A Bicycling Trip to France Takes Shape

By Maggie LaCoste

If there is one common theme running through my upcoming bicycling trip, it would be three of my favorite things: wine, food and market days!  In the wine department, I’ll begin my trip in the vineyards of the Medoc on the Atlantic Coast, follow them to Saint Emilion, then along the Canal du Midi in the Languedoc, to the vineyards of Chateauneuf du Pape, ending in the vineyards of the Luberon.  abc1

In the food department, I will enjoy the best that France has to offer:  seafood in Aquitaine, canale in Saint Emilion, Cassoulet along the Canal du Midi, AOC Pelardondef1 cheese, lots and lots of olives and olive tapenade, anchovies from Collioure, oysters and sardines from Sete, Agde and Marseillan, and I haven’t even gotten to Provence yet!  We will enjoy some of the best summer markets, from the Sunday markets in Bordeaux and L’Isle sur la Sorgue to daily markets in Avignon, Cavaillon, Carcassonne, Bonnieux and every other market we can find.  nop1

Are you wondering where the bicycling comes in?  I’m happy to report that there will be plenty of time for that, understanding that I am definitely not one to feel obligated to ride 75 km+ a day.  Several days exploring the vineyards around the Medoc and the Gironde, a week along the Canal du Midi and a week in Provence will provide plenty of challenging time on the bike.  Cycling along the Canal du Midi will be slow in some parts, based on recent reports I have read.  This is probably the biggest unknown on this trip as there are few online resources about the route along the canal.  Most of the books on cycling the canal are outdated.  I have received reports that signage is poor and that sections of the route are impassable or difficult at best.  The good news is that the weather should be dry in late June, so we hopefully won’t have to worry about rained out or muddy paths.  Regardless of the condition of the route, the chance to be immersed by the plane trees before they are cut down and replaced will be priceless.

 Plane trees lining the Canal du Midi

Plane trees lining the Canal du Midi

And then there is Provence.  I forgot how much I love the simple things about Provence:  local honey for breakfast, Cavaillon melons, tomatoes the color of fire engines, ratatouille, aubergines, peaches from Roussillon, chilled rose wine, fields of lavender as far as you can see….and smell.  And then there are the fields of sunflowers, a picture that forever stays in your mind. And I can’t forget to mention the people of Provence.  Perhaps it’s because they live in paradise that they are so warm and welcoming.  Perhaps it’s just the way they are.  Makes me wish I was spending a month bicycling there!  Maybe I will go back in the fall.

This trip I will also try out a new way of bicycling in France.  For two days, I will rent an e-bike to explore some of the most famous hill towns in the Luberon:  Lacoste, Menerbes, Roussillon, Gordes, Loumarin, Bonnieux, Maubec and Apt.  Judging from the many responses I received to my last post about e-bikes in the Luberon, it looks like this is something that a lot of you are interested in, so stay tuned for more.  I can’t wait for this experience!

My itinerary is finally finished and I have made all of my lodging reservations.  I was quickly reminded how popular Provence is because it was challenging getting reservations at several places that I wanted to stay.  Lesson for the future:  book early when going to Provence in June or July and just stay away in August.  I still need to finalize my reservations for bikes.  I will be renting from O2cycles from Bordeaux to Sete, and from Luberon Biking in Provence.  I will use Sun-e-Bike for the electric bike.

I am preparing a list of some of my favorite resources used in my planning, so watch for this list in the next few days.

©2013 Experience France by Bike.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Maggie LACoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way....by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.