touring france

Discussion in 'Touring and recreational cycling' started by mark taylor, Dec 11, 2003.

  1. mark taylor

    mark taylor New Member

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    Hi, velo tourists! Has anyone out there toured the Luberon area of France? Or Provence in general? I'd love to hear about your experiences.

    Mark
     
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  2. Sid Kelly

    Sid Kelly New Member

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    So would I, heading slightly more east but could be persuaded.

    www.belfastandbeyond.com
     
  3. izella

    izella New Member

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    I toured France a year ago this summer. Never made it to Provence. I rode from Versailles through the Vienne Valley, the Loire Valley, Cognac region, over to St. George on the ocean, took the ferry across to the tip of the Bordeax penninsula and rode down it. Then I took the train to Pau and rode through the Pyrennes to Lanamazan. I was out of time at that point and had to make it back to Paris. It that will help, ask questions and I will try to answer.
     
  4. triplover

    triplover New Member

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    I've done Provence and the Luberon. It was fantastic. Went with Erickson Cycle Tours. The climbs in Provence were longer than I expected and the descents were great fun. Lots of really good food, but going in the summertime (August) it is very hot. Even so, the lavender is in bloom and the smell is nice. There was a story about riding in Provence in Asphalt Magazine's first issue.
     
  5. mark taylor

    mark taylor New Member

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    Dear triplover:
    I have heard about the Erickson tours, (he is from my home town, Seattle) and they seem to be well regarded. We plan to tour on our own, though, in early to mid June, specifically to avoid the heat. I am concerned about the grades in the Luberon though. We plan on tandeming, and my wife has done far less cycling than I. When you say the climbs were longer than you expected, compared to what? Where do you do most of your riding, what kind of shape were you in before you went, etc, etc.
    Thanks for your reply. I'll look up the "Asphalt" article. Any more info you could supply would be appreciated.

    Mark
     
  6. sdorrity

    sdorrity New Member

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    Mark

    I've been to provence many years ago but not on a bike. Most of my French touring has been around Normandy/Brittany and the Loire and Pyrenees.

    If you've never been there then France is a great place to tour. Good food, bike friendly roads and motorists in the main tho' the towns can be a bit intimidating. Be aware of some of the local opening hours it can mean that you follow the weekly half day closing around.

    our worst case meant that we arrived at one area on Monday - local half day, next place Tuesday - local half day ' moved on on wednesday to find that it was the local Half day - you get the picture, and when some of these small places close - they really close right down I'm not sure where everyone goes to, probably to the next village where its not half day closing!

    If you need any details on trains etc I can give some general advice, let me know

    Steve D

     
  7. dabac

    dabac Well-Known Member

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    I've done some riding in France, and contrary to the other guys I wasn't too impressed with the food. It was tasty enough, but the French idea of a sustaining breakfast seems to be to take cream with the morning coffee and croissant. I strongly recommend that you pick up some items from the local supermarket and make every breakfast a picknick instead of eating at the hotels. There are some simpler hotels/youth hostels that cater specially to hikers, campers etc that are an exception to the rule though.

    Dinners aren't much better, there were several occasions when we stopped for a pizza on our way back to the hotel after dinner. Two crossed asparagus and a piece of meat the size of a deck of cards is not enough to refuel after a 80 km ride with a 2500 m climb.

    But besides the trouble of finding the "right" kind of restaurants France is a good place to bike. Hotels can usually provide safe overnight storage of your bike, and once you're out of the big cities the other people on the road usually show a surprising amount of tolerance for cyclists.
    Beware that once you hit the countryside it can be a fair distance between LBSs. Carry some crucial spares unless you're willing to spend a day on the buses if you burst a tyre for instance.
     
  8. izella

    izella New Member

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    If you camp in France (and EVERYONE does) you will find the campgrounds to be incredible! You will also find that you can order a fresh baguette or croissants to be delivered to the campground in the morning......fresh from the bakery.
    All shops shut at noon on Sunday and the small towns usually take Tuesdays to close. The restaurants will still be open.
     
