A bike ride from Paris to Brittany, along the Seine, the Loire and the Nantes to Brest canal. Summer 2011. Day 2.
Malesherbes - Olivet (Orléans). 83 km.
via Ondreville, Grangermont, Givraines, Boynes, Bouilly en Gâtinais, Sully sur Loire, Fay aux Loges, the Orleans canal, Combleux, Orléans, Olivet "Camping municipal du Pont Bouchet.
Grey skies, no rain to start with; strong wind from South-West. Sunny in the afternoon and evening !
I thought that the serious warm-up exiting Malesherbes up a long, steep hill would be the only hurdle of the day....
After all, the countryside both sides of Pithiviers, is desperately flat and obstacle- free.
I'd forgotten that the wind loves such places since it can blow, uninterrupted, over the vast, endless wheat-fields....
When I reached the top of the hill it suddenly hit me, full blast. As all cyclists know too well, nine times out of ten, one's fate will be "headwinds"; very seldom "tailwinds"... For me, the day started with a double Whammy.
Just outside Boynes, I crossed the "Méridienne verte", (Green meridian), a crazy year- 2000 project. The idea was to plant a thick row of trees along the Paris Meridian from Dunkirk to Barcelona. (Deep down, geographers in France have never really accepted Greenwich ....). It never got finished. So there's very little chance that, in 50 years or so, it shows up on satellite pictures as a long green line running North-South across the country.
Fortunately, an hour later, the forest that extends North of Orleans, served as a wind-breaker making the ride a lot easier.
The road heading South-West wove through hectares and hectares of beautiful pine trees, beech, birch and oak trees.
Reaching Sully sur Loire at midday I decided the place was OK for a quick lunch break on the town square, just opposite the City Hall. (Mairie).
A few kilometers down the road, at Fay aux Loges, I hit the tow path that runs along the Orleans canal.
From there it was a smooth ride to Combleux where the canal meets the Loire river.
The boats here are quite different from the standard river boats: long and narrow, they are designed to navigate on the shallow waters of the Loire. Some of them are equipped with what looks like a garden shed. Those that I saw were all painted dark brown or black. Some had masts.
From that point, the canal runs parallel to the Loire all the way to Orléans, for a few kilometers. It is no longer used since most of it is either dried up or filled with water lilies and other aquatic plants.
In Orléans, a short section of the canal had been walled at both ends to hold enough water for an upcoming river-boat festival, the largest river-boat event according to the brochure !
Continuation along the very pleasant embankment towards Pont Royal, the 'Royal bridge'. Olivet, my destination for the day, is located in the Southern outskirts of the city.
The municipal camp grounds are run by a very active, pleasant and helpful family.
In addition to providing visitors with the usual tourist info, they run a small shop, organize wine and local produce tasting-events and even have a pizza truck visit every evening for those who don't feel like cooking.
The place is beautiful.
After a pizza and a couple of beers, the cyclist retired to his quarters for a well deserved rest in the little green tent pitched on the bank of the Loiret river that flows through the camp grounds at a snail's pace.