The Loire, near its Source

The Loire, France's longest river, has a humble beginning

The Loire, which flows north and turns west before flowing into the bay of Biscay, is a river the cyclist would be well advised to follow, for it is a case study in contrasts. On one side in many places you will see gorgeous chateaux that recall the wealth, power and glory of mediaeval France. On the other side, often not far from the chateaux, lies a stark reminder of that country's stubborn vow to remain independent and a world power-- force frappe they say-- its numerous nuclear power stations, including the fearsome fast breeder reactor. The contrast is striking, and the river flows thru it all, relentlessly to the sea. I followed the Loire as my main route from London to the Alps; I picked up the river at Orleans and, as this picture shows, followed it to its headwaters. This brought me into the southeast, where I crossed the Rhone at Valence (I soon would be at the headwaters of the Rhone, as well) and into the Alps via Die and Gap. It was at col de Cabre, a relatively modest pass in this region, where the alpine peaks first appeared to me. France is a great country for cycling, as every garage is a bike shop and every town square a great place for coffee and croissants. The French are quiet and reserved-- an attribute Americans often mistake for displeasure--but over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, they can be the friendliest people in Europe.

By the way if you tend to forget where all your pictures are taken, as I do, a trick is to take a shot where the location is obvious from the photo. Then you can figure out the location of your other slides by their proximity, timewise, to the shot you have clearly identified.