We took a few days' break to check out our bikes, and to ride along a bit of the cycle path that has been created along the Loire valley ("La Loire à Vélo"). This is in fact part of a route that runs from the Black Sea to the Atlantic coast; the Loire bit of it is 800km long. That should be enough to keep us going for a while.
We decided to start from kilometer zero of the "Loire à Vélo". This is not at the source of the Loire, but is near Nevers where the Loire is joined by a tributary nearly as big; the Allier. Looking at a map, the Allier upstream of where it joins the Loire is about as long as the Loire upstream of that point, but I guess it must be slightly smaller.
On the way, however we stopped off near our destination, at the Parc Floral at Apremont-sur-Allier. It really is a remarkable garden. Just about every vista is picture-postcard quality, and it is superbly maintained. It was created by a guy who just wanted to bring some people into the village, and was opened to the public about 40 years ago. He bought up the chateau and a few houses, had them refurbished and planted the gardens. A fine job. Here's some pics, although they can't really do it justice.
You will have gathered that there are some water features, and that inevitably means frogs. They hopped into the water with a small splash as we walked by. I managed to sneak up on this little guy who seemed braver than the rest. Or stupider.
And here's something I hadn't seen before: A wide area watering system. Water arrives along the hosepipe at the bottom right, goes around the hose reel a few times, and then shoots off down the straight black pipe to the right where it is fed into a sprinkler jet that waters a large circular area. The sprinkler jet is on wheels, and the water movement powers a mechanism on the hose reel that slowly reels in the hose. So it covers a very large area, given time. Neat.