Gennes is situated in the Anjou region of France and is part of the Loire-Anjou-Touraine natural park. A UNESCO world natural heritage site comprised of the local Tuff stone and forests. There are many megaliths, troglodytes and Gallo-Roman sites worthy of a visit.
The advance party arrived on the Monday afternoon before the rally and spent Tuesday liaising with the campsite staff on the final arrangements. Wednesday morning we were checking the layout of the marquee, bar and other rally fixtures. After lunch we were all told to evacuate the campsite as the Loire was going to flood the campsite. This is unheard of in May and had taken the authorities by surprise. By the evening the campsite staff had formulated a rescue plan for the rally. The Mairie had arranged for us to use a local picnic site for the caravans and provided electric hook ups. They had also arranged for campers to use the showers and toilets in the adjacent swimming pool. The Marquee and tents would be accommodated on the football pitch with campervans parked on the gravel around the accommodation buildings. Those who had booked the pre-erected Kiwi tents would be in the group accommodation.
On Friday afternoon a convoy of a dozen or so cars and caravans were escorted from their temporary pitches on the boules courts to the picnic site with students in hi-viz jackets at each junction to direct traffic.
Most of the rest of the participants arrived today to find an apparently organised event in progress. The welcome pack included a special bottle of sparkling wine with a Rally label. During the day Pierrick, the manager, and his assistant donned swimming gear and waded out to the Kiwi tents to recover a cooker, gas bottle and fridge for the campers use. In the evening we were treated to a reception party with lots of sparkling wine from Veuve Amitot, a local wine supplier. This was followed by entertainment by the students from the entertainment course run in conjunction with the rally.
The first day's routes took everyone north of the Loire to explore the villages, castles and vineyards before returning through Saumur. Here we were able to visit the Cadre Noire and the Musée des Blindés.
In the evening we took part in the 'Golden Tandem' Quiz which was a light hearted test of our knowledge of French life and culture.
Today we headed out towards Longué-Jumelles with the long route extending out to Chinon. The normally sleepy village of St. Philbert de Peuple came to life when forty tandem crews decided it was a good place to stop for coffee filling both cafes to capacity.
A local produce market took place in the evening giving us the opportunity to taste and possibly purchase local wines, biscuits, chocolate and foods.
Time to do a little hill climbing by starting out up the small escarpment behind Gennes. The leaders discovered that they couldn't follow their own route notes and led a small party on a journey of discovery to a coffee stop in Larousse-Rochmenier. Many crews stopped to explore the troglodyte village of Rochmenier before continuing to Doué-la-Fontaine and its' 'Tower with the Flower'. A water tower decorated with a 35 metre painting of a rose.
A cycle jumble filled the evening but the introduction to Pétanque was rained off.
No tandem riding today unless you chose to ride into Saumur for the boat trip and tour of the town. There was a choice of getting to Saumur by coach or making your own way. Those who tandemed were able to leave their steeds at a local sailing club where two of the camp staff guarded them. We filled two boats and were given a guided waterborne tour of the Saumur waterfront with some stunning views of the castle.
In the evening some eighty participants played Bingo with the numbers being called in French. A mobile Fouée oven provided a taste of this local food.
Tandem crews who set off early were able to avoid the worst of today's rain. The route included Grézillé and the Trogolodyte house in La Fosse.The café in Louerre had so many visitors they ran out of milk and cups. Tandem Club volunteers helped out by doing some washing up.
The tandem games were rained off much to the disappointment of the campsite staff and students who were looking forward to taking part.
Back to the flat routes which headed towards Baugé where the armies of England and France met in 1421. Continuing through La Lande-Chasles and the Forêt de Monnaie in bright sunshine to return along the levée of the Loire.
Time for the last night Barbecue. We were all surprised to find the marquee set out for a banquet with a proper wood fired barbecue of enormous proportions. Entertainment was provided by Les Genets d'Anjou from the nearby village of Fontevraud. A group performing traditional Angevin folk dances in period costume. The evening was rounded off with votes of thanks for the campsite staff and students (stagiaires) who had worked hard to make our twentyfifth year of International rallies one we would not forget.
Pictures from Johannes Solf
Pictures from Pat Strauss
Link to the Rally Routes