  9. sdorrity

    sdorrity New Member

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    You are right they can be a bit thin on Breakfast etc, but I tend to do my own thing and there are loads of bakeries around and they open very early so carb loading is not difficult!.

    If you are staying in hotels look at the Logis de France chain they are all family owned and run and range from basic (the best) to quite luxurious. They are quite reasonable by european standards and cheap by british standards.

    Regards

    Steve D

     
  10. tmctguer

    tmctguer New Member

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    i've cycled solo from paris to calais and back. i've also cycled solo in the bordeaux area. both were very great areas to travel via bicycle.

    the people are friendly to bikers, lodging is plentiful (i stayed in hotels each night), and roads are in good condition.
     
  11. mark taylor

    mark taylor New Member

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    Logis de France chain they are all family owned and run and range from basic (the best) to quite luxurious. They are quite reasonable by european standards and cheap by british standards.

    Regards

    Steve D [/B][/QUOTE]

    Thanks for that tip! I went online and discovered thatit is an extensive chain, and far cheaper then the B&B's that I have been researching. Not so many in the Luberon area, but enough, I think.

    Mark
     
  12. sdorrity

    sdorrity New Member

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    no worries

    There are Logis at reasonable distances all over France and you can always stay in the odd 3 chimney one (top of the range) for a bit of luxury, generally a friendly bunch and keen to please.

    At one of the best I've been to the owner kept adding more food to our table, a huge bowl of pasta and extra bread "pour la velo" and most have some secure storage nearby

    He than followed it up with some advice on routes that we would have missed completely.

    Another one to keep an eye on is "Gite de France" mostly B&B and self catering again often good value

    have fun

    Steve D


     
  13. Greyfox10025

    Greyfox10025 New Member

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    [Hi Mark,
    Go you'll love it. Have been touring France since the 60's. Look here for personal experiences.
    www.todmoore.net
     
  14. Kathy Glover

    Kathy Glover New Member

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    Hi Mark

    My husband and I are also planning to tour Provence and hopefully Tuscany by bike in June (maybe we'll cross paths). I've never done anything like this, and I was hoping to ask a few questions of my own. Hope you don't mind.

    I would love advice on:
    1. What to pack - since I've never toured before I'm guaranteed to take too much stuff, what do I really NEED.
    2. Is it easy to find accommodation in June or would you need to pre-book everything (takes some of the spontaneity away).
    3. How easy is it to travel by train with a bike?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Regards
    Kathy
     
  15. davek

    davek New Member

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    It's quite easy - as long as you are well prepared.

    Don't do what I did and just take your bike on a train because you'll get kicked off. You can take your bike on the local 'bus service' trains but not the inter-city trains.

    It's straightforward (and reasonably cheap) to deposit your bike at any decent sized station and send it freight to your destination, but it can take up to three days to get there (you can usually do it at small stations too but that can take even longer). So my advice is plan your trip accordingly and book up train tickets (for both yourself and your bike) as far in advance as possible. With careful planning you might be lucky enough to get your bike on the freight section of the same train you're travelling on.

    Me and my mates got thrown off the train out of Nice, heading overnight to Calais, and ended up having to take a different train that meant changing in Paris at 5am rather than waking up at the ferry terminal at a leisurely 10am. We had to go back to France a few days later to collect our bikes. Fortunately, I lived just the other side of the Channel at the time so the day trip wasn't a great hardship. We had even taken the wheels off and wrapped up our bikes to make them look as much as possible like hand baggage but the guard on the train was having none of it. Bloody French bureaucracy at its finest.
     
  16. sdorrity

    sdorrity New Member

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    If you are staying in hotels limit yourself to rear panniers and a bar bag. a small insulated rackpack can take any picnic bits. There are plenty of small hotels, Gites and Chambre de hote in France if you have any difficulties stop at the nearest cafe and ask. I have spent the night with a neighbour doing this and had breakfast in the cafe itself.

    as noted you can send your bike freight and they will insist on this for the TGV unless it is in a proper bike bag, I used an unpadded lightweight bag and strapped it to my rack with some bungees I also had a lightweight kit bag that fitted my panniers in.

