By Maggie LaCoste
Choosing bicycle trip destinations in France is never easy! I’ve been busy planning a biking trip in France for late August and choosing my final destinations was definitely not easy. I initially planned to cycle the 240km path along the Canal du Midi from Toulouse to Sete on the Mediterranean. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, this route is regarded by many as one of the premier bicycling routes in Europe. The Languedoc area is beautiful, has great food, affordable accommodations and they love bicyclists, making it a perfect slow travel adventures location. But doing this route in mid-August would be hot, the area would be full of French tourists on holiday along with thriving mosquito and biting midge populations. So I put the Canal du Midi back on my wish list for a spring time adventure.
I also contemplated biking along the Gironde and Garonne Rivers, past seemingly endless miles of vineyards, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Arcachon Basin, Cap Ferret and the Dune du Pilat. This would be a perfect relaxing route to enjoy wine, great seafood and wonderful scenery through forests and vineyards and along the ocean. Unfortunately, I remembered that this area is one of the favorite holiday destinations for the French, and mid to late August is the heart of their summer holiday season. Another perfect destination foiled.
Next I turned to the Burgundy Region, an area with over 800km of paths along the Nivernais and Burgundy Canals, the Canal du Center and Southern Burgundy from Beaune to Macon. The weather in central France would be perfect in August, areas outside of major cities and holiday areas would not be too crowded. And the requirements for good food and wine could definitely be fulfilled in Burgundy. Burgundy was definitely a possibility.
Then research for an article led me to the Loire River, and I quickly knew that I had found my summer bicycling destination. There are currently over 650km of bicycle paths along the Loire. If you add in the paths along the Indre and Cher Rivers and the areas outside Blois, it is well over 800km. The Loire a Velo trail has been in development for over 10 years, funded by a major local goverment initiative which strives to make the Loire trail as popular as the Danube bike path. Unfortunately, information on cycling the Loire is currently limited, and much of what is available is outdated, primarily due to the evolving nature of the route over the last several years. Working with the local tourism offices, I was able to design a great itinerary. The route has all my requirements for a perfect biking adventure: great food, great wine, great cultural attractions, affordable accommodations, easy access to bicycle rentals, oozing with history, easy access by train.
After much planning, my trip will begin next Monday in Angers. I will bike from Angers to Blois, visiting Saumur, Chinon, Azay le Rideau, Tours, Chenonceaux, Amboise, Blois and Orleans. I will visit as many castles as I can possibly stand, and I will definitely sample all local specialties and wine. I will leave the Loire Valley and travel to Burgundy, where I will leisurely bicycle along the Vineyard Way from Beaune to Santenay, sampling as much local wine as I can. My final days of biking will be along the Canal du Center. Thanks in advance to Candice at Detours de Loire for helping with my bike reservations in the Loire, and Florent at Detours in France for route assistance and bike reservations in Beaune.
I will look forward to sharing more about my experiences with you, and in providing you with information to help you plan your own Slow Travel Adventures destination.