Stage 11 – Bourbon-Lancy to Nevers

Distance: 73.6 km

Time: 3 hours 14 minutes

Average speed: 22.8 kph

Ascent: 238m

Descent: 312m

Total distance: 611.3 km

Total time: 34 hours 55 minutes

Bourbon-Lancy is a feast for the senses – some beautifully-restored ancient buildings; stunning views in all directions; a knot garden and a powerful scent of jasmine which reminded us of the start of our Italian trip last year. The evening sun cast a beautiful light over everything.

Our chosen restaurant was La Grignotte du Vieux-Bourbon. We were ushered into a small outdoor courtyard (good job that we booked) and enjoyed a very good meal. As we’ve not yet reached the main part of the Loire wine area we’ve allowed ourselves some latitude in our wine selection, and last night’s Givry was excellent.

The alarm was set for a little earlier this morning, as the forecast was for a hot day (with several more to come). We had time for couple of bike adjustments before setting off, mainly to do with fixing the Stoker’s squeaky saddle, which was driving us slightly mad yesterday. We set off on a reasonably quiet road, which had something of a saw-tooth profile for the first few kilometres – we would gain height, lose it again and regain it several times before the road-builders finally saw sense and let us descend towards the river.

We felt much fitter today, somehow. Of course we have progressively become fitter since Alpe d’Huez, but we tend not to notice the incremental gains. Usually on these trips there’s a single day when we realise the cumulative effect, and that day was today.

Much of the morning was spent on a quiet rural road, crops to either side of us, with a gentle tailwind and a shallow rate of descent.

It was hot, but not unpleasantly so, and after a while we passed through part of the town of Decize before dropping down onto the canal towpath. We’d been moving so well that our planned lunchtime stop at Fleury-sur-Loire seemed to arrive quickly.

It was a “Hault Fluviale” on the side of the canal, where four large pleasure boats were moored, and a large gazebo had been raised in which to serve food.

An idyllic location for lunch, then, and we managed to persuade the waitress that no, we really didn’t need a four course meal, and could we just have the “plat” please? What we ate (bavette for the Captain, hake for the Stoker) was delicious, and afterwards we sat for a while admiring the bucolic surroundings.

Back on the tandem, then, with only about twenty-three kilometres remaining. We overruled our previously planned route on the quiet road, opting instead to continue along the towpath which led all the way to Nevers, and demonstrating our new-found fitness by overtaking a couple on electric bikes!

After a while we started to see a few “LeBoat” pleasure boats, familiar from previous holidays, their crews clearly enjoying the peace and quiet of the canal. One of them was moored up while the occupants were enjoying a long boozy lunch. Oh, the memories!

Our destination today was a campsite, where we’ve booked a small cabin for the night – it was our only viable option really, but there’s an excellent view over the river to the centre of Nevers. Here the “official” route of the Loire à Vélo begins, for those with a somewhat less completist approach than our own!

Tomorrow we’re heading for Sancerre, where we’ve booked something a little more opulent!

Here’s a video of today’s route, and today’s track.

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