I’d planned our departure from Chenonceau by train for noon because check-in on the barge wasn’t until 3 PM and it was about a 2 hour train ride. But, now we were no longer going to the original starting town of Nevers.
Luckily, I found out that we could still use our tickets to Nevers and just buy ongoing tickets to Montargis, our new departure city. The bad news was that we could only stay on track IF we departed Chenonceaux at 7:20 AM instead of noon. That had our alarm going off at 6 AM, and us letting ourselves out of the locked side gate (because the reception desk wasn’t open that early), and walking to the train station by 7 AM. We were the only people standing on the platform as the sun came up –except this cat.
It appeared from the bushes and sat on the platform as if waiting for the same train as we were.
Chenonceau is somewhat Southwest of Paris. Montargis is about 75 miles Southeast of Paris. By the time we arrived in Montargis, we’d basically created a large triangle on the map -traveling about 375 miles instead of 75! (Where the blue line bends on the right of this map is Nevers -and that’s where we should have begun the bike trip).
I’d told Mike that when we got to Montargis, we’d need a taxi to get to the barge because the walk was just a bit too far for dragging suitcases with us…only there weren’t any waiting taxis outside the train station. There was a sign with a phone number we could call, but I thought… “What are the odds that that is going to go well?” (Neither of us know much French). We decided to just get it over with and walk the mile or so to the barge.
It wasn’t check-in time yet, so we dropped off our luggage and left to find a grocery store to stock up on our own snacks for the cabin.
I took a couple of pictures as we went:
After grocery shopping, next on the list was some lunch (pizza) and then back to the barge to settle into our cabin.
Of all the bike/barge trips we’ve done, this is…by far…the smallest cabin we’ve ever had. Surprisingly, we have managed to figure out where to put everything and are quite comfortable.
I had the lower bunk. My legs, from about the knees down, had to fit under the upper bunk. There was space below the upper bunk on the floor to the right of the lower bunk for our suitcases.
Main salon- where breakfast & dinner were served.
Our group had 4 Kiwis (New Zealand), 2 Australians, 2 Canadians, 4 Germans and 3 Americans (including us). Unfortunately, everyone except the Americans boarded the “ark” in pre-planned groups of four. (The Australians and Canadians had met on other travels and were reuniting for this trip).
While everyone was friendly for the most part, the groups of four always sat together for breakfasts and dinners- no matter how hard our guide tried to get them to mix things up. That meant Mike and I shared meals with the other American all week.
Having been on trips where people gladly changed dining partners every day, I can say that I think it is a nicer way to get to know everyone on the trip during the week.
I’ll cut the Germans some slack -they were the only ones with a small language barrier, so it was probably more comfortable to them to stay together. Even with the language barrier -they ended up being my favorite people on the trip!
Our guide Frederieke was a cheerful Dutch lady that seems perfect for the job of herding 15 guests around the French countryside.
She wanted to do a short warm up ride after we had all checked in so that we could get familiar with the bikes. I’m so glad we did. The bike I was given was too big for me. I was having memories of when I was maybe 5 or 6, “borrowing” my older sister’s bike. I had to ride it standing up because I couldn’t reach the pedals if I sat on the seat! This bike wasn’t quite that big, but definitely too big. I managed to get through the ride, but knew I couldn’t use it all week. Fortunately, Frederieke checked the extra bikes they had on hand and found the next size down for me.
Although you might think that the barge company would have an emergency Plan B route on file for when the water is too low… I’m pretty sure Frederieke was improvising this week’s routes as we went. ￼
Bike & Barge trips travel at a relaxed pace. Its slower than we’d go on our own, but we don’t mind slowing down and taking it easy! Our first day was 26 miles @ an average speed of 8.74 MPH.
The first day’s ride seemed like it meandered all over.
We stopped at the church in Montargis on our way out of town
Then on down the road… ￼
Lunch break was in a town called Chateau-Renard. ￼
History says that Joan of Arc stayed in this house in 1429. (Next picture)
On the road again…
Later, we took another break and the only thing open at the moment was a Boulangerie, which is the French word for bakery. This one also had ice-cream, cold drinks and pastries.
Frederica really hoped to time things so that we could see the Clair de Lune pass through a lock. We caught up to the barge and passed it just before the lock, but the captain decided to tie up below the lock for the night and go through the lock tomorrow.
We took a break at the lock. Each lock along the canal originally had a lock-keeper’s house. These houses are no longer used for that and they have been converted to other uses. This one was a combination library and snack bar.
It was a nice end to our first day of riding.