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Going to France in a few weeks...

Old 07-20-19, 06:26 AM
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Wozza2014
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Going to France in a few weeks...

Hi.

I am off to France in a few weeks for my first foreign tour and I've only plotted a part of the route. The tour will be open ended i.e. two week to a month. At first I had planned a route to Paris from Calais in order to stay in Paris in an Airbnb for a few nights and then carry on in order to join La Loire à Vélo and come back on myself via the coast. But now I am thinking of trying to ride to south coast and then get a train back to Paris, spend a few night there and then ride back to Calais either via the L'Avenue Verte or another way.

Can anyone recommend some nice routes?
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Old 07-20-19, 07:21 AM
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Digger Goreman
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My wife is from the Loire valley in Centre France. Not to be missed in my opinion. Amboise has the home of Leonardo da Vinci and castle of Francois Premeir. Other castle towns abound, including Chenonceau and Loches. They are rehabillitating the dungeon at Montrichard. Le Mans is in the area.

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Old 07-20-19, 07:56 AM
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axolotl
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The first thing you need to know is that the SNCF (French national railroad) has made it much more difficult in the past few years to take bikes on trains, especially the TGV trains. Therefore don't assume you can easily get from southern France back to Paris with your bike on the train. On many/most regional trains, you can often still take a bike, but the rules vary by train. On some, you load it yourself and it's free. On others, you have to pay. And on others, no bikes allowed. You have to check the schedule and the specific train.

You wrote that you're going "in a few weeks", so I'm presuming that means August. In tourist areas, it will be crowded. In the Rhone valley and Provence, it will be hot and Provence will be crowded.

Although my absolute favorite region for touring is in Perigord in the Dordogne & Lot valleys in SW France, it probably makes sense for you to stay in the northern half of France if you only have 2 weeks. The Loire valley has a concentrations of quiet roads, bike paths, and sights to see. Burgundy has a good network of bike trails (paved & unpaved) and nice scenery. Normandy and Brittany are both nice, too. I would not, however, recommend riding between Calais & Paris. It has boring scenery. The same goes for the area due north of Paris.

If you think you'll be staying longer than 2 weeks, then I would suggest including the Dordogne & Lot valleys in your itinerary.
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Old 07-20-19, 02:27 PM
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cant give specific recommendations for route, but can say that I do have a fondness for Normandy and Bretagne, but really, if you choose smaller roads and maybe hit the eurovelo route also, you'll have a great time.
Campgrounds are reasonably abundant, and much nicer than when I first did what you are doing back in the early 90s. Crossed France last summer along eurovelo 6 and the majority of campgrounds were really nice, wifi etc.

Im a bit surprised that you dont have an established route only a few weeks off, but hey, like I said, stick to smaller roads and there are so many nice places to see and towns and villages close to each other, that you will have fun no matter.

I used local trains a few times last year to jump distances, and perhaps its cuz i speak french, but it went perfectly well getting the info from train station ticket sellers. But yes, tgv generally dont allow bikes.

have fun no matter where you go, and enjoy the land, the overall respectful drivers, the food and the quiet roads.
As mentioned, you will be there during big vacation time, so campgrounds will be busy, hopefully not full. The french generally bugger off on vacation all at once in aug.
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Old 07-20-19, 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
cant give specific recommendations for route, but can say that I do have a fondness for Normandy and Bretagne, ....
St. Malo is a favorite! And do have a Breizh Cola while in Bretagne. Beats the hell outta Coca Cola.
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Old 07-20-19, 11:46 PM
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I would be very careful around Calais. There are many desperate migrants there trying to get to England. I don't want to sound anti-immigrant, but some of these people have nothing and have been brutalized by war and other horrors. A nice innocent cyclo tourist might be fair game for one of them. Also there is a lot of traffic around Calais. You might be better off going to Cherbourg or Roscoff .
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Old 07-21-19, 04:49 AM
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1. Loire à vélo is a great route. Paris Nantes is a tad more than 400kms. Take your time and this is a nice week. Should be relatively easy to design a loop. Get a green Michelin guide and have fun.

