“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things”
Do you want to be an adventurer or a tourist? Do you dream of taking a vacation that enables you to see France in a way few tourists do? Do you want your vacation experience to be filled with new adventures that immerse you in the life, people and culture of France? Do you want to enjoy the freedom, liberation and simplicity that come from touring by bike? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then seeing France by bike may be the perfect travel experience for you!
Whether you’re interested in cycling for a weekend or a week, whether you’re 20 or 60, whether you’re experienced or not, if you can ride a bike, read a map, follow a road sign and embrace adventure, there’s a bicycling itinerary in France for you. There are options perfect for every age, skill and fitness level. Over the next few months, I’ll write about some of my favorite itineraries. But first, I’d like to share some of my favorite reasons to experience France by bike!
1. You’ll see France in a way few tourists experience
Bicycling in France is the perfect slow travel experience. Your relaxed pace enables you to literally become part of the environment you’re traveling. You experience a sensory wonderland as you travel through the countryside by bike.
2. You become a traveling ambassador, creating a sense of community with those you meet
When you travel by bike, you’ll interact with locals and fellow tourists you meet along the way. The French love cycling, and they have very fond feelings towards those who choose to visit their country by bike. They will engage you in conversation. Be prepared to talk about politics. I’ve learned that the French love to talk politics! Take time each day to meet at least one new person, your new friendships may change your life.
3. You’ll enjoy a real sense of adventure, exposing yourself to an unknown path
No matter how well you plan, every day on a bike holds a new adventure. That’s one of the things that makes traveling by bike such a life-changing, character building experience. Some days you’ll take a wrong turn and get lost, some days you’ll rescue someone in trouble, some days you’ll encounter unexpected sights, some days you’ll simply marvel at the beauty of what lies around the corner. No two days on a bike are ever the same. Venture off the beaten track, keep a sense of humor when you’re lost, don’t be afraid to take detours, ask for help and laugh at the unexpected. Take the time to enjoy the adventure of experiencing France by bike!
4. You’ll enjoy life’s simple pleasures
Life is simple when you travel by bike; your only goal to enjoy the magic of your French bicycling experience. Your days are preoccupied with finding a perfect stop for a mid-morning cappuccino, exchanging pleasant bonjours with fellow cyclists, searching for a perfect spot for a picnic lunch, looking for great photo ops, finding a charming place to spend the night. Traveling by bike is a perfect antidote to today’s hectic world, and experiencing France by bike is the ideal place to do it!
5. You’ll “earn” the right to indulge in great French food and wine
This could possible be the best benefit of experiencing France by bike! France is definitely a paradise for foodies and wine lovers alike. Your time on the bike will burn calories and help you work up an appetite to enjoy the best local specialties and sweets and wine. One of my favorite indulgences is a mid-morning sweet and a strong expresso!
One of the best experiences of any trip to France is a trip to the local market. Not only can you load up on picnic supplies, but you’ll enjoy participating in one of the most integral parts of the French way of life. Market day is one of my favorite events when I’m bicycling in France. Local market days are one of the first things I put on my calendar when I plan a bike trip. If you want to feel French, don’t forget to bring your own market bag!
There are plenty of other destinations that offer some of the same features I’ve listed here. But France consistently delivers a perfect blend of these factors, making it a perfect choice for recreational cyclists looking for safe itineraries, well signposted with great support services, lots of attractions, affordable places to stay, great food, wine and easy train access from Paris. Once you’ve zeroed in on France for your cycling destination, the hardest part will be choosing an itinerary. Watch for posts in the upcoming weeks on new resources to help you narrow down your list. Coming in December, my top 5 cycling itineraries for 2017. Happy planning!