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Old 05-13-05, 12:34 PM   #1
jimx200
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Suggestions on touring France

Hello,
As a guy in deseperate need of a vacation and reading positive reviews about touring in France, I need to get this done for June travel. Questions: good tour company (I don't need/want 4 star hotels), buy a bike there, take my mt. bike (I ride it on charity rides with smooth tires..up to 30-40 miles ok), or rent tour company's bike? I'm thinking 10-12 days and do like the option of resting in a sag van (great time for wine therapy). I have a week to decide a tour and arrange air. Sorry for not being specific, but I'm sure what ever route, I'll have fun. Sincerely, Jim in Sacramento. Email me at jimmc100@yahoo.com if you prefer.
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Old 05-13-05, 01:33 PM   #2
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I have never gone on an organized tour, so my views are biased. It's fun to plan your own agenda and route. Have you considered simply picking an area of France that piques your interest and going there? So if you are into wine, choose a wine-growing area, say, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Alsace, Champagne, or the Loire Valley, etc. Then take a few books out of the library and/or search the internet, make a few notes, and voilà! You are on your way to a tour!

You will need maps. The Michelin maps are excellent, but are not as easy to find on this side of the pond. I get mine at a specialty map shop, but even so, they don't always have the ones I need. Know that you can buy Michelin maps easily in France.

You will likely land in Paris, and from there you will probably want to take the train to your starting point. You can bring bicycles on trains in France, but not on every train. Your travel agent should be able to arrange your train ticket before you arrive.

It sounds like your existing bicycle would be OK. Just have a bike store check it over thoroughly and replace any worn parts. This is the perfect opportunity to upgrade components. Some airlines will allow you to take a bike overseas at no charge, but even if you do have to pay, it will be a lot less than buying a bicycle overseas.

You do not have to be an expert repair person to tour solo without a SAG wagon. If your bike is in good condition before you go, and you can manage to fix a flat, that should cover 90% of your maintenance needs. If you can take in the slack on cables, you are 95% covered. There are bicycle stores in many towns if you get into a real bind.

I have never had trouble finding places to stay in France, except during holiday weekends. But if you are going in June, I doubt you will have to worry. In most towns you will find clean, relatively inexpensive two- and three-star hotels.

On my best bicycle trip in France, I arrived in Paris and took the train to Wissenbourg in northern Alsace. For five or six days I cycled through beautiful villages and endless vineyards, to a mountain-top monastery surrounded by a wall built by the Celts, and up and down mountain passes. Then I took a train to Switzerland for a long weekend spent with friends. I took the train to Dijon, the capital of Burgundy, and then for three or four days went from famous vineyard to famous vineyard. I also visited a stone-age archeological site in the forest, and toured a stunning castle with a multi-coloured roof. On my last day, I visited one more winery, bought several bottles, and drove directly to the Dijon train station. I entrained to Paris, and flew home with wonderful memories and delicious souvenirs!

Bon voyage!
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Old 05-13-05, 01:52 PM   #3
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these folks organize rides in Wisconsins and Europe and have a great rep

http://www.twobicycles.com/
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Old 05-13-05, 02:55 PM   #4
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You might also consider http://www.bretonbikes.com/ if you want to ride in Brittany. They do guided and self-guided tours. And, can supply equipment.

We thought about them, but our plans (in 2003) included travel in several places in France, so we ended up doing our own trip. We gave ourselves six weeks, though. Flying all that l-o-n-g way from Alaska, I didn't want to only spend a short time in Europe. Even six weeks was not enough time. We could have happily spend a couple more weeks.
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Old 05-13-05, 07:08 PM   #5
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You didn't say what sort of budget you have in mind, but you did say you "don't need/want 4 star hotels". With most North American touring companies, that's what they're offering and charging you for. Indeed, I find the cost per day of most commercial tours surreal. I agree with acantor (#2) about doing it yourself. It's what I've always done, and it's not particularly difficult. However, if you absolutely don't want to do that, you might want to look into British touring companies, as I suspect they'll be cheaper and won't all be offering super-luxury hotels.

As for routes, it can be useful to peruse websites like Backroads simply to look at their itineraries. There's a reason they select the regions they offer for their bike tours.

If you do decide to plan your own tour, the Loire Valley is an easy place to start. Lots to see, lots of quiet country roads, and accommodations widely available. In June, you shouldn't have any accommodations problems throughout France. The Loire is fairly close to Paris and you could easily take a train to a starting point there, such as Nantes in the west or Orleans in the eastern part of the Loire. Also, some places between the Loire & Paris are well worth visiting, such as Chartres and Fontainebleau.

