JULY RIDE: THE LOIRE RIVER VALLEY or 300km for 300 castles

Story and Photos by ITN European Reporter Herve’ Rebollo

Salut à toi American rider,

Of the major cultural landscapes featuring river valleys in Europe perhaps the Loire Valley is the most famous. If it is the glorious chateaux that bring the tourists here, it has to be remembered it is the river Loire that is responsible for their very existence. Like most rivers it had became a place of settlement and trade since prehistory when Neanderthal man fashioned boats from tree trunks with their flint tools to navigate the river.

 

It was the Romans however who first established major settlements on its shores that would eventually become its now famous historical towns and cities. Places such as Amboise, Angers, Blois, Orleans and Tours are steeped in history that can still be appreciated today.

The temperate climate along the Loire river valley is due to Atlantic influences and this provides the remarkably diverse range of wildlife and fauna which exist today. It also provides the ideal environment that has established France’s third largest wine region.

It was its popularity with the French Royal Families that left the wonderful legacy in the form of its glorious chateaux, gardens and parks. This influence and the areas natural beauty made UNESCO designate the stretch of the river (as shown above) and its monuments a world heritage site in November 2000

The river la Loire, the longest in France, has its source in the springs on the side of Mont Gerbier de Jonc in the southern Cevennes hills within the department of the Ardeche. It then flows north to Orleans and then west through Tours and on to the Atlantic coast at Nantes (a distance of over 1000km / 621 miles) .

The river actually gives its name to a number of departments of France as it flows towards the Atlantic Ocean : Loire, Haute-Loire, Loire-Atlantique, Indre-et-Loire, Maine-et-Loire, and Saône-et-Loire. Unlike most rivers in western Europe, there are few obstacles to  the Loire’s natural flow, few locks and dams to slow its progress. One of the few obstacle, the Villerest dam, built in 1985 just south of Roanne has played a key-role in preventing recent flooding, making the Loire a popular river for boating trips flowing through attractive countryside, tofu cliffs and beautiful chateaux.

Are you among those bikers who have always dreamed of visiting the Châteaux of the Loire Valley, but don’t quite know how to go about it, or where to start? And you are wondering whether there is a ‘Châteaux of the Loire Valley Route’?

Well… there is and there isn’t: no predefined route in any case. It’s up to you to create your own itinerary and to choose which castles you want to visit. One thing’s for sure – you won’t see them all in one fell swoop (beware of the ‘château overdose’!). So, what’s the ideal approach? I suggest you visit one or two each time you come, and that you also take the time to enjoy the nearby towns, parks and gardens, and revel in a taste of the art of living, Loire Valley style. ‘Living like God in France’ as we Frenchies would say!

But a châteaux route does exist – it runs along the Loire, from the Giennois area to Anjou, via Orléans, Blois, Amboise, Tours and Saumur, covering a total of around 300km (±185 miles) over a perimeter that is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Yet, it stretches well beyond. For, contrary to popular belief, not all these châteaux are located along the banks of the Loire. Some of them are hidden amidst the forest, like the spectacular Château de Chambord, or the slightly less assuming Château de Chamerolles. Others overlook the Loire’s tributaries, such as the fortresses of Loche and Chinon. And the Château de Chenonceau which crosses the River Cher, and not the Loire – despite the fact that is one of the most frequently visited ‘Châteaux de la Loire’!

Why such a profusion? The great lords of these lands, such as the Counts of Blois and the Dukes of Anjou, built the very first fortresses to mark their respective territories across the Loire Valley. The Kings of France then took possession of them. They offered places of refuge during the Hundred Year’s War, before being transformed into Renaissance residences. The Capetians were early to settle in Orléans (their royal castle has since disappeared but its name remains thanks to the Châtelet quarter). The royal powers then moved to Amboise, then to Blois under the Valois.

Naturally any ministers, courtiers or king’s favourites worthy of their name were obliged to take up residence nearby, hence the great profusion of châteaux, manor houses and other stately residences!

