My Favorite Places To Stay Cycling In France In 2017

My 2017 cycling trip from Nantes to Mulhouse on EuroVelo 6 with side trips to the Cote du Beaune and Strasbourg was my favorite trip ever!  Spectacular scenery, 3 weeks of fantastic weather, wonderful new friends, great food, markets and wine all helped make this trip special. But it was unique places I stayed that provided the best memories and where I met some of the most interesting people of my trip.

The B&B’s, gites and small hotels on my Top Places to Stay list are more than just a place to stay. At each, the family/owner or staff went out of their way to make guests feel special.  From offers to do laundry, to home cooked meals, to a cold bottle of rose upon arrival on a hot afternoon, each accommodation provided very special memories. While several of my choices were a bit of a splurge, most were simple and well under 100€/night.

Despite the fact that we showed up at our B&B’s late in the afternoon, looking a bit ragged after a hot day on the bike, we were always warmly greeted, like family coming home for the weekend. If I could, I would happily go back and stay at each of my selections again, probably for more than 1-2 nights!

Here are my 10 Top Picks for my 2017 trip. If you’re planning a cycling trip this year and will be near any of my recommendations, do yourself a favor and consider spending a night or two at any one of them!  You won’t be disappointed!

Villa Belle Couronne 13 bis rue des Mazeres, Cellier

This Belle Epoque mansion majestically overlooks the Loire from the very small, charming village of Le Cellier, approximately 20km from Nantes.  This B&B is the perfect place to stay after enjoying an afternoon of cycling around Nantes. Rooms and views are gorgeous and the hosts, Jan and Gertie Liebreks are charming, warm and very knowledgeable about local history and events. Breakfast on the terrace overlooking the Loire on one side, and the mansion on the other was a highlight of the trip!

For reservation inquiries, e-mail Jan and Gertie at: contact@bellecouronne.fr

Hotel La Capitainerie 01 Square du General de Gaulle, Chateauneuf-sur-Loire                                                                                                              

Chateauneuf-sur-Loire is a perfectly charming place to overnight on the Loire, and Hotel La Capitainerie is the perfect place to stay. Located at the gateway to the castle, the park and the Loire maritime museum, the hotel is welcoming, charming and very affordable. There’s a lovely terrace in front of the hotel, perfect for enjoying an afternoon ice cream or glass of rose. This same terrace served as the setting for our picnic dinner the night we stayed here.  There are several local charcuterie and cheese shops full of local specialties to choose from for a picnic lunch or dinner.

When I think back about my stay at Hotel La Capitainerie, the first thing that always comes to mind is the owner extraordinaire, Karine Malega.  Karine will be the first person to greet you, the one to check you in, and probably take care of every incidental thing that you need during your stay.  Karine adds new meaning to the phrase, “service with a smile” as she always finds a way to juggle all the responsibilities of running a small hotel with a smile on her face.  

Note that the hotel is closed every day from 12:00 to 4:00 and check-in is not possible during this time.

For rates and reservation inquiries, e-mail Karine at: hotel.lacapitainerie@gmail.com

La Poularde  13 Quai de Nice, Gien

Simple, clean, comfortable and affordable rooms make this the perfect place to stay in the town of Gien, best known for its gorgeous French porcelain. I came here for the restaurant and specialties of Chef Anthony Labergris. Chef Anthony and his wife Karine run the show at the restaurant featuring local specialties and locally sourced food. Their creativity has been rewarded by a 3 pot rating by the Logis chain and insures that the restaurant is always crowded. A room here is a bargain at 65€, which makes it easier to splurge on a fantastic dinner. If you come, consider the half-pension rate of 140€ which includes breakfast and dinner for 2, a splurge, but well worth it!  The same dinner in a more touristy town along the Loire would cost much more.

We were fortunate to meet Anthony the afternoon we checked in. Seeing how hot we were from a long day of cycling, he suggested sending a chilled bottle of rose to our room which overlooked a large park along the Loire. The bottle of wine delivered to our room was 8€, almost less than a single glass of wine at a hotel in the US!

