Nothing can ruin a great day of cycling more than being disappointed in your lodging choice for the night. Likewise, a charming, cozy B&B can make memories of even the most trying day on a bike disappear.
When I plan a bicycling vacation, there is no single element more important than my choices of where to stay. I spend more time researching places to stay and eat than any other part of bike trip planning. A good meal and a great night’s sleep are essential to keeping me happy when I’m touring France by bike. So I devote a lot of time researching options to maximize my chance of making the best possible choices.
When I’m narrowing down the possibilities for an upcoming trip, I begin by taking a look at lodging alternatives in major towns along the route. Generally my favorites are small, owner-run B&B’s, gites or small local hotels. I investigate standard resources like the Michelin Red Guide France, the local tourism website and my favorite lodging websites. Once I zero in on several options that I like, I turn to websites like TripAdvisor to see if there are any reviews for my choices. I generally review at least 20 resources for each lodging option that I choose. Insane, right??? The reward for the time invested is hopefully a memorable night, an authentic French experience that enriches my overall travel experience.
Much to the dismay of my family, I have been known to add an extra 10-15 km onto a normal day’s itinerary so that we can stay at a special place I discovered along the route! Fortunately these choices always ended up as wonderful as I’d hoped they’d be, so the extra effort required to get there was always worth it. I expect my lodging choices to enhance my overall experience of traveling through France by bike providing a window to a better understanding of life in France. So I search for special places where at the end of the day I’ll get a warm and welcoming greeting at check-in from the owner who lives at the B&B, and maybe helps carry my panniers up the stairs, a bed with fluffy pillows, a glass of wine, and if I’m lucky, the intoxicating smell of the dinner special for the night.
During my lodging search, my objective is simple: to find the nicest place to stay for the least amount of money. Generally I try to avoid staying in large towns, preferring a nicer small hotel or B&B in a small village for a fraction of the cost. This frees up money to splurge on a great dinner and bottle of wine. It also means that at the end of the day when I’m tired after a long day of cycling, I don’t need to navigate my way into a larger town. In the morning, well-rested, I can do my sightseeing, buy picnic supplies, maybe find a market if I’m lucky, and enjoy a second cup of coffee in town before I hit the road for the day.
Choosing where to stay can be a daunting task for anyone planning a bicycling trip to France. As a matter of fact, this is one reason people often choose to take self-guided trips where all lodging choices are made for you. I’m a bit more adventurous and independent, and I love discovering little known places to stay that make my trips so memorable. Obviously you’re probably not going to spend the amount of time researching hotel options like I do. So to help make your planning a bit easier, I’d like to share some of my favorite lodging websites with you. Hopefully one of theses websites will help you locate accommodations that will enhance your experience of exploring France by bike.
- Logis Hotels, With almost 1800 lodging options in France, this is one of my favorite resources
- CleVacances, Very popular French resource, members judged and rated against 200 criteria, over 30,000 owner-managed properties
- Charming Guest Houses, For a bit of a splurge, this website features castles, castle-hotels and manors
- France Bed & Breakfasts, International B&B directory with over 1400 options in France, easy to use
- Pour-Les-Vacances, A French directory of holiday rentals and B&B’s in France
- Hotels Relais du Silence, For a special splurge, there are only 112 members of this chain in France
- Chambres D’Hotes-Fleurs De Soleil, Website only in French, but includes many small B&B’s not included on larger websites
- Mr & Mrs Smith, Definitely more expensive, but perfect for a special occasion, honeymoon, etc.
- Small Hotels in France, A lovely directory of small French hotels of character
- Routard, One of the most popular French travel resources, in French only
- Gites de France, Definitely a favorite resource with over 47,000 options in France, easy to use website, rating system
- Chateaux and Hotels Collection, This French network of independent charming hotels and gourmet restaurants is definitely on the more expensive side generally, but depending on time of year and location, possible to find an affordable option, otherwise, good for splurges
- Sawdays, A collection of over 1400 charming flats, cottages, gives and B&B’s, definitely one of my favorite lodging resources
- Les Guides Rivages, A directory of 1200 of the most charming hotels and guesthouses in France
- AirBnb France, One of the more popular sites with the under 30 crowd, can be a great resource in very popular markets
- TripAdvisor, A great overall resource for options and reviews
- Booking.com, While I like booking my reservations direct, this is a great resource for little known B&B’s
- Camping France, Great option for camping alternatives
- France Camping, More camping
- Sawdays Canopy and Stars, “Clamping” alternatives, camping from a more luxurious approach
I love sharing my discoveries and I always write about my selections online before or after each bicycling trip. Suggestions on where to stay are also included in books in my e-guide series. My selections are always noted for the special features and characteristics that made them appeal to me. My choices may not be the fanciest or the most luxurious, and they will probably not be the highest rated in the area, unless I have gotten an incredibly great deal. But my choices will always be characterized by three words: comfort, charm and value. I’m always on the lookout for new places to stay, so if you come upon a great selection on your bicycling adventures, I hope that you will send in a note and share it with all of us too!