By Maggie LaCoste
Cyclotourism is getting to be big business in Europe, worth somewhere around 45+ billion Euros per year to the European economy. This is great for you and me because countries like France, (and Germany, Austria and Switzerland) want our business. Their improving their marketing efforts and they are rapidly stepping up efforts to provide better information on major routes. Don’t get too excited, this doesn’t mean that you will have an easy time finding information on all major itineraries. But it does mean that access to better information is improving, more of it’s offered in English, and the result is easier trip planning. To kick off the new year and bike trip planning season, let’s take a look at several major websites to see how they can help you decide where to go and where to bike.
In my mind, this is the bicycle touring website that has set the standard for all others in France. Full of information and easy to use, this should be the first stop for anyone considering a bicycling vacation in France. Loire a Velo helps you understand the history of the Loire, what you can expect to see along the way, and also provides information on where to stay, where to rent bikes and a lot of other trip planning information. The website is available in French, English and German.
One new function of the website that can be useful is the ability to create a personalized map and list of attractions that you would like to see. To access this function, click on “Tailor Made Holidays” on the right hand side of the home page. This will provide instructions on how to get started and how to save and retrieve your map.
New for 2013 is a new Loire a Velo mobile app that facilitates quick and easy access to 11 different categories of information including attractions, bike repair locations, the Loire a Velo map, where to stay and where to eat. The accommodations function will let you search by type of establishment–hotel, B&B, gite, campsite, by rating, by price or by location.
Whether you are interested in planning a long excursion along the Loire, or a weekend or day biking adventure, this website can help you narrow down your choices, and decide what to see along the way. Sites like La Loire a Velo make planning a trip as much fun as taking the trip….well almost!
Another great resource for bike planning along the Loire is the EuroVelo 6 website which traces the bicycling itinerary from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea. Often called the great rivers route, this itinerary is one of the most popular in Europe, enabling cyclists to follow history along the Loire, the Rhine and the Danube. Along with the Loire a Velo website, it is one of my favorites, both in the amount of information available, and its ease of use. This website is available in French, English and German.
You can access information on the route either by river or by specific stages of the 4,000 km route. My favorite way to explore is by stage, since I like to explore the several stages that I have yet to complete. Each stage includes a thorough description of the overall stage, and then detailed information on each segment within the stage. Users have access to information on accommodations, bike support services and attractions within each stage.
While there were some glitches in the first months after the official debut of La Velodyssee last summer, all seems to be back on track with this popular itinerary. The website may look familiar as it uses the same format as Loire a Velo, and luckily it offers most of the same functionality with a few extras.
According to the website, the entire French Velodyssey is now signposted between Roscoff and Hendaye with the logo on directional panels throughout the route, although how these look may vary according to the region you are in.
If you plan to do any part of this itinerary in 2013, please be sure and send me information regarding how easy it is to follow the route with the new signage. This will be of great benefit to others planning to take this route!
There are two functions on this website that I love. The first is the “Find My Cycling Route” function located on the top right hand page. You can specify the region–Brittany, Loire, Poitou Charentes, Aquitaine or Devon England that you want to visit, the level of cyclist you are and the type of theme you are interested in, and it will bring up a list of itineraries that meet those criteria.
The second function that I like is the interactive map where you can click on a particular section and you get in depth information on that stage. You can also access accommodations information by type, bike repair locations, tourism offices, places to eat, picnic areas, farmers markets and local attractions.
This map also contains the most up to date information on the route in that particular area. Greenways or car-free paths are marked in green, temporary routes in red, shared routes in yellow and alternative routes, normally deviations to attractions in purple.
This is a great feature that is very easy to use and it’s certainly worth taking a look at!
When you are planning a vacation, it’s true, a picture can be worth a thousand words! That’s the reason why I love this new web design from the Regional Tourism Office of Aquitaine. Visitors are invited to visit one of 10 Aquitaine destinations, almost all of which are very popular bicycling destinations. If you are torn between bicycling the Bordeaux and Saint Emilion vineyards and the Bay of Arcachon, this resource could help you make the decision.
Interested in Saint Emilion? Click on Vines and Vineyards, and you are taken to a page with a gorgeous view of Saint Emilion, and a description of the area. From this page, you can access hypertext linked information on attractions in the area, a beautiful selection of photos and videos, and a new area, mobile support. Not surprisingly, only a few of the 10 destinations currently have mobile support in English, but the others won’t be far behind. Vines and Vineyards is available for iPhone and Android, Vezere Valley is available for iPhone and the Lot-et-Garonne is available in both Android and iPhone versions. I haven’t gone to the iTunes store yet to try to download these mobile apps, so I will let you know when I do. I will also let you know as more of the Aquitaine destinations release mobile apps in English.
This is the new website for bicycling in the Vendee, now with over 1,000 km of bicycling trails, one of the largest in France! This website is very helpful for trip planning because there has not been a lot of information available on biking in this area. Unfortunately this website is currently only in French, but it is so rich with information that it is more than worth the trouble to link it to Google Translate! The geographical diversity of this area is amazing from the coastal trails along the Vendee Coast, to the marshes of the Marais Poitevin to woods and green countryside of the Haut Bocage. There is something here for everyone.
An interactive map on the main page illustrates each of six major itineraries. Click on one of the itineraries and you are able to access maps and other detailed information about the specific itinerary and attractions. All of the Vendee itineraries also have mobile apps, but at the current time they are only available in French. Click here to link to the cycling section on the Vendee Tourism website. Among other things, you will find a great downloadable map on cycling in the Vendee, note that it is also in French, but nonetheless, a great resource. I hope that one of these resources may be of some help to you as you consider routes to explore in 2013. Stay tuned for more top resources in the upcoming weeks!
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