We (almost) took a day off from the bike during our La Velo Francette bike ride to explore Angers.
Distance: 20km (ish)
Angers is at the western end of the La Velo Francette as it runs concurrently with the Loire à Vélo trail between Saumur and Angers. There are two access points for the city from the main route: one that comes in to the Gare d'Angers from the east (it's signposted as such from the main route and it's the one we should have taken on our way in from Saumur to Angers) and another western entrance that comes in via Bouchemaine (and would be your pick if you were cycling Caen to La Rochelle rather than in reverse, as we are doing).
As we didn't need to cycle this western entrance on our south-north journey, we decided to do it on our day off to check it out.
I haven't got a GPS of this day. I had a little misadventure and left my camera at Bouchemaine and had to cycle back for it, at which point the GPS went a little haywire in the excitement and duplicated my green jersey-worthy sprint through the forest. It's a nice ride, but I really don't want to be recommending that you also repeat it at break-neck speed in the hope that your camera is still there (mine was).
Here's the map from the much more efficient www.anjou-cycling.co.uk
In any case, the ride out to Bouchemaine is lovely. It passes through parkland and by lakes and recreation grounds (including local canoe centres), and the trail is fairly good, if a little rough in patches on the stonier sections. Mostly, though, it's peaceful forest like this:
In summer, there is a cycling rest area in Bouchemaine, including a washdown station and information kiosk:
We were there on a Monday in May, which was a little quieter, but by summer this route will be buzzing with cyclists making their way along La Velo Francette and the Loire route.
If you are riding this section of the Loire out of season, just check ahead at tourist offices or via your hotel to ensure the route is clear. There was unseasonal flooding along some sections while we were there and a few detours in place. If in doubt, check ahead.
Highlight of Angers - do not miss!
We rode back to Angers (I rode back twice after the aforementioned camera debacle) for lunch at a local cafe and a visit to the excellent Chateau d'Angers.
I simply cannot say this any louder: DO NOT MISS THE CHATEAU AT ANGERS. Don't just look from the outside: go inside to see the magnificent Apocalypse tapestries.
These ancient works of art are based on a 1AD manuscript, with the entire tapestry a series of works measuring more than 100 metres. Made in 14th century France, they are valuable (indeed *invaluable*) historical documents created at the time of the Hundred Years War. These are exquisite, woven illustrations of war and famine and family and love and loss.
I will say it one more time: DO NOT MISS IT (YES, I AM YELLING AT YOU).
The chateau itself is also best explored from the inside, rather than the out (thanks to Olivier at the tourist centre for this insider tip).
The gardens are peaceful and serene, and a meandering maze of sculptured hedges, with herb gardens flourishing on the ramparts.
On the cycling front, we stayed at Hotel de l’Europe , which was both central and cyclist-friendly (it has an 'acceuil velo' label). Bikes are stored in a locked courtyard and there are hearty buffet breakfasts on offer.