how accurate they are. The day was much cooler than expected and it made for a lovely afternoon.

The bad news is that today’s heat is awful and every day this week is supposed to get hotter.  Europe is starting another bad heat wave and we are leaving our great electricity 16 amp 240 V (equivalent to 32 amp at home).  Our next campground will only have 10 amp circuit breakers, some only have 5 or 6 amp service and that won’t even run one air conditioner reliably. I sure hope we don’t regret it.  If I haven’t melted you will hear from us in another week or so.  Oh, and our next campground is kicking us out after one week as they are fully booked the following week.  The schools in France are now closed for the summer holidays.  Lovely. 

Châteauu de Villandry at the Mini Châteaux Park

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