Category Archives: ACROSS THE POND

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.

 

SUMMER IS COMING: IT’S TIME TO PREPARE YOUR VACATIONS IN FRANCE

Story and Photos by ITN European Reporter Herve’ Rebollo

Salut à toi American rider!

Have you ever been to … France / Paris my friend?  Do you know my country?  Maybe not … I even can suppose that you don’t always have a good opinion of my country and French people … I’ll only answer you: stop trusting TV /medias and come to see by yourself (It will be a pleasure for my family and I to help you to see which nice country France is). Continue reading SUMMER IS COMING: IT’S TIME TO PREPARE YOUR VACATIONS IN FRANCE

LE MANS: BUGATTI CIRCUIT

Story and Photos by ITN European Reporter Herve’ Rebollo

Let me take you to the Le Mans MotoGP 2019 where I was invited last week as VIP for some professional reasons I’ve forgotten …

I was doubly lucky with that invitation: I would attend one of the most fantastic motorcycle race, the French Moto Grand Prix 2019 (– 27 laps, 112. 995 km / 72,2 miles ) and I would be “obliged” to come using my bike to avoid being stuck in the traffic right after the race. A great and cool ride of 500km aller-retour on the week-end of mid may. YES!!!

As a result everyone was waiting for, Marc Marquez took his Repsol Honda to victory at this French GP (his third win of the season, and a landmark 300th premier-class win for Honda).

But, do you know where this Moto GP took place? Do you know the name of this legendary world-wide circuit? Do you know where it is located?

May be not. So, let me the pleasure to introduce some information to your biker culture.

The Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans, also known as Circuit de la Sarthe (after the 1906 French Grand Prix triangle circuit) located in the city of Le Mans, county of Sarthe, is a semi-permanent motorsport race course chiefly known as the venue for the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race. Comprising private, race-specific sections of track in addition to public roads which remain accessible most of the year, its present configuration is 13.626 kilometres (8.467 mi) long, making it one of the longest circuits in the world.

The Le Mans circuit has a long and proud history in motor sport, more famously for 4 wheel racing, but the French circuit is a fan and rider favourite when it comes to MotoGP, with the capacity to accommodate 100,000 attendees. The circuit lies 5km south of city of Le Mans and 200km south-west of the French capital or Paris, proving accessible and popular for travelling fans. The circuit was opened in 1966 and was built around Circuit de la Sarthe, the existing 24-Hour track and was first used for a Grand Prix event in 1969, when the 500 race was won by Giacomo Agostini. Since its opening, Le Mans has hosted 26 Grand Prix events including the Grand Prix ‘Vitesse du Mans’ in 1991. After 1995 the circuit was struck off the calendar after a serious accident involving Alberto Puig. The circuit was returned to the calendar in 2000 after safety improvements were completed. The current Le Mans Bugatti Circuit consists of 14 turns; 5 left corners and 9 right corners with the longest straight measuring 0.674 km.

Capacity of the race stadium, where the short Bugatti Circuit is situated, is 100,000.

And of course, during these 3 days of this French Moto GP in the village of the brands, mainly dedicated to the god of speed, you even can meet your favorite brand: yes, the MoCo is there!

Right at the main entrance, you can visit the Musée des 24 Heures du Mans an amazing motorsport museum.

Up to 85% of the lap time is spent on full throttle, putting immense stress on engine and drivetrain components. Additionally, the times spent reaching maximum speed also mean tremendous wear on the brakes and suspension as cars must slow from over 320 km/h (200 mph) to around 100 km/h (60 mph) for the sharp corner at the village of Mulsanne.

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Car speeds increased dramatically in the 1960s, pushing the limits of the “classic circuit” and sparking criticism of the track as being unsafe, after several trials related fatalities occurred. Since 1965, a smaller but permanent BUGATTI Circuit was added which shares the pit lane facilities and the first corner (including the famous Dunlop bridge) with the full “Le Mans” circuit.

And by the way, why Bugatti? Because the directors of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest / ACO (West Automotive Club) at the time honoured the French constructor’s glory which marked the history of the auto and motorsports. As proof, the type 35 Bugatti and its 2,000 victories between the two world wars and the Bugatti Royale, the most legendary car of all time until the Veyron of today…so tribute is paid to one of the most emblematic car constructors in French motorsports.

Le Mans was most famous for its 6 km (3.7 mi) long straight, called Ligne Droite des Hunaudières, a part of the route départementale (for the Sarthe département) D338 (formerly Route Nationale N138). As the Hunaudières leads to the village of Mulsanne, it is often called the Mulsanne Straight in English, even though the proper Route du Mulsanne is the one from or to Arnage (if you have time and even if you don’t like car races, take time to watch Le Mans movie, issued in 1971 with Steve Mac Queen – a blast!).

The French Grand Prix was held on different circuits in its history: on the Charade Circuit between 1959 and 1967, Le Mans Circuit on numerous occasions since 1969, alternating with the Paul Ricard Circuit at Le Castellet, used it for the first time in 1973, the Circuit Paul Armagnac in Nogaro in 1978 and 1982 and the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours once in 1992. Since 2000 the race is held at Le Mans on the Bugatti Circuit.

Son next time you want attend a great motorcycle race, please come to France. I’ll take you for a 3 days trip to Le Mans.

Waiting for you American rider.

Hervé, you French biker friend.

 

 

THE 42nd CLASSIC BIKE RALLY PARIS-BOURGES

Story and Photos by ITN European Reporter Herve’ Rebollo

Salut à toi American rider,

Every year, during the week-end of Easter, I use to attend a very
sympathetic rally which takes place right in the center of France, in and
around the beautiful city of Bourges.

This rally of 3 days is organized by my friends of the ACETYLENE MOTO-CLUB.
A little local MC (County of BERRY) dedicated to old motorcycles. I’m lucky
enough to attend this event as their “official” photographer.

Of course during these 3 days, you can see / admire about 120 “old ladies”
from the thirties to the eighties.

The ambiance between the attendees is simply amazing. When you come to this
rally, you know you gonna have fun, technical talking, speak English (many
guys come from UK), see amazing and rare old bikes, have 3 beautiful rides
on the roads of France center and naturally have great food and wines.

For this 2019 edition I came with my friend Pierre-Louis and his rare INDIAN
Chieftain of 1947 (which has been the star of the rally). This motorcycle is
in an incredible perfect state.

Of course, attending such an event you must be prepare to see some things
you don’t use to encounter with you modern motorcycle.

As oil …

An unbelievable consumption of spark plugs …

Smoke as never …

Historical accessories …

Vintage bikers …

Local products …

Marvelous engines …

Many mechanical failures …

With their first level of intervention: to push strongly …

Their maintenance on the road …

And some original personal solutions …

All the generations of bikers …

Marvelous roads …

And typical villages of our French heartland …

At the rally PARIS-BOURGES, you will see many motorcycle brands SOYER, French …

INDIAN, American …

AJS, English …

MOTO GUZZI, Italian …

YAMAHA, Japanese …

ROYAL ENFIELD, Indian …

BMW, German …

And of course, many others …at least around twenty different motorcycle
brands.

You will meet female riders …

Lovers …

Kids …

And puppies …

Thus, you understand that this rally mixes all the ingredient to make it a
great moment of fun and give a real good time to the all attendees.

This is why I strongly recommend you come with me for the edition 2020.

We’re awaiting for you my American biker friend.

See ya soon on the road …who knows?

Hervé, your French biker friend.