The most popular châteaux among visitors are grouped together in the central part of the valley, between Orléans and Tours. But if you are coming from Paris or eastern France, you will reach the Loire Valley via Loiret. I recommend you start your châteaux route in the Giennois area (with the Châteaux de Saint-Brisson, Gien and La Bussière), or around the Orléans Forest with the Château de Chamerolles. Its Perfume Walk offers an excellent introduction to your tour of the Châteaux of the Loire Valley for it approaches History from a rather narrow, yet peculiar, angle: here, you will become an expert on the art of washing, or not, over the centuries!

Not to be missed: the Château de Sully-sur-Loire. The minister to Henry IV indulged himself in this fine medieval fortress, to enjoy a well-deserved retirement and to write his memoirs.

To the west of Orléans, on the road to Blois, the Bishops of Orléans enjoyed luxurious dwellings in Meung-sur-Loire (the incredible bishop’s baths). You can also rub shoulders with Dunois, the ‘Bastard of Orléans’, one of Joan of Arc’s companions in arms, in his Château de Beaugency.

In a nutshell, you have enough to keep you busy for a week (for here, we don’t only have castles to visit!) and to make you want to come back, to discover more!

It will be a blast, don’t worry … even if your bike wants to stay in the Loire river valley … Mine decided it!!  Right at the end of this marvelous ride of 800km/500miles my baby broke her rear bearing (in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday afternoon …cool), just for the pleasure to stay in this beautiful region … Lol!!! Not a problem, we have very efficient repair services, in less than two days the local Harley Davidson dealer gave me back my bike in a perfect and clean state (finally it was a bad thing for a good one: my bike was really dirty before this incident).

Waiting for you my American rider friend, it will be a pleasure for me to make you discover this amazing valley

See ya soon on the road, who knows???

Hervé, your French friend.

 

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2020 Sturgis Rally Date Change

Sturgis, SD (June 26, 2019) – The City of Sturgis yesterday sent a letter and changed its website to reflect a new date it set for the beginning of the 2020 Sturgis Rally within the City.  It had in late 2016 or early 2017 changed by ordinance the way it determined when the City of Sturgis would recognize the beginning date of the motorcycle rally.  Internet and other publications were not changed and many proceeded with plans based upon the date the motorcycle rally would have commenced under the decades-old formula.

The City’s website now shows the desired commencement date of the 2020 motorcycle rally in the City of Sturgis to be Friday, August 7, 2020.  This change from the date that had universally been announced is unfortunately causing confusion within the motorcycle industry and its consumer base, as well as for campgrounds, hotels, motels and individuals who’ve rented their homes for the traditional rally dates instead of the new dates.

The Sturgis Buffalo Chip will be hosting motorcycle and other Sturgis Motorcycle Rally tourists throughout the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally of 2020, as always.  The Sturgis Buffalo Chip’s Motorcycle and Music Festival will again feature performances by nationally prominent entertainers on Friday, August 7, 2020 and days following.

About the Sturgis Buffalo Chip

The Sturgis Buffalo Chip® is the Largest Music Festival in Motorcycling®. It is the world’s first and leading entertainment destination for the motorcycle enthusiast, awarded AMA Track of the Year in 2014, American Flat Track Event of the Year in 2017 and South Dakota Excellence in Tourism Innovation award winner in 2017. Since 1981, the venue’s high-profile, nine-day festival, known as The Best Party Anywhere®, remains one of the world’s most televised and longest running independent music festivals. Located east of Sturgis, SD on 600 creek-fed acres, it offers six stages of entertainment, a swimming hole, bars, mouth-watering food, showers, cabins, RVs, camping and more to visitors traveling from all corners of the world. The Chip’s concerts and races are free with camping. The Motorcycles as Art exhibit curated by Michael Lichter showcases the works of the world’s best bike builders. Numerous bike and stunt shows and all shopping, live music and events at the CrossRoads are free and open to the public. More details are available at www.BuffaloChip.com.

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Further Inquiries:

Nyla Griffith

nyla@buffalochip.com

605-347-9000

Cell: 605-920-0626

Sturgis Buffalo Chip