This trip was organized at the last minute when it became clear that strike action would prevent us from getting a train to start the planned Perigord trip.
We started south from Paris with no particular destination in mind. The route below is being developed as we go and depends on whims, hotel possibilities and weather. The distances shown in the table are sometimes less than the actual amount we actually did due to side trips and occasional wrong turns.
|Oct 14||Paris to Cely-en-Biere||62 km||Auberge des Acacias||Google Map|
|Oct 15||Cely-en Biere to Fontainebleau (with loop to Loing)||56 km||Richelieu||Google Map|
|Oct 16||Fontainebleau to Malesherbes||32 km||Ecu de France||Google Map|
|Oct 17||Malesherbes to Montargis||52 km||Hotel de la Gloire||Michelin Map|
|Oct 18||Montragis to Briare||55 km||Hotel le Cerf||Google Map|
|Oct 19||Briare to Chateau-Renard||43 km||Le Sauvage||Michelin Map|
|Oct 20||Chateau-Renard to Joigny||38 km||Paris Nice||Michelin Map|
In the following, the route descriptions and similar stuff were written by Doug while detailed stuff on meals, scenery etc was mostly written by Marilyn. Readers who know us will know who “I” is in the various parts. Anyone stumbling across this who doesn’t won’t care.
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A Note on Hotels and Restaurants
Hotels, restaurants and cafés in the French countryside are definitely part of the experience. Hotels are mostly small by North American standards and usually operated by the couple who own it. We typically phoned a few hours ahead to confirm a room was available (Advance reservations would of course be better in high seasons) and from that point until check out, the only ” identification” they ask for is your last name — meal, drinks and whatever just added to the bill without signature or anything.
We find the Logis de France “chain” particularly good for hotels outside the major cities. As best I can tell, it is a loose federation of independent hotels with a shared booking system. In general, they are reasonably priced (Typically 45 to 65 Euros a night) and usually have a restaurant which ranges from good to truly outstanding. This can be important in smaller places where there may be no other restaurants.
As a typical example, we could mention the hotel le Sauvage in Chateau-Renard where we arrived around one, had lunch, supper and breakfast with wine at each meal (except breakfast) and a nice room with a total bill of 128 Euros.
Day 1: Paris to Cély-en-Bière
Left Paris on a cool but sunny morning which warmed as time went on. Things were a little slow due to traffic through Charenton le Pont but then we were riding easily south along the Seine. The route then becomes pretty easy as long as you cross the river as indicated on the route map (We didn’t and lost some time).
We arrived in Cély after about 4½ hours of cycling. The village is picturesque and appears very old. Unfortunately, the light wasn’t great so we got few photos.
The Auberge d’Acacia is an old country hotel with somewhat plain but very clean rooms. The dining room takes you back in time with its wallpaper, old large wooden furnishings and stately service. The food was outstanding and very formally served, beginning with olives and little biscuits and whole grain bread (Marilyn`s favourite, which is becoming more popular these days.) We were seemingly the only hotel guests and the very friendly and efficient waiter was quite interested in our bike trip, where we’d been and how far, future plans, and so on. He was there in the morning, also, vacuuming and cleaning, while we enjoyed our breakfasts in the huge foyer/café. The grand room had huge posters of the town in the 1800 and 1900s, like a museum really.
Day 2: Cély-en-Bière to Fontainebleau with loop to River Loing
A note on biking in and out of Fontainebleau: Routes should be chosen with some care. Except from the east you pass through the Fontainbleau Forest and the roads are long and straight so traffic can be fast; so, where possible, you need to stay away from the busier ones (Don’t even think about N7 or N6). From the east, if you take the direct route in, you seem to spend forever on a wide, busy main street through Avon, like a Canadian suburb or’strip’ before finally entering Fontainebleau. There are minor roads which largely bypass Avon and I recommend one of these.
The day started with a nice quiet 14 km ride through nice villages and then the Fontainebleau Forest into Fontainebleau. We then planned to ride towards the Loing River, perhaps spending the night in Moret-sur-Loing. We arrived there around lunch time and it turned out to be an excellent choice – a pretty town with an excellent choice of restaurants, upscale shops, etc. After eating lunch in a typical modest bar-restaurant (Entrée, Steak Frites and Dessert for about 10 Euros), we headed to the town’s only Logis hotel only to find that it was closed for vacation. Dang it – it was situated right in the centre of town and very attractive.
