There aren’t enough superlatives to describe my recent cycling trip in France. From the vineyards of the Medoc and Saint Emilion, to the Canal du Midi and Corbieres vineyards to the Luberon in Provence, cycling just doesn’t get any better than my last trip! Each day was full of adventure, gorgeous scenery, funny experiences and new friendships that made even the worst cycling days perfect.
Of all the factors that contributed to this perfect trip, it was the friendships made along the way that had the biggest impact. This blog post is dedicated to the many people who took the time to stop and speak with us, to help us with directions, to talk politics, to share local knowledge, to make us feel welcome and to make us want to come back and visit France again by bike. Thank you all for enriching my life and my experience of bicycling in France.
Norbert Audoin, O2 Cycles in Bordeaux
Over the last several years, Norbert has become one of my most trusted bicycle providers in France. The Cube hybrids that he rents are definitely one of the most reliable bikes you can rent, and we found this reliability to be critical this year bicycling the Canal du Midi. There were times on this route when the path was so horrendous that I felt like the fillings would pop out of my teeth and my tires would explode, but a week went by without one tire or bike problem on the Canal. The quality of Norbert’s service and his bikes have definitely raised my expectations for bike rentals in France. I wish there was a Norbert to rent bikes from in every region of France!
Sometimes I wonder if I am on target in spreading the word about the benefits and adventure of experiencing France by bike. Grant Elliott helped me understand that I am. The last place that I ever would have expected to encounter an Experience France By Bike reader was at Chateau Franc Pourret, a small vineyard that rents two rooms. Grant and his wife Karen had just completed a 10 day bicycling trip along the Loire, following the itinerary I outlined on my blog.
An avid bicyclist, Grant had always wanted to take an overseas bicycling trip with Karen and through Experience France By Bike, he gained the knowledge and confidence to plan and tackle bicycling the Loire by bike. They had a great adventure and were looking forward to planning another bicycling trip together. My conversations with Grant energized me to continue spreading the word about traveling in France and Europe by bike.
Cristl and Dieter Graue
It was another dreary, uncharacteristically cool late June day along the Canal du Midi. We had just stopped next to a small waterfall along the Canal for a late morning snack and saw a couple walking along the towpath towards us.
We exchanged bon jours, and began a “short conversation” that ended almost a half-hour later! They may never know how much we enjoyed our conversation with them, and how it brightened our day. We speak of them often, saying that if we lived near each other, we would definitely become great friends.
Florian Machayekhi at Sun-e-Bike in Bonnieux
If you want to know anything about why electric bikes are so perfectly suited to cycling the hilly terrain of the Luberon, ask Florian Machayekhi. As manager of the Bonnieux office of Sun-e-Bike, Florian is a great resource for cycling this region of Provence on e-bike or any other type of bike. I can say without hesitation that my two days exploring the Luberon on a Sun-e-Bike opened my eyes to an entirely new world of bicycling adventures.
Pierre-Claude and Evelyne at La Colombiere on the Canal du Midi
Nothing could erase a horrendous afternoon along the Canal du Midi more than an evening with Pierre-Claude and Evelyne Metenier at La Colombiere in Colombiers. Pierre-Claude had written me that during the summer, he always had a Rose wine chilled for visitors, and I was sure counting on this being the case. What I wasn’t counting on was the welcome that we received on the road at the entrance to La Colombiere.
Pierre-Claude and his wife operate a very special B&B and one night here just wasn’t enough. I loved everything about this place, the town and most of all, the time we spent interacting with the Pierre-Claude and Evelyne.
Valerie Gillet, Vaucluse Office of Tourism
If it wasn’t for Valerie, I probably would not have added this part of Provence to my summer bicycling itinerary. Valerie works in the press and media relations department at the Vaucluse Office of Tourism and is one great ambassador for the region. Her enthusiasm and knowledge of cycling in the region was one of the main reasons that I decided to try cycling in the region. And I cannot wait to go back.
Andre Mazy of La Mere Germaine in Chateauneuf du Pape
Andre is dedicated to preserving the heritage of La Mere Germaine, a hotel/restaurant that was created in the 1920’s that fell into liquidation. His commitment, dedication and passion to this effort are inspiring. His knowledge of local vineyards and wines are invaluable to anyone looking to experience the best of this region. If I lived in this area, I would come and eat with Andre as often as possible.
Christine of Chez Christine in Saignon
In the middle of this gorgeous hilltop medieval village on the lavender route is a small, but very busy boulangerie/patisserie called Chez Christine. This place is sheer heaven with so many treats it’s really hard to choose. Christine is an incredible entrepreneur without even knowing it with food selections to die for and the best coffee for miles, and lines out the door for most of the day. She is a joy to speak with and an inspiration to anyone thinking that you need to have a fancy address to build a great business.
AJ & Marlene at Maison Allene in Lezigan-Corbieres
AJ and Marlene left the corporate world to find a better life for themselves and their children, and I am so glad that they did. Maison Allene is a product of love and a joy for everyone who stays there. Located in the village of Lezigan-Corbieres in the heart of the Corbieres wine region, Maison Allene oozes charm and warmth and is the perfect home away from home when traveling in France. AJ and Marlene are perfect hosts, dedicated to making sure that their guests have the best experience possible.
Grandpa at farmer’s market in Colombiers
We were so excited to see a small farmer’s market as we left Colombiers. We attracted quite a bit of attention that morning amidst the crowd of locals. This man who didn’t speak a word of English was quickly attracted to the American flag on our bikes and came over to speak with us with his grandson. He spoke so quickly that I could only decipher about every 5th word! He showed his grandson the American flag and asked where we came from. Our conversation was hysterical, me not able to understand much of what he said, and he not able to understand my American version of French, but somehow we muddled through, but not before he persuaded me to purchase some of his olives and fresh apricots!
People from the market continued to approach us. No one could believe that we were bicycling across France carrying our own bags. They told us that they didn’t see many Americans in their town and they thanked us for taking the time to visit. Our visit with grandpa and the other vendors reminded me how cyclists are really ambassadors when traveling in foreign countries. I may be the only American grandpa ever meets, and I hope that I made a good impression. Something like this would definitely never happen traveling by car!
My list could go on and on. But for now, I will simply say thanks to everyone who helped make this most recent trip our most memorable yet. You have helped me understand even more clearly that it is the gift of interaction that makes traveling through France by bicycle such an incredibly rewarding adventure!
Do you have someone that you met who impacted you on a recent bicycle trip? Let me know!
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