Day 1 Canoe-Camping on the Loire
Kristine and I were up at 5am to catch an 8am train to Lille Flanders. After some initial worries about missing the bus to Sint Niklass we made the train on time. At Lille we waited for Steve and Coral to arrive from Kent. They'd made an even earlier start to catch the ferry from Dover to Calais and then the drive to Lille.
It was about 11am when we met and after a coffee we set the GPS to Amboise. In fact Steve says "I'll just punch Amboise into the GPS" and I reply "I'll punch you in a minute". This becomes a set phrase for the holiday. Eh! I know? We start our 5 hour drive.
The drive didn't start well with traffic problems outside Lille but soon we were pushing on through Picardy and onto Paris. The Peripherique around Paris was it's usual pain but it didn't take long before we were speeding south again. When the mileage indicated we had less than 100 miles to go Steve decided to pull off the motorway for a break. We chose a small town called Allainville. This was a waste of time as the village had nothing! Not exactly nothing. It had Ennio Morricone music playing and tumbleweed rolling down the street. It had a giant tractor and massive Combine Harvesters. This place was, in fact, Nebraska. It had nothing. It was back on the highway for us and a stop at the next Service Station for a sandwich.
When we rolled off the motorway to get into Amboise we faffed around for a bit but eventually found our way onto the bridge and the L'Ille D'Or island where our canoe outfitter and camp-site was. It was about 4pm now so I wasn't really surprised to find that our canoe outfitter, Canoe Aventure, was unmanned. This was a pity as it meant we would have to camp in the town tonight instead of getting on our way. Never mind it was a pleasant Municipal Campsite. It didn't take long to get our tents up, although the neighbours had a laugh as we messed around with deciding where to put it. Steve and Coral had a Quechua pop-up tent a thing I'd never seen before. It really did only take two seconds to put up! It was small however. Kristine had insisted that we took our bigger tent, a Vanga Omega 350, the biggest tent I've ever owned. It's massive, not too heavy and ideal for a canoe camping trip.
After cleaning up we set off into town to explore and find somewhere for dinner. We passed a statue which I believe is a copy of a Leonardo de Vinci sketch on the banks of the river, and took some photos.
We wandered around the small town admiring the château and the castle walls before settling on a restaurant with an open terrace beneath the castle walls. Needless to say we had a great meal with plenty to drink.
Not counting the baby crying, the wood-pigeons cooing and someone pumping up a mattress in the middle of the night we had a good nights sleep!