After some deliberation, we decided to check another Logis hotel in Vulaine and, if we didn’t like that, proceed further to Fontainebleau which is what we ended up doing. The hotel in Vulaine, although also nice and in a scenic spot along the Seine, was quite isolated, definitely not suitable for Marilyn in mid-afternoon on a sunny day. So it was on to Fontainebleau where we stayed at the Hotel Richelieu in a very large bright room with windows overlooking the city hall. Hotels in Fontainebleau can be expensive but this was good value at 80 Euros. We enjoyed a picnic that evening in our rooms because we were still full from our large lunch – enjoyable too. We went out for a drink at a divine bar beside our hotel called Shakers. Wow,it was all red velvet walls and elegant comfortable chairs – an upscale wine bar with mirrors everywhere and of course, cool-looking people drinking martinis and other colourful drinks. The couple of couples near us should have been offered our room – they were so amorous! Cute.
Day 3: Fontainebleau to Malsherbes (32 km)
This was planned as a short day as I decided to take the time to replace my tires which were starting to look somewhat worn.
The road out of Fontainebleau was moderately busy but after a few kilometres we picked up minor roads heading through very rural country. Just a few kilometres before Malsherbes, we came upon a goat farm that had a shop and offers simple country meals. They were offering tartines (toasted open-faced sandwiches) with a wide variety of things on top (ham, cheeses, potatoes, onions, apples, nuts, etc.). We had some, of course, bought some tasty goat cheese for 1.80 euro and amazed ourselves at all the happy brown goats in the adjacent barn.
In Malesherbes, we stayed at the Hotel Ecu de France, another old hotel with a traditional dining room. The place was clearly being run by several generations from the same family – at one point, I was asked for my room number by a well-coiffed and spry woman who was easily 80+ years old. I noticed she left about 7 pm, home for the evening, presumably.
Our three-course meal for about 21 euros each was interesting – After a small salad of apples, tomatoes and bacon pieces (very good vinaigrette, as always), I had lamb cooked in an onion-y tomato sauce, along with a side dish of the largest ‘haricots’ I’ve ever seen. Fortunately I adore beans in any style and these, although plainly presented, were quite good. Doug had duck in a white sauce with little tiny potatoes that had been pan-fried (luckily for me, he’s the sharing type!) Doug`s pate (three thick slices of different kinds of pate served with gherkins and olives) was good too. Of course I had ice cream for dessert and Doug had several types of cheese, selected from the large serving tray.
We wondered if anyone would be at this place for dinner, especially since we arrived fairly early – we needn’t have worried. The restaurant was completely full by the time we finished supper around 9 pm – and some diners were just arriving. Even with my ample appetite, 9pm is a bit late for me to consume three good-sized courses (avec vin) and sleep well.
Day 4. Malsherbes to Montargis (52 km)
While previous days had been coolish at times, there was usually enough sun to take the chill off. Today was forecast to have a high of 11 degrees with a fair bit of sun. In the end, the sun never appeared and I doubt it got near 11 degrees either. So it was fairly cold while we were biking most of the time. The good news was that the wind was largely behind us so we did the trip fairly quickly. In fact, during some long, flat stretches we were hitting close to 40 km/hr.
We arrived in Montargis at about 2pm and stayed in the Hotel Gloire – very nice and with a welcome bath – but a little bit away from the centre of town.
Sunday is a hard old day for travellers in France and England too, as we recall. Many cafes, restaurants and even hotels and retail stores close on Sunday and Monday, making it difficult to find things to do if you arrive too early at your destination. After a delightful bath, Marilyn went for a long walk and found an interesting bar (tabac, presse, café0 that was so full of townspeople it was amazing. There were all ages there, from teenagers to seniors and all in between, drinking coffee or beer or wineand lining up six-deep to buy smokes and lottery (horse betting) tickets. There were a few curious looks but mostly in typical French fashion, we were basically ignored.
