Reader Reports from France

Regardless of how great a guidebook on bicycling an itinerary is, there is nothing better than a first-hand report from the field.  Here are some great route reports from Experience France By Bike readers. I think you’ll enjoy their updates and I’m confident they will inspire you and prepare you for what to expect on your next trip!

Kim Ross and Dennis Engel, The Loire and Provence, September-October, 2014

Canadians Kim and Dennis spent one month cycling 1100 km in France last fall.  It was the first completely solo trip that the couple had ever taken, so if you are thinking about taking an on-your-own trip and don’t think you have the courage, start reading Kim’s posts as I think you may change your mind!

Kim Ross and husband Dennis Engel with Gordes in background

Kim Ross and husband Dennis Engel with Gordes in background

Kim and Dennis’ journey begins here:  http://wellspokenblog.com/2014/09/12/the-grand-adventure-begins/.

Several months after their trip, Kim reflected back on their trip, and wrote this wonderful “Au Revoir” post of afterthoughts.  I loved this piece and her honesty about things experienced and things learned:  http://wellspokenblog.com/2014/12/27/au-revoir/#more-462.  I can’t wait till they plan another trip and I can read more of Kim’s reports!

 

John and Ann Cave on a Tandem From Basle to Saint Malo, June-July, 2014

John and Ann Cave and tandem

John and Ann Cave and tandem

John and Ann did a great travel report in 2012 when they bicycled La Velodyssee the same year as I did.  Now they are off on a totally new adventure on a tandem!  I love cycling, and I love cycling in France, and I love my husband, but not enough to ride for three weeks behind him on a tandem!  Follow John and Ann’s progress as they cycle from Basle through the Loire to the gorgeous seaside town of Saint Malo in Brittany.

Exactly where are we? A common cycling question!

Exactly where are we? A common cycling question!

John and Ann’s reports begin here:  http://basletostmalo.blogspot.com/2014/06/13-june-basle-to-mulhouse.html.  Use the “newer post” button at the bottom of each page to view later posts.

Christopher Boarland, La Velodyssee, June, 2013

“Midlife Cycling Adventure” is a journal of Chris Boarland’s adventures along the Atlantic Coast of France in early summer, 2013.  Chris did this trip solo, with his bike Marjorie in celebration of his retirement as Assistant Chief Constable with the Devon and Corwall Police.  This was Chris’ first cycle tour and his blog chronicles his adventures bicycling along La Velodyssee, the Atlantic Coast route in France.

Chris leaving for France

Chris leaving for France

This blog is a must for anyone planning on bicycling this route as it is full of tips on navigating in and around major towns, and provides insight on where route signage is lacking. To say that Chris had an adventure is an understatement. He weathered one of the rainiest Junes in recent history in France and learned the hard way to never pass up a chance to buy food and/or water.

A very fit looking Chris returning home

A very fit looking Chris returning home

Chris’ first bicycling experience has left him anxious to plan the next one.  And with the kind of reports he sends back home, we can’t wait either!  Thanks Chris for the fun and funny stories from the road. I look forward to your next trip.  You can read more about Chris Boarland’s adventures at: http://mid-lifecyclingadventure.blogspot.fr/2013/06/leaving-for-france.html.  Click on the “newer post” button at the bottom of each page to follow Chris’ adventures along La Velodyssee!

John and Ann Cave, The Rhine Cycle Route (EuroVelo 15), Spring, 2013

Two of my favorite tandem riders, John and Ann Cave have lots of information for anyone thinking about cycling EuroVelo 15, the Rhine Cycle Route.  Join John and Ann as they cycle the whole route, from Oberalp in Switzerland to the Hook of Holland.

John and Ann Cave and their trusty tandem

John and Ann Cave and their trusty tandem

Their journey was 1230 km, following the Rhine from its source to the sea through Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France and Holland.  Here is the link to the beginning of their trip:

http://rhine-sourcetosea.blogspot.co.uk

Use the “newer post” button at the bottom of the page to link to each post.

