Hopefully I have piqued your interest in considering the Atlantic Coast of France for a future bicycling adventure–for a day, a weekend, a week, or even longer. If so, you will want quick and easy access to the best resources to help with your trip research and planning. As I mentioned before, one of the hardest decisions you will have in planning a trip to this region is deciding where to go. As detailed in my previous post, my favorite areas are the Gironde,Landes and Charente Maritime Departments from Bordeaux and La Rochelle east to the ocean. There are enough cycling paths and attractions in these areas to keep you busy for the summer, so zero in one a particular area that you’re interested in, and then begin your research. For example, if you are planning a weekend family cycling trip from Bordeaux, you might consider taking the train from Bordeaux to Arcachon and biking around the Bay of Arcachon and visiting the Dunes of Pilat. If you are a wine lover, investigate the vineyards near Bordeaux and plan a weekend or longer trip into the Medoc. If an island adventure interests you, consider riding to the Ile de Re from the exciting town of La Rochelle. Remember not to over program. My favorite biking adventures are not riding marathons. I’m happy biking 20-25 km a day, allowing plenty of time to buy supplies for a picnic lunch, have a second cup of coffee, visit with the locals, and experience the attractions along the way. You’ll encounter unique adventures by bike that you would never experience in the protected environment of a car. But you need to have the time to experience the adventure, so plan accordingly!
The most important resource for planning is a great map. I prefer Michelin maps to the IGN map series. I find the Michelin maps much easier to read and plan from. Unfortunately I have yet to find a resource in the US that sells the most current Michelin maps which include “Pistes cyclables et Voies Vertes” or marked cycle paths and greenways. Many of the online map stores that I have contacted carry 5 year or older versions of the French maps.
Since most of the cycle paths and greenways in France have been developed in the last 7-10 years, they are not contained on the older maps. I purchase these maps on my trips to France and all have the wording”Pistes cyclables et Voies Vertes” listed in red on the front of each map. If you order a Michelin map online, be sure you ask how old the map is and if it has the cycle path and greenways listing. These new maps cost 4,50Euro in Europe, about $7.00, so if you see French Department/Local maps advertised online for under that price, you will know that they are not the latest maps.
Here are the specific maps for biking the Atlantic Coast of France:
Michelin #324 Charente and Charente-Maritime
Michelin #335 Gironde and Landes
IGN #145 Bordeaux, Arcachon
IGN #138 Charente Maritime
If you are unable to purchase any of these maps before your trip, you can secure regional and/or local maps from the tourism office of the area you will be visiting. Most of the tourism offices have extensive general information online, but most will also send a small amount of printed material via mail by request. Most of the French regional and department tourist offices have English versions of their websites, but some smaller areas may only have French versions. If that is the case, you can either use Google’s Babelfish to translate the page for you, or you can simply search for bicycling information, looking for several keywords:
Les location de velo Locations of bikes, places to rent
Louer un velo Rent a bicycle
Cartes de bicyclettes Bicycling maps
Consulter nos Brochures Brochures that you can normally download, including bike maps and itineraries
Documentation Always look here on the tourist websites because just as above, this is where you will find all the materials you will need to plan your trip
Here are the best tourism links for biking the Atlantic Coast of France:
French National Tourism for Poitou Charente Region (for the Charente-Maritime Department)
I hope that this information will help with your trip planning to the Atlantic Coast of France. There is so much to see and do in this area, one could spend the entire summer there and only sample the many miles of cycle paths. Let me know if you have any websites that were particularly helpful to you in your trip planning. This is an area that I hope to be able to provide more information on in the future, so I hope you’ll bookmark my blog!