Touring - Touring and hiking in Dordogne/Basque region in April?
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02-27-10, 10:42 PM
Since I like to leave things to the last minute, I now ask advice for bike touring in southwest France :) Myself and the gf want to do about 7-8 days, from about 1 April. We've both previously lived in France, so cultural issues aren't a problem. But we want to see a couple of amazing things, avoid drastic hills, avoid doing anything stupid like trying to ride through a snow-covered area, etc...
I'm reading through a couple of suggested itineraries atm, but would welcome any other thoughts. Basically I think I'd like to get as close to the border of spain as possible without hitting those inconvenient mountains. The Périgord region sounds very nice - I haven't been before. But I've done the Loire Valley twice and loved it both times.
I think ideally we'd hire bikes* somewhere, do a one way trip with a train back to the start point. Then we want to do some hiking in northern spain/basque country...but if cycling there is a good idea, we could do that too.
Obviously we're a bit concerned about the weather. April is hardly a sunny proposition. Suggestions for making the best of it?
So...any ideas, suggested reading etc, would be gratefully appreciated.
* We both have nice touring bikes, but it's probably just too much hassle, given we'll be in Europe for a month, with lots of plane flights etc.
If your time span is only 8 days I think you need to consider only one of your suggested regions above to visit. You can't travel too close to the Spanish border without hitting those "drastic hills" called the Pyrenees mountains. Why don't you start in Bordeaux and head east following the Dordogne? Look for towns of St. Emillion, Bergerac, Domme and Souillac among the many others, and connect them up using the little back roads. If time allows continue east thru Carennac, Castelnau, and Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne. If you continue further east you'll soon start climbing into the Central Massif.
The beauty of France is that you do not need a cycling organization to map you a route. Just pick up the local Michelin map (the 1/200,000 scale) and connect up the smaller "D" routes (the yellow and white roads). Avoid the busy "N" routes in red. The #75 Michelin map (Bordeaux-Perigueux-Tulle) covers that region in detail. You could ride easterly until you run out of time and finish at a town with a train station back to Bordeaux I'm just perusing the map as if I were planning the same trip without adding up mileages.
I can't comment on the weather in April. I've been there in June and September.
03-01-10, 07:03 AM
April can be somewhat rainy, particular in the East.. Bob's advice, follow the D roads.. C'est bon.
I'd suggest you pick up Lonely Planet's , Cycling France.. It will give you detail of what you are seeing and some interesting side excursions, you'd not find on your own.....They have sections on both the Dordongne and cycling areas around Bordeaux and Gascony.
03-01-10, 07:26 AM
The advice to use "D" roads is good but do avoid those "D" roads that directly join towns as these can be as busy as the "N"variety.
+1 on Burgundy as this contains some wonderful cycling country combined with good food and scenery. If there, try to see the Hotel Dieu in Beaune as it's not to be missed.
03-02-10, 07:20 AM
When in cities, the law says cars can not pass with less than one meter's distance. In practice, that is normally the case.. You'll find city traffic respectful of cyclists rights, 99% of the time.. They had better be, the law goes down quite hard on anyone who harms cyclists... . Again , I recommend Lonely Planet's Cycling France, because it will pretty much route you around congested areas..
03-02-10, 09:41 AM
BobG's advice is good. I would add the Lot valley parallel and just to the south of the Dordogne. The Lot is a tributary of the Dordogne. A branch of the Lot called the Célé is superb for cycling, especially the area bordered by Figeac (a pretty town) in the east, down to Cahors (on the Lot, and also a pretty town) to the west. There's almost no traffic along the Célé, the road is flat but in a small gorge, and there are wonderful ancient buildings in the villages. Take a short detour near the confluence of the Lot and Célé to visit the pretty village St. Cirq-Lapopie. My trips in the region have also been in June & September so I can't comment on early April conditions. I don't know if the SNCF still rents bikes at their stations, but Cahors and Souillac both have train service.
In the Dordogne valley, the stretch from Beynac east to Domme has stunning scenery. I've visited several interesting caves and castles in the region but I don't know if they're open in April.
The Basque region is nice but the mountains come almost to the sea and it would not be practical in early April. The Dordogne & Lot valleys have a much larger network of empty roads to enjoy.
03-03-10, 10:03 AM
Great info! I'm thinking of touring in this area in May or June. Thanks!
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