2. I've carried my bike across France on TGV s (CDG -> Nantes, CDG -> Marseille, lots of other stints) and never had any problem. You can either pre-book specific trains and my understanding is that there will be a designated wagon where you can roll your bike (as is frequently done on TER (regional). OR you remove the front wheel, pedals and turn your handlebars sideways, put your bike in a bag (Rinko or padded flight bag) and it'll be treated as a regular piece of luggage that you carry yourself on board. You will not be able to store it inside the luggage compartment of a standard wagon, but can leave it near the entrance. Just go to your bike when the train stops so that you can move it around if needed. (Not easy to explain, but obvious and easy in practice)

3. Disbelief reading the warning about Calais. The encampment called the jungle has been cleared years ago. Apparently rehabilitated into a nature reserve. I don't recall any incident involving refugees back then.
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Old 07-21-19, 05:23 AM
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One jungle was cleared and another pops up Anyway, it isn't really an interesting area for a cyclist, at least in my opinion.

Last edited by ironwood; 07-21-19 at 05:37 AM. Reason: addition
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Old 07-27-19, 09:27 AM
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Hi.

Thanks for your input.

Maybe it wasn't wise of me to book a train to Dover and then a ferry to Calais before doing some research. I got a good deal on the tickets so if I cancelled I wouldn't take too much of a hit but I might as well just go for it now as it's a bit too late in the day to be rearranging bookings. Nice scenery is definitely preferable but the main reason for this little trip was to improve my French.

I've now changed my mind about camping and decided to take my racer and a 10L saddle bag instead. After trying to ride The Way of the Roses here in the UK recently I've come to the conclusion that I haven't found the right setup for myself yet when it comes to bike/camping. I took four panniers and a tent along for the WotR and it was just a burden and not enjoyable.

It will probably be 2 weeks max now due to the increase in accommodation costs from not camping. I hope to get to Paris and back again mainly staying at hostels and some airbnb's. So I need a route from Calais to Paris that has hostels if possible. I started to plan a route along the coast to Dieppe but hostels seem to be thin on the ground around here. Now I am thinking of trying to head to Lens and from there to another major city like Amiens as hostels/cheap hotels seem to be much more abundant. I am also thinking that instead of booking all the accommodation in advance I should just try and book somewhere when I arrive incase I get delayed due to weather? When I search for hostel rooms in say Paris for this evening there seems to be plenty available. Hopefully if I stick to the main cities each day I should find somewhere. Is this wise?

How reliable is Google maps for time planning. I've put in a route from Calais to Lens and it says it takes 5.26h for 106km. That doesn't seem right to me.
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Old 07-27-19, 03:20 PM
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Not sure what to tell you, since I already wrote that that region has uninspiring scenery. I would urge you to stick to minor roads as much as possible. France has an excellent network of them. France also has some great paper maps from I.G.N. & Michelin. It's no longer sufficient to simply avoid "N" (national) roads, because many formerly "N" roads have been recharacterized as "D" (departmental) roads. By reading a good map, you can find the quieter "D" roads. Michelin still has their maps online, so you can do some route planning now. Their website isn't as easy to use as google maps, but the maps they display are much better than google's.

I think that google's time estimates make the assumption that you never stop for any reason and you're not carrying panniers & other gear on your bike.

If you keep your train & ferry reservations to arrive in Calais, when you're headed back to the UK, a nicer route can be found by more or less following the Seine valley toward Rouen, then head toward Dieppe. I believe there's still a ferry connecting Dieppe with Newhaven. You might want to consider taking a short train ride (to Vernon, for example) to get out of Paris.
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Old 07-29-19, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
....Im a bit surprised that you dont have an established route only a few weeks off, but hey, like I said, stick to smaller roads and there are so many nice places to see and towns and villages close to each other, that you will have fun no matter......
When I bike toured France I didnt even know I'd be bike touring until day 2.... of the trip!

I was going to backpack around, then I rented a bike on day 2 and decided I want to bike tour. So I bought a cheap used "city bike" with a rack and triple crankset, and strapped my small backpack to the rack.... and cycled Albi to Cahors (winding route), Perigeaux to Bordeaux, All around Bretagne.

For future trips I will plan on bike touring tho.
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Old 07-29-19, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by dgodave View Post
When I bike toured France I didnt even know I'd be bike touring until day 2.... of the trip!

I was going to backpack around, then I rented a bike on day 2 and decided I want to bike tour. So I bought a cheap used "city bike" with a rack and triple crankset, and strapped my small backpack to the rack.... and cycled Albi to Cahors (winding route), Perigeaux to Bordeaux, All around Bretagne.