For reservation inquiries, e-mail Anthony and Karine at: lapoularde45500@orange.fr

Le Coq Hardi 42 Avenue de la Tuilerie, Pouilly-sur-Loire

This charming auberge sits on the N-7 between Sancerre and Nevers, about 5 minutes off the Loire bike path, surrounded by vineyards. You could easily miss the auberge cycling by were it not for Le Coq Hardi, the bold rooster in front! For as unassuming as the auberge is from the road, it is oozing with charm and warmth once you enter.  There’s a terrace in the rear with incredible views of the Loire and the same views can be enjoyed from the dining room and many of the 9 comfortable and perfectly furnished rooms that range from 81 to 98€.  Since I made this reservation at the last minute, I really had no idea what to expect, other than a nice room on the bike path for the night.  My husband had twisted his knee this particular day and was hoping for a room with a bath. We met a kind gentleman upon our arrival who went out of his way to help us, ultimately securing us a room with a bath, as well as 2 glasses of wine.  Only at dinner did we discover that the man who helped us was Dominique, owner and chef of Le Coq Hardi. Dominique and his wife Francoise have painstakingly renovated the building and the grounds, making it one of the most popular stops in the region.

I had no idea that Le Coq Hardi was one of the best restaurants in the region, its Chef, Dominique Fonseca, the former head chef at the Ritz in Paris and winner of many prestigious cooking awards. Our dinner here was one of the best of my life, far superior to many more expensive ones.  While you’re here, don’t forget to try the Pouilly Fume wine that the town is famous for!

For reservation inquiries, e-mail Francoise and Dominique at:  contact@lecoqhardi.fr

Le Cloitre, 89 Grand Rue, Diou

Le Cloitre is as charming of a gite you could hope to find anywhere. Very close to EuroVelo 6 and one of just several places to stay between Bourbon Lancy and Digoin, I was lucky to secure a room here at the last minute during the busy summer season. There’s only 1 place to eat in town, and if it’s closed, you’ll need to bring supplies for a picnic dinner, as we did. This was actually great with us as we dined by candlelight on the terrace next to the pool. I’ve just been advised that this gite was sold in the fall, the new owners a young couple who I hope will bring more charm and warmth to Le Cloitre. If you go, you’ll need to cross the bridge at Les Carrieres. Make a right and follow the road a short distance into town. Look for the church on the right hand side and Le Cloitre is just across the street. In the morning when you leave, go back the same direction, and watch for the entrance to the Canal Lateral a la Loire on your right.

For reservation inquiries, e-mail the new owner, Raphaelle D’Avout: contact@lecloitre.fr.

Hostellerie des Trois Pigeons 2 Rue Dargaud, Paray-le-Monial

The pilgrimage town of Paray-le-Monial is very special, and so is Hostellerie des Trois Pigeons.  A former coaching inn, the hotel is owned by the Cristofoli family who make guests feel as if they are part of the family. Phillippe is the chef and his local Burgundian specialties are amazing. Dining here for one night is definitely not enough!  Rooms are warm and cozy, updated but still embracing the historical charm of the building.  The hotel has 40 rooms, but you never have the feeling it’s that large.  Rooms run from 69€-73€ for 2, not including breakfast at 9.70€ per person.  Menus in the restaurant start at 24€.

For reservation inquiries, e-mail the Cristofoli’s at:  hotel3pigeons@wanadoo.fr

Clos Saint Jacques 1 Rue Pierre Mouchoux, Meursault

It’s hard to know where to start with a description of Clos Saint Jacques.  From the moment you enter this special place you know you’re in for a treat. From the warm greeting extended by Anne and Denis Duveau, to the immaculate rooms with terrific beds and linen, Anne’s to-die-for home cooked breakfasts, and the gorgeous common areas perfect for relaxing, Close Saint Jacques is memorable.

Anne and Denis Duveau in front of Clos Saint Jacques

This gite is a former wine grower’s house, built in the 18th century. It was purchased by Anne and Denis in 2004 and they have been painstakingly renovating it ever since. The Duveau family will spoil you and make you never want to leave their charming gite in the lovely town of Meursault. There are just 4 rooms here, ranging from 98€ to 158€, including a wonderful breakfast.  Booking a room here in the spring or summer can be challenging, so if you’re interested, be sure to reserve early!

For reservation inquiries, e-mail Anne Duveau:  contact@clossaintjacques.fr.

