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Old 08-04-10, 06:51 AM   #1
achiii
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Trip in France... need suggestions

Hello,

I have a few days in france coming up that I would like to spend riding and am looking for suggestions. I will have about 5 days free and my bike with me. I would really like to stay in a central place and take day long rides around it (60-80mi). A few years ago I was working near Sarlat and had my bike and was able to do some great long day rides in this manner. Any suggestions for a good village/small city to base rides out of that I can get to by train relatively easily from Paris?

Any suggestions appreciated.
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Old 08-04-10, 07:12 AM   #2
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Hello,

I have a few days in france coming up that I would like to spend riding and am looking for suggestions. I will have about 5 days free and my bike with me. I would really like to stay in a central place and take day long rides around it (60-80mi). A few years ago I was working near Sarlat and had my bike and was able to do some great long day rides in this manner. Any suggestions for a good village/small city to base rides out of that I can get to by train relatively easily from Paris?

Any suggestions appreciated.
If you like châteaux and wines, take the train to anywhere on the Loire (Orléans being an obvious choice) and go from there. Mostly flat, except in and out of the valley.

For WWII history head north.

Grand cathedrals, go to Reims, Metz. Flat-ish unless to reach the Vosges.

A little longer on the train and you can reach Strasbourg, or stay in a nearby town. Tons of things to see there (climb up into the Vosges, or the Black Forest, ride along the Rhine, etc.).

Or you could go to Oudenaarde (Belgium) and ride all the côtes from the Spring Classics.

France is a big place.
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Old 08-04-10, 11:03 AM   #3
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If it's "days coming up" fairly soon, the overall tendency is toward hot, so maybe avoiding the south (your last trip in Sarlat-le-Canada) would be good, and maybe getting somewhere near some higher-altitude roads might provide some cooler options on hot days (esp if get most of the climbing done early in the morning, save most of the downhill for the afternoon).

One area that's near higher mountains and with lots of pretty valley roads is in Savoie between Chambery + Albertville. The area has pretty farms, some with horses + cows, vineyards, two giant lakes, and dramatic rock walls + peaks rising above the wide valley. Lots of train service between Paris + Chambery (some people who love the mountains there do weekly commutes back + forth to Paris).

From somewhere in the valley between Chambery + Albertville, you could do various day trips:
(a) valley ride thru Chambery to (and around?) the Lac du Bourget and back;
(b) valley ride past Albertville and Faverges to Lac d'Annecy and ancient city of Annecy, ride back around other side of lake and different sides of valleys;
(c) south toward Grenoble: like south in the foothills and return north in the valley (or in the foothills on the opposite side).
various mountain rides in the lower mountain groups just next to the valleys, or for a couple of days take a bus/train to place up near the famous high passes. Or there's a famous mountain pass right there, Col de la Madeleine, which could be included in a loop around its W side with some valley riding.
There's bike routes on the web, and some routes in that area with signs on along the roads (also a recent English-language guidebook for road-cycling).
Some might suggest basing a little further north like around Annecy in Haute Savoie -- but there I think you'd have fewer options for less-hilly rides.

Lots more interesting farm country between there and Lyon -- and higher (less hot?) around the Massif Centrale (also with some road-signed routes).

If you knew how to carry your bike on trains (I don't), might even be able to just stay in Paris, take the train out each day to a different route in the surrounding countryside.

And if you don't care about heat or altitude or north-south . . .
France is a big place.

Ken

Last edited by Ken Roberts; 08-04-10 at 11:10 AM. Reason: fix a couple words
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Old 08-04-10, 02:44 PM   #4
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I've just come back from a tour starting in Bordeaux and ending at Lyon airport. I liked what I saw of Bordeaux. Nice medium sized bike friendly city with a network of bike paths radiating out into the countryside. I cycled the Cycle Piste Roger Lapébie before leaving it to continue my trip at Sauveterre-de-Guyenne. It's about 50km. along a former railway with a tunnel and converted stations. Nothing very challenging but a pleasent cycle with plenty of restaurants and bars along the way.

Bordeaux is ofcourse the centre of a great wine region so there's plenty of interest if you're a wine buff.

The Conseil Général de la Gironde is the place to go for info and online leaflets on the cycle pistes. www.cg33.fr
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Old 08-06-10, 01:59 AM   #5
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If you knew how to carry your bike on trains (I don't), might even be able to just stay in Paris, take the train out each day to a different route in the surrounding countryside.
Chuckle. I was going to be a smart ass and show how easy it is to see which trains take bikes, but then I went to the SNCF website and, suffice it to say, I have other work to get done.

In my limited French train experience I have found that you can take bikes (on the non-high-speed trains) if you either:

- study the printed schedule and explain politely to the conductor what the little bike symbol means, or

- don't ask

--

Good info, as usual. Chârtres, Orléans, Reims, Lille (?) are all easily reached for day trips if you can figure out which Paris station to leave from. Not a bad idea.
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Old 08-06-10, 04:05 AM   #6
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Might also investigate riding about the Burgundy area. The area about Beaune offers incredible riding. Should you like riding among an expanse of vineyards as far as the eye can see, then this is the closest major vineyard to Paris. Probably about a 2 hour train ride from Paris. The chateau of the Loire is an incredible sight, but often cyclists don't stop to let a little chateau hopping interfere with their quest to get in every mile possible. Other advantages of Burgundy over the Loire. You find an occasional hill to climb .
PS. Should you want less hassle with the need to box up your bike for a day ride. Don't take the fast TGV. Take the regional train. They are not all that much slower and you will not have to box your bike. I think in all regions of France , SNCF calls the non TGV trains either Corail or Ter lines. Never fear. If it's a regional train it will be bike friendly.
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Old 08-06-10, 12:36 PM   #7
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Should you like riding among an expanse of vineyards as far as the eye can see
A helpful warning for me -- since I soon get bored of seeing vineyards everywhere while riding. (Also get bored with seeing just trees everywhere). I guess I'm just not enough of a connoisseur, but one grapevine looks pretty much like another.
Why I prefer the valleys around Chambery + east [ map ]: vineyards Yes, but also horses + cows, also other farm crops, also dramatic cliffs + peaks above.

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Other advantages of Burgundy over the Loire.
When Sharon + I were exploring around the (lower?) Loire [ map ], like around the famous chateaux, we rode up + down some hills -- it was a few years ago, but seemed like just by trying some roads away from the obvious rivers, we found hills easily enough.

Ken

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Old 08-06-10, 01:08 PM   #8
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But, my wife thought the cycling contingent nuts.. What she felt to be must see sites, we pedaled on by.. While those in the car, which doubled as our sag stopped numerous times. ... Our focus was just that. Pedal time and a quick overview.. For wine Connoisseurs , riding among the vineyards is heaven. Besides you can stop for a degustation once in awhile. In addition Burgundy is adjacent to the Loire. I'd suggest you click on attractions and 'beau villages,' for both the Loire and Burgundy.. You will see an extensive list for both. Check out villages in Burgundy such as Vezelay or Châtillon-en-Bazois ; you have some hard choices to make , should your time be limited.
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