For future trips I will plan on bike touring tho.
neat.
there certainly is a fun part of heading off and not having an exact plan, and to meander, so I do get that part of it. On my first trip in France, I kind of knew where I would head , sort of, knew I wanted to go see the D-Day landings area, so headed up there and just looked at a map and eyeballed roads, and asked people sometimes suggestions.
So yes, I do get that aspect of going on an adventure and not having to have everything planned down to the nth detail.

I did this way before the internet, so there was only so much planning one could do anyway, but at least in France, campgrounds are abundant, and even without the internet, its easy to find campground listings in regions, so add in readily available wifi, and it certainly is easier to know if in 70kms in Townsville there is a campground or not, and even to see on google maps where grocery stores are located etc.

so its all good. Being out exploring on a bike is still that, exploring and having the freedom to do it with food and your own leg power.....
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Old 07-29-19, 04:08 PM
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From Calais, head east through the WWII beach landings (I dont have expereince there), then turn south and pass through WWI battlefields (Battle of the Somme, Lens, Arras, Baupaume, etc). Look up "[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.87)]Beaumont-Ham Newfoundland Memorial"[/color] or "Canadian National Vimy Memorial" for an idea of WWI memorials. Lots of info on the Internet regarding WWI monuments, memorials, cemeteries, that I can't possibly do them justice. Are you British? This was an area where Britain was very involved during WWI (and thus have many memorials).

Good map for this area is Michelin Regional Map 511 Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Picardy. Scale is 1;200,000 (as all their Regional Maps) and shows all roads outside of towns. We use google maps on our cell phone to navigate into/out of larger towns and occasionally "ask for suggestions" between towns, though generally we ignore the suggestions - but it can be helpful as it will show route profile.

I find riding time on Google maps to be accurate to somewhat conservative, but yes, it does not include time off the bike. And from my experience touring some of the WWI area we definitely spent time off the bike.
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Old 07-29-19, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Eggman84 View Post
From Calais, head east through the WWII beach landings (I dont have expereince there), then turn south and pass through WWI battlefields (Battle of the Somme, Lens, Arras, Baupaume, etc).
The WWII D-Day beach landings are far from Calais and to the southwest. The nearest one to Calais, Sword Beach, is about 350 km away.
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Old 07-29-19, 05:59 PM
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You are right about WWII beaches but as I said I have not toured them. So skip them and go straight southeast to WWI battlefields. The monuments, memorials, and cemeteries are very powerful. Unfortunately, the lessons learned in the "war to end wars" (that is what it was called before WWII) was ignored, and we continue to have men competing in pissing contests (though to be honest women can partake in their version as well). If you go see the "forgotton" WWI memorials, etc, its hard not to have an attitude so excuse me.
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Old 09-11-19, 02:36 AM
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I don't know if you already came to france or not.

As a french guy myself, I just can assure you that you won't regret your trip.
France is really a fantastic land to bike travel , and i don't exagerate.
This is why the "tour de france" is the most popular race in the road. Just look at it, and you have a beautiful and various scenery everyday
There is not musch dedicated bike path as in netherland or germany for example, but there are many well discribed path to follow, and a lot of secondary road.
To make it easy, just follow one of the well know river and you will find fantastic scenery everywhere. (loire, soane, rhone, .....).

Many website.
This one has some proposals

https://en.francevelotourisme.com/

This guy has also a nice youtube channel. This video is about the eurovelo 6 (vallée de la loire)
A lot of travel are in germany, but he also has some videos of travel to france. Just have a look to have an idea


Enjoy !

Last edited by Manu431; 09-11-19 at 02:44 AM.
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Old 09-11-19, 04:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Digger Goreman View Post
My wife is from the Loire valley in Centre France. Not to be missed in my opinion. Amboise has the home of Leonardo da Vinci and castle of Francois Premeir. Other castle towns abound, including Chenonceau and Loches. They are rehabillitating the dungeon at Montrichard. Le Mans is in the area.
Agree with this. Did a week long self-directed tour in early August from Orleans to Tours. Blois and Amboise were places we stopped at. Lots to see... plus, lots of excellent bicycle paths. Enjoy
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