Hotel Le Sauvage  6 Rue du Chapitre, Besançon

The Hotel Le Sauvage sits at the top of a cobblestone street in the medieval quarter of Besancon, at the foot of the famous Vauban Citadel. The long ride uphill at the end of the day is rewarded by breathtaking views of the city and the Doubs Valley. Despite being right in the middle of the historic center, Le Sauvage is quiet and serene, perhaps due to its location on the former estate of the convent of the Clarisse nuns.

We arrived at the hotel on a very hot afternoon, parched from the uphill ride. We were greeted by the receptionist who quickly offered a cold drink and help with our bags. Within a few minutes we were sitting on the terrace enjoying a glass of local rose. The staff here is friendly and accommodating, the beautiful public areas ooze with coziness and charm and you can walk from the hotel to the Citadel…a 20 minute walk uphill, many steps, don’t leave the hotel without water!  There’s a lovely breakfast buffet here, but at 13.50€, it is a bit pricey, especially with so many great breakfast options in town.

For room inquiries or reservations, use the contact form on the website.

Peonia at Home 48 Boulevard Leon Gambetta, Mulhouse

A night at Peonia at Home is one of the best indulgences you can give yourself on a cycling trip…or any kind of trip! I was reluctant to venture into a big city like Mulhouse after a hard day of cycling. But when I found this B&B in a residential neighborhood of Mulhouse, I decided it was worth a try. I wasn’t prepared for the 1/2 mile uphill grade to the house, nor was I prepared for how drop dead gorgeous the house would be either.

This charming B&B was built in 1906 during Mulhouse’s textile boom. It’s been painstakingly renovated by Antonio and Andrea D’Onghia, two local architects who have renovated it to both preserve its history and character, and to incorporate breathtaking contemporary design. The stunning design and artwork throughout the house make a stay here memorable. Tony and Andrea are charming and welcoming hosts. Tony’s recommendation for dinner, the Auberge du Zoo was one of the best and most memorable dinners of our trip.  Andrea’s home-cooked breakfast was without question one of our favorite’s of our trip. Each room was equipped with a large fan that made sleeping in the middle of summer very comfortable.

For reservation or rate inquiries, e-mail Tony and Andrea: d.onghia@wanadoo.fr.

Hotel Hannong 15 rue du 22 Novembre, Strasbourg

Were it not for a screw up with my reservation at trendy new Hotel D in Strasbourg, I never would have known about Hotel Hannong, let alone stay there! Surprisingly, I’d never encountered a reservation problem in years of travel on the road. But, there’s a first for everything, and my visit to Strasbourg in July was the time. I like to think that it was providence, a chance for me to become familiar with Hotel Hannong.

Despite the fact that my room at Hotel Hannong was booked at the last minute during the busy summer season, I was treated like a long-time guest at check-in. The desk clerk was so sorry for the problem with my original booking at Hotel D, that she upgraded my room and included breakfast each day for my husband and myself. The building that houses the hotel dates to the 18th century and is named after a family of famous porcelain makers from Holland. Despite the fact that the hotel is much larger than those I normally stay in, you never had the feeling that it was any more than a small boutique hotel. The hotel has one of the best locations in Strasbourg, close to the cathedral, around the corner from La Petite France, but removed from all the hustle and bustle of both.  

The hotel has been renovated to retain the historic characteristics, yet with modern updates. There’s a great wine bar with an outdoor terrace that was perfect for enjoying a late afternoon glass of rose on warm summer evenings. The staff was helpful and accommodating, providing as much or as little assistance as needed. The breakfast buffet was hands down the best of the trip:  local Alsatian specialties including all kinds of breads and pastries, meats, cheeses, cereals, regional jams and honeys and fresh fruit for juicing.  Eggs of any type were available for the asking. The normal price for the breakfast buffet is 16€, a bit on the expensive side but there always seem to be specials on the website that reduce the cost to 8€, an incredible bargain.

Hotel Hannong is now my favorite place to stay in Strasbourg!  For rates or reservation inquiries, E-Mail the hotel at info@hotel-hannong.com.

There were many other places I stayed on this trip that I would definitely stay again. This made narrowing my list down to just 10 very challenging. It’s been such a great experience to recap these stays. I’ve had a smile on my face as I remember my experiences at each.  I’m thankful to each for providing such hospitality and special memories to my husband and me, 2 middle age Americans on a bike. With this post complete, I’m now looking forward to deciding where I’ll go in 2018, and where I’ll stay!

 

Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way....by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.