Catherine and David Dempsey, September, 2012                                                             

Catherine and David are 2 Scots who have been living in France since 1994.  The live outside of Villeneuve sur Lot in the Lot et Garonne Department and they know a lot about cycling in the region.  They spent 8 days in September exploring La Velodyssee from La Rochelle to the Arcachon Basin and then inland to Bazas.  These are Catherine’s comments on the route: Just back from an 8 day ride from La Rochelle to the Arcachon Basin then landwards to Bazas in the Landes. Planned our trip according to the weather forecast and only had one afternoon of rain in the Landes fortunately. I agree with you so much about the endless forest tracks, the poor signing, the total lack of clued up information at Tourist board offices, and things haven’t really improved since your trip. Loved Chatellaillon, La Palmyre, Royan and, in particular Soulac.  Check out Residence Anna, an absolute find, as well as the ferry ride across to Medoc from Royan.  Lacanau Ocean is a bit concrete and would appeal only really to the young surfing set. La Velodyssee marks the last stage from Hourtin Plage to Lacanau as Expert but doesn’t really say why. We found out! It’s pretty ghastly, long and steep (1 in 10 hills) with scary descents. OK we’re not very fit and in our late 60s but it was not a lot of fun in the latter half of a long day from Soulac to Lacanau. If they want to really attract everyone they’ll have to upgrade the coastal paths. North Eastern Arcachon Basin was a bit of a disappointment. It was shut. This is so typically French (I’ve lived here for over 18 years I can say that!). A Monday just after mid September, absolutely nothing open in Ares to eat lunch. Went to the oyster port to see if the cabanes were open. Shut. We tried the beach area. Shut. Husband, who’s an oyster freak, was distraught. Eventually ended up having a bit of soggy quiche reheated from the bakers. Quite funny in retrospect! One important thing I think I should draw to your attention are the biting ‘flies’ in the forest stages at this time of year at any rate. “Mouches plates”, they’re more of a small horsefly, or cleg in the UK.  About the size of an ordinary fly but flatter and light brown in colour, they can stick to you while you’re going downhill at 30kph. And they have a vicious bite which many people react to. I was covered in mosquito repellant but they love that! You have to get a serious insect barrier spray, Insect Ecran is one, pharmacists only, repels mouches plates, mosquitos, ticks, harvest mites (chiggers in US), fleas and probably most things apart from irritated Spaniels (Marennes!). Where were you in Marennes? We were in Marennes Central on Friday 14th September and we had a choice of one restaurant. The tumbleweed was blowing round the street! I probably sound as if I’m whingeing…we covered over 475k and actually had a great time, not as much fun as the Canal du Midi last year.

John and Ann Cave, June/July 2012                                                                                 

John Cave and his wife Ann hail from Cumbria United Kingdom. They spent 4 weeks cycling both the English and the French Velodyssee on a tandem bike in June and July. They took the European Bike Express (an experience in and of itself, I’m sure!) from England to Bayonne where they picked up La Velodyssee, bicycled to Roscoff, took the ferry to Plymouth, then cycled to Ilfracombe.  Here is John’s report: We started In Bayonne, which is where The European Bike Express dropped us off. A few miles to the coast and we found a car park on the route with a La Velodyssee sign. A good start. From Bayonne right up to Royan the signage was good, not always with the La Velodyssee symbol but usually with EV 1. Some signs were just for direction, some gave distances but most were clear and easily seen.  As long as one is aware of the route and where you are going, it is very straight forward. It does become very easy to rely on the signs and then when an option arrives or the very rare a missing sign, then it is useful to know where you are and where you are heading. We made a mistake heading to Lucon, which added miles, before we realised that some areas are signing other routes off the main route with the La Velodyssee symbol.

John and Ann Cave

Any of the difficulties we mentioned in our blog were always short term and often meant we then spent time talking and exchanging information with locals or other tourers, which is always interesting.  Our last stretch of coast to St. Brevin-les-Pins, again was well signed, as was the next stretch along the Loire to Nantes. All big cities cause us problems, but on refection this was actually fairly easy, into the centre, turn left and up to the canal. Our only problem was not finding the Tourist Information office. The route to the start of the Nantes to Brest canal was good and well signed, mainly small roads and one or two sections we lost the signs. Again, as long as you know where you are heading, you usually find the route again fairly quickly. The route along the canal was great, others said it is a hidden gem and it is. Very enjoyable cycling, peaceful and quiet, lovely lock houses and gardens. Needless to say in this relaxed mode we missed the turn off the canal towards Carhaix. After this the Greenway was very clear and well signed, though not with the La Velodyssee symbol. It was all EV 1 (Eurovelo 1), yet again as long as you had done some research beforehand then no problem. This took us all the way to Roscoff, mainly on greenways then lanes and onto the coast. Getting to the ferry was very easy, close enough to town to buy tickets and then cycle into Roscoff for the evening and a meal and then back for the late evening weekend ferry. If staying in a hotel for a morning ferry it would be no problem from the town to the ferry first thing, probably 15 minutes at the most. Arrival in Plymouth early had some advantages, no traffic being the main one. We found the signs for NCN 27 – Plymouth to Ilfracombe, the Devon Coast to coast. This route was very well signed and an enjoyable ride, though much harder than anything on the French side of the route. Well worth doing, though I think I would go from north to south another time – head to the warmer weather. We were a little disappointed not to see any mention of La Velodyssee in Devon. The route was very well signed, probably the best on the whole route, but not a mention of La Velodyssee. Also the end at Ilfracombe appeared to be in a car park, with no sign or mention of the fact that it was the start/finish of a cycle route. Having done the C2C last week we finished at a sign in Tynemouth that stated exactly what it was, C2C End, Reivers Start etc. ( Only a minor gripe really) We both thoroughly enjoyed the whole route, we were not in a rush but did have some time restraints, it is a route one could enjoy at a very slow pace, and also sample many of the offshoots along the way. The quicker one wants to do the route the more planning and research is required, we knew that the route was only opening officially as we were on it, we picked up maps along the way where we could, the website went live whilst we were en route, and now has an English version. There was work taking place on the route in a few places, though in fairness there were diversions or warning signs wherever this happened. So a little time to ‘bed in’, for the tourist offices to discover what is going through their area, and that the route is two way not just a one way route and I think this will become a big favourite for all types of cyclists.  If you want to read more about John’s trip, you can find his blog at http://velodyssey-by-tandem.blogspot.co.uk.