You may be forgiven for reading the title, checking the date, and doing a double-take! But there's no mistake, it is really 11th January 2010 and our first cyclists of the season have just left us.
James, Tracy and their children Henry and Arthur, from Australia, spent 3 nights with us and explored this wonderful area by bike. Not deterred by the winter temperatures (it was 40 degrees when they left home in mid-December), this hardy (crazy? - James's own description, not mine) family wrapped up warm and went out for an adventure.
On their first day, they visited the chateau at Langeais - one of the few fortified ('real') castles in the region, dating back to the 10th century. It has a working drawbridge, arrow slits in the tower walls and beautifully decorated rooms. On the day of their visit there was a log fire roaring in the enormous chimney - which has a fascinating double-backed bench set in front of it - you can turn the seat back to face the fire, or away from it - so you can toast each side of you in turn!
Outside in the chateau gardens is a newly installed, 3 storey tree house as well as a couple of play areas, so something to keep little ones amused. Just outside the chateau enatrance is a not-to-be-missed salon de the with mouth-watering cakes and chocolates - just what you need to fortify you for a cycle ride in the cold.
On their second day, the family visited the Abbey at Fontevraud, arguably most famous as the resting place of Richard the Lionheart (or at least part of him, depending on the guide book!) The whole building is enchanting, with a very mixed history - it was still being used as a prison up until 1985.
From the village, there is a great downhill ride through the fields to the riverside village of Montsoreau. On the day our guests visited there was the monthly Puces (flea-market) along the quayside, but a visit any time is interesting - the chateau, river, visitor centre, cafes and restaurants, the mushroom caves as well as the handmade soap manufacturer mean there is something for everyone. From here it is a gentle (flat!) 15km ride 'home'.
The Gallaghers enjoyed two meals here during their stay (we had sparkling wine to celebrate Tracy's birthday the first night) which included a Galette des Rois. On their remaining evening they visited La Table d'Alexis, a great bistro-style restaurant in Bourgueil with an ever-changing menu. Alexis uses lots of local, organic produce and although not on the current menu, was happy to prepare escargots for Arthur - the snails are reared by at a farm just 8km away from us.
The family have now moved on to a stay in Paris, as many of our 'long-haul' guests do. They prove that you can come on a Loire Valley Break all year round, and certainly qualify for our hardiest family yet - anyone out there want to challenge for that prize?