Just about every region of France has great touring possibilities, with the possible exception of the area due north of Paris which I found boring. My own favorite region is the SW, in the Dordogne & Lot river valleys.
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Old 05-14-05, 06:19 AM   #6
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Here is a good resource for planning your trip on such short notice. Get a copy of "CYCLING FRANCE", by Jerry H. Simpson Jr. ISBN 0-933201-47-8. It has routes and cue sheets prepared. I suggest the Loire Valley, Tour #6. Take the train from Charles de Gaulle airport. Do not try to ride bike to Paris from the airport. You will get off the train at Gare du Nord. Ride through Paris to Gare Austerlitz. Catch train to Orleans. You will pick up Tour #6 in Orlean. Then follow the rest of Tour #6 and Tour #7.

Get copy of Michelin map #238. Cost is about $9.95. Follow the white shaded D roads, yellow shaded D roads, and get on the red roads only if necessary.

You can do it without SAG support. France and the wonderful people of France will be your SAG. In France, when you ride a bicycle, you are a HERO. In the US, you are a target.

Take the advice of "Macro Geek".

Then come back home. Start making plans for your follow up trips for all of the other routes in the book.

Let me know if you would like details.

Bruce Northcutt
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Old 05-14-05, 07:16 AM   #7
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A sincere thanks to you guys! I guess what attractes me to the non-orgainzed tour is the "go at my own pace" or go where I want on that particular day.
Questions: hotels...pre book or OK just to show up and see what's available? My daughter is pretty fluent in French (Cultural Anthropology major) and should I have her speak to some of the hotels regarding availability?
Last question for now: anyone have experience with riding with a small/medium size backpack? I used to backpack quite often, but never tried it on a bike? I'm in pretty good shape...or just go with a rear rack (I plan on traveling real light)?
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Old 05-14-05, 07:24 AM   #8
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All the above is fine info I used Lonely Planet "Cycling France" last year will use it again my next trip detailed info, accurate maps and small and lite enuf to stuff in a pocket.
Anywhere you cycle in France is a joy, scenery great and people friendly
If you take your bike don't ride into Paris from CDG, take the train.
Most intercity trains have a place in one car to place your bike, it hangs on the front wheel fron a large hook on the wall of the car, I used it often and NO damage to bike
The TGV allows NO bikes outside of bags

ENVY your coming trip, enjoy, smile a lot, take a camera
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Old 05-14-05, 07:29 AM   #9
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NO BACK pak. use only the rear panniers if you r traveling lite I used 2 rear plus a handlebar bag total weight 35 pounds. I'm told a backpak not a good idea cause it raises the center of gravity. Don't need to make reservations, I didn't for any of the 10 weeks I was there last summer, never had a prob finding a room.
Only had one flat for 3500Km and one afternoon of a lite rain
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Old 05-14-05, 12:40 PM   #10
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In June you will have no difficulty in finding hotels without booking. France is ideal for cycling given the number of cycle shops, places to eat and cheap accomodation. Bed & breakfast accomodation has grown in France of late and they are cheap and very good but there are plenty of small, family-run hotels which are really modestly priced. Organised tours are a waste of money with the choices that exist there.
I suggest Burgundy as a first tour area as it has superb scenery, good food and is reasonably compact with easy routes from Paris. Don't be timid as France was made for the bike and the French respect and admire cyclists.
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Old 05-14-05, 03:19 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onbike 1939
Bed & breakfast accomodation has grown in France of late and they are cheap and very good but there are plenty of small, family-run hotels which are really modestly priced.
I believe that B+Bs are referred to as "gîtes" in France. The word is pronounced something like "jeet."

Family-run hotels in France are great.

Quote:
Originally Posted by onbike 1939

I suggest Burgundy as a first tour area as it has superb scenery, good food and is reasonably compact with easy routes from Paris.
Is there any place in France that does not have superb scenery?
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Old 05-14-05, 06:09 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acantor
I believe that B+Bs are referred to as "gîtes" in France.
The other term is "Chambres d'Hôtes"

Towns of any size will have an Office du Tourisme (older ones are called "Syndicat d'Initiative") where you can stop for info AND, where you can arrange for lodging. You tell them what you're looking for (2 star hotel, Chambres d'Hotes, etc., place for bicycles). They'll call around. When they find a place with space, they'll get a price. If you are happy with it. they'll make a phone reservations for you. They'll give you directions. Voila!

FYI, here is the web site for the tourism offices: http://www.tourist-office.org/touris...nce/region.htm
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Old 05-15-05, 12:25 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acantor
I believe that B+Bs are referred to as "gîtes" in France. The word is pronounced something like "jeet."

Family-run hotels in France are great.



Is there any place in France that does not have superb scenery?
"Gites" are house for rent to holidaymakers and the correct term is Chambres d'Hotes re bed/breakfast as has been already said. There are some places with poor scenery e.g. the West coast around the Gironde river is not so interesting but as they say France has something for everybody. It is four times the size of the UK but with the same size of population and after holidaying there for 35 years and living there for 3 years I am still able to find new areas which knock me out.
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