You’ve planned every detail of your summer bicycling trip to France over the last year. Your trip is now days/weeks away and you’ve read about disastrous flooding in Northern France and public service slowdowns resulting from union strikes.
Videos of flooding this week at the Castle of Chambord near the Loire might prompt even the most adventurous person to reconsider travel plans.
Should you cancel/postpone your trip?
There’s not one easy answer for this question as it depends on the specific variables of your planned itinerary. Are you leaving this week, or the end of the month? Will you be bicycling on the Loire near Amboise and Orleans, in the Normandy region or in the South of France in Provence? Some regions were affected by the flooding of last week, others not. Will you be traveling to your destination by train or by car? Flooding and strikes have impacted both long distance TGV service as well as local service, and there have been regional gas shortages due to union protests.
Finding the information you need to make an informed decision about your upcoming trip can be challenging. American media has very little information on French weather conditions and public service slowdowns due to union strikes. It’s difficult to make a decision about a trip you’ve planned so meticulously without necessary information.
We all have a different tolerance for uncertainty, but as a cyclotourist, you’re already more comfortable with risk that the average person! Every day on a bike in France or any foreign country is full of unknowns, the weather being the major one! Rain is a somewhat manageable factor, major flooding that wipes out your bicycling route and lodging options along the route is a completely different issue.
If you’re faced with making a decision on an upcoming trip, zero in on the factors that would negatively impact your trip, and make a plan for managing other more controllable factors. Use International news sources like BBC.com, cnn.com, international.nytimes.com or www.local.fr to monitor the latest conditions in the area you plan to visit. If you’ve made any lodging reservations, contact them to ask for information on local conditions. If one or more of your lodging options are closed, there’s a good chance you may want to choose a different area to visit.
As far as the impact of last week’s rain, flooding impacted the River Seine, Loire, Ahr and Loring in France and the Neckar, Danube, and Rhine in Germany just to name a few. Many of the canals in Burgundy are flooded and many vineyards in the region were decimated by golf-size hail. The major A-10 highway near Orleans was submerged under water and closed, castles at Azay-le-Rideau and Chambord were surrounded by water and closed, more than 50 roads in the Loiret region were impassable and closed and there were major service disruptions in the Centre Region, home to a large part of the Loire cycling route. Parts of Normandy near the Seine are experiencing flooding as the river crests in that area.
While I have not been able to confirm whether parts of the Loire or Burgundy Canal cycle paths are closed, it is reasonable to assume that some areas along these route will require deviations in the upcoming days. If you have a trip planned to any of these areas, make sure you have a good map and stay in touch with local tourism offices. If you are traveling by train, make sure you reconfirm that service is operating on your route. Likewise, if you are traveling by car, check to make sure that there are no road closures on your itinerary. Don’t rely on your GPS alone. Invest in a Michelin road map for the area you are traveling.
While rain and bad weather can be difficult to predict and plan for, the impact of regional and national union strikes can be equally disruptive to your vacation. Widespread strikes in response to the government’s proposed changes to labor laws protecting employees have impaired services in parts of France for weeks. These disruptions could get worse in the days ahead. Over the last weeks, strikes have resulted in sporadic airline slowdowns, gas shortages, road closures due to protest marches and train service disruptions. The French national rail was on strike 3 days last week, impacting more than half of all scheduled train service. Work slowdowns and strikes are predicted to continue with another national strike planned for Tuesday June 14. I suggest you closely monitor conditions in your area of travel, talk about possible service disruptions with your local host, and do not plan any type of travel on June 14.
If you’re traveling in or out of Paris in the next month, be aware that Euro 2016, the 24 nation soccer tournament begins this Friday, June 10. Over 2.5 million visitors are expected to attend this month-long event, with crowds impacting everything from accommodations in central France to lines at airports, car rentals, buses, taxis and rail service, even with no strikes.
There’s nothing I enjoy more on my French cycling vacations than avoiding all news and world events. But if I were there this summer, I’d definitely be proactive, monitoring local and national press, making sure I had a backup plan should disruptions occur.
If I’m able to get additional information from tourism offices along any of the major cycling routes, I will pass this on. If you are cycling in France in the upcoming weeks and can pass first-hand news on, please send me an e-mail so I can share this with readers.