    Use cycle clothes that will dry quickly and you can get away with 3 lots, a light cag (it will be warm) and some sandles as a change from cycling shoes. You need take no more kit for 3 weeks than for 3 days.

    I tend to use tops that can be worn in the evening then after riding, I shower, washing the gear I have worn that day, and change into the top that I will ride in the next day, it's going to be pretty manky after 20 mins anyway

    I usually take my iPod but end up only using it on the train, I need to be stronger and leave it behind. Light digital camera and plent of memory cards, swap them frequently and if any go missing or the camera goes west then you haven't lost all of your memories.

    remember to have fun.

    Regards

    Steve D
     
  17. less'go

    less'go New Member

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    I have yet to do it by bike, but I think it would be great. I would strongly recommend traveling in June or September (best month) rather than July and August. Traffic is lighter, and you will not have all the inconveniences of "half days" and summer shop closings, because most French shopkeepers also go on vacation during that time, and they just close everything down.

    During vacation, timing is tricky, in many towns almost everything is closed, restaurants stop taking tables as early as 1:30, when you can find one. It's a real pain, even in the car it has taken us hours to find a meager sandwich in the French countryside in August. But if you decide to go in the high season, you should to plan things through more carefully, and probably should make a few reservations. And buy guides. If you read a little French, pick up the "Guide du Routard" for the region you're traveling to, for up-to-date eats and hours and hotels and iteneraries to follow.

    If you go in September, everything is open again and re-stocked and ready to go for what they call "la rentrée", the new school and business year. There are lots of things to check out, it's all in full swing. Plus the weather can be really great.

    Check out some of the great hotels in old chateaux... www.relaischateaux.com has a lot of them. Some are pretty pricey - but you can probably get some good deals booking ahead or weeknights, and it lets you visit some beautiful properties and dine in style. A treat, if not for every night!

    For what it's worth, I think the French are relatively bicycle-friendly drivers and the roads have gotten a lot safer here recently.

    Sara
     
  18. Kathy Glover

    Kathy Glover New Member

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    Hi Steve

    Thanks for the great advice :)

    Just to be clear, are you saying that if we take our bikes in bike bags we will be able to take them with us (as carryon?) on the TGV? I don't want to get to the train station and find I've got it all wrong :(

    Regards,
    Kathy
     
  19. sdorrity

    sdorrity New Member

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    That has been my experience on several trips in France. Many local trains have somewhere to put your bike. The TGV's have less space but its still possible.

    The luggage racks between carriages have a section that lifts up for larger luggage, skis etc, you can get two bikes in here easily. I had a bag made up by http://www.itsinthebag.co.uk/ without padding, which was fine and no one questioned it. A couple of bungee cords are useful for securing things in the racks. On one occasion I managed to bungee two bikes to the outside of the rack near the door, I then sat on the little seat in this area to make sure that people had access OK, again no one said anything.

    we often wheeled the bikes onto the platform and just stripped the bikes down bagged them and put panniers into a large stuffsack. Only once were we spoken to so we went around the corner packed our "luggage" and walked through the barrier.

    I've now done about 6 or 7 journeys using bike bags without issue

    The sleeper trains were more of an issue as there doesn't seem to be as much luggage space, they are also loud hot and bumpy. I would choose TGV next time.

    As someone else noted June is a good time as its not too busy and there should be plenty of accomodation available. I've always found the French to be cycle friendly and the roads generally quiet. Most hotels have somewhere you can lock your bike up safely.

    Regards

    Steve D


     
  20. davek

    davek New Member

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    Your comments are very interesting - I didn't know about the luggage racks on the TGV but I'll bear that in mind for future reference. One comment about travelling by TGV - make sure you book your ticket well in advance because they can get very full, especially in summer. You also have to pay a TGV supplement but it's definitely worth it for the increased speed and comfort.

    I would definitely advise against trying to take bikes on the standard inter-city trains because as you say there is a lack of space for bulky luggage. You might get away with it with your bike bagged up properly but I wouldn't want anyone to suffer the same experience I had.
     
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