2015-07-08 Beaugency – Blois

Today’s photo shows the town of Blois on a hill overlooking the river Loire. In 1992, we had watched Miguel Indurain win a time trial in the Tour de France here so it was great to return to a familiar place.

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Total today – 31 km. Total so far – 385 km. Only a short trip today, along the Loire, as I needed the rest. Even after a good nights sleep in the Val de Flux campsite, I was still tired after over 200 km of cycling, mostly into the wind, the last 2 days.

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Stone bridge across the Loire at Beaugency. I set off about 11, back across the 13th century bridge with its 26 arches towards the town of Beaugency. The bridge is the only medieval bridge across the Loire and was the site of a famous battle after Joan of Arc had captured Orleans in 1429.

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The Cat and the Devil by James Joyce. The bridge is also the setting for the only children’s story published by James Joyce. In the story, the lord mayor of Beaugency makes a deal with the Devil.  The Devil will build the much-needed bridge over the Loire River in one night on the condition that the first soul to cross the bridge will belong to the Devil.  Upon completion of the bridge the next morning, the mayor throws a bucket of water on a cat, who then scurries across the bridge into the Devil’s arms, fulfilling his part of the deal but foiling the Devil’s plan to acquire a human soul.

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St. Laurent-des-Eaux nuclear power plant. About 10 km from Beaugency, I passed the St. Laurent-des-Eaux nuclear power plant. It is one of only about 20 in France and was completed in 1969. In 1980, it was the site of the worst nuclear accident in France when a falure in the cooling system caused the graphite core in one of the reactors to melt. At the time, it was claimed no radiation had leaked from the plant though traces of plutonium have since been found in the Loire which may have originated as a result of the 1980 accident.

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Cycle path along Eurovelo 6. The route today is mostly along Eurovelo 6 which goes all the way from the Atlantic at St Nazaire to the Rhine at Basel in Switzerland. Between Beaugency and Blois, Eurovelo 6 is mostly a fine gravel path along the river and a tarmac track along the top of a levee. Nearer to Blois, there is a wide concrete path which is completely separate from the road.

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Bridge at Muides-sur-Loire. Halfway to Blois, I recrossed the Loire again on the concrete arch bridge at Muides-sur-Loire. The bridge was built in 1932, and survived the war intact. It was recently widened in 2010 to add cycle paths on each side as part of Eurovelo 6 renovation works.

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Chateau de Chambord. My route today also took me past the Chateau de Chambord, which is the second most visited chateau in France after the Chateau de Versailles. It was originally built as a hunting lodge for the then French king, Francis 1, in the 16th century and Leonardo da Vinci may have designed parts of the chateau. It took 1,800 men over 30 years to build at a cost of half a million French livres. A livre was roughly equivalent to 0.7g of gold so each livre was worth about $30 in today’s money. That means that Chateau de Chambord was built for about $15 million dollars and each worker on average received the equivalent of a dollar a day in today’s money in wages.

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The old municipal campsite in Blois is now a park. In 1992, we stayed at the municipal campsite near Blois and I hoped to stay at the same campsite the year. However, on approaching the site, it was clear that the campsite had closed and so I decided to stay at Only Val de Blois site right next door.

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Chateau Royal in Blois. With the afternoon off, I had time to visit Blois and its famous Chateau Royal which for 500 years was one of the Royal Palaces of the French monarchy. The chateau, which is as big as Buckingham Palace in London, has 560 rooms, 75 staircases and 100 bedrooms. It was from here in 1429, that Joan of Arc set off to attack Orleans. In 1588, the then French king, Henry III had 2 rivals to the throne murdered here. His death the following year, led to the Bourbon dynasty of kings in France and Blois was abandoned. It wasn’t until 1845 that restoration work began and soon afterwards, the chateau was opened to the public.

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Pont Jaques Gabriel across the Loire at Blois. The main bridge in Blois dates from 1724 and is named after its builder, Jacques Gabriel. It took 8 years to build and replaced an older bridge 100 yards downstream which was destroyed by a flood. It consists of 11 arches and  took over 600 men 8 years to build. 2 of the arches were blown up by the French in 1940 to slow the German advance and 4 years later, 3 arches were blown up by the Germans to slow the Allies.

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World War 2 plaque on bridge at Blois. There is a memorial plaque to those civilians and soldiers killed during bombing raids in Blois in World War 2 near to the bridge.

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Solar panel on trailer. I had tried re-charging my phones and bike computer using a 15W solar panel attached to Travoy but it was ineffective as sun was at an angle to the panel. I had hoped to charge everything up back at the campsite using mains power but there were few plugs available. There were a lot of 110V 3-pin plugs for camper vans but very few 240V 2-pin French standard plugs for household items. The campsite did have a washing machine though and as I didn’t expect anyone to use the machine overnight, I unplugged the washing machine and used the plug socket to charge up a portable battery. The next morning, I used this battery to charge up my phones and bike computer.

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