Day 5 Montargis to Briare (55 km)
We decided to head to the Loire and, with a tail wind, it was a pretty easy, fast ride. The only problem was that, since we had not been planning to come to this region, we didn’t have a good map and were unable to find anyone selling them. As a result, we were on busier roads than we would have liked. With internet access at Briare, I was able to find very nice small roads for the “almost” return to Chateau-Renard, about 16 km west of Montargis.
We had a very good, inexpensive lunch at Chatillon roughly at the halfway point.
In Briare, we stayed at the Hotel de Cerf which had very nice rooms and was quite oriented to cyclists – they even have a nice selection of rental bikes.
Day 6 Briare to Chateau-Renard (42 km)
The original plan was to keep going and return to Paris by train. However, it appears that train service, especially if one has bikes is very spotty in the Loire because of the strike. So we decided to head back north. The weather was also a concern – rain showers today and cold tomorrow with moderate winds both days.
As it turned out, it started to rain just as we left we started in a rain shower which ended in just a few minutes and we never saw the rain again. It was fairly mild and the wind was behind us; so we made a very quick trip to Chateau-Renard. There was no need to go farther as we had already decided to go to Joigny the next day (another 40 km) – one of the few locations within reach where train service seemed semi reliable.
Chateau-Renard isan old town whose main claim to fame seems to be that Joan of Arc slept there on Sept 18 and 19, 1429. The centre of the town is largely 15th century timbered construction and there is a 12th century fort and medieval tions.fortific
This small region, which doesn`t even go as far as Briare, where we were yesterday, is called Le Pays du Gatinais and it has lots to offer, including products like honey, saffron, white rabbits, volailles, and veaux de lait, as their agriculture claimstofam.e Then there are grand jardins, (Le Jardins du GrandCourtoiseau), three museums in Montargis alone, lots and lots of fishing andof course ,remnants of well-preserved chateaus and cathedrals. There are two large forests – DèOrleans and deMontargis, three routes of the grand randonee go through this region too.
For us on bicycles it was a gorgeously easy ride!! Little traffic, quiet scenic roads through forests and fields….
Lovely bar across from the hotel with a friendly and good natured pipe-smoking patron and his wife. Lots of the locals enjoy a drink and play cards there…they were just arriving as I headed home about 7 pm.
For lunch I had a liver salad (Doug even tried it and enjoyed it), then a small steak. I had ile flotante for dessert, well worth it for the custard sauce and the whipped egg white. Celine had made this dessert for us at LaMotte – delicious treat.
During the afternoon, I took a walk around town, to the remnants ofthe12th century church overlooking the town. For such a smallish village, theres a large Mairie, three flower shops, two or three patisseries, a funerarium, a store selling products from Aix-en- Provence, and at least half a dozen cafes. Several restaurants too, even a kebab shop! Oh and a Bricorama and a good sized`Casino store with everything from a huge wine selection to a bakery and a clothing section.
The Houses are half timbered and all look the same as they likely did hundreds of years ago. All are still decorated with flowering
Dinner at our Logis (same waitress as lunchtime) was quite good – a large chevre chaude salad with lardoons for me, then a bavette in a gorgeous white Rocquefort sauce with over-cooked brocolli, potatoes, carrots and beans (a child-sized portion at that). Doug had bavette. They seem to eat a lot of meat in this country, including pate, and steak and fries are on every menu. Then there’s the andouillette, the liver and the many other organs eaten in great quantity by the French. And of course the cheese and desserts. How they don’t get fat I don’t know. The restaurant was full of customers as it had been at lunch, although at lunch two rooms were functioning. Very busy for a Tuesday night.
There’s almost a full moon, quite visible from our delightful window overlooking the main square. I saw a black and white cat sneaking around the streets, hope he`s not a homeless one, although he did look in good shape.
Day 7 Chateau-Renard to Joigny (38 km)
This morning turned out not as cool as expected (about 7o instead of close to zero) and with periods of sun; so cycling especially with the wind behind us at the start and from the side later on and we got to Joigny in a couple of hours.
In about the middle of the ride we passed into the Yonne Department (The western most part of Burgundy). This is one of our favourite areas and the Burgundy influence was obvious from the food and wine we had when we arrived.
Got to our hotel (Paris Nice) in time for a very good lunch. Following which I was able to confirm the availability of a train for our return to Paris the next day.