France 1st September until 19th September
I'm looking forward to spending 18 days in France starting on the 1st september. I arrive in brive la gaillarde on the 1st September and leave from Bordeaux on the 19th. Trains are booked and there isn't much flexibility so I'm sticking with this limitation for now.
Any advice regarding routes would be gratefully received. I'll be heading south from Brive and doing a horseshoe back to Bordeaux but the size of this horseshoe I'm not yet sure about! I've never done tour cycling before and don't feel hugely prepared but I'm 30 and fairly fit.
Lightweight Sleeping bag
Camera (may have to lose this actually!)
one outfit of dry clothes - socks (2 pairs), boxers (2 pairs) , light trousers and tshirt and sweater, lightweight pumps.
Toolbag for bike - Allan keys, lube.
Can anyone help me with any last minute tips for success?? I may have missed things off this list and it's by no means final. Just looking for general first time tour tips.
Oh yeah, I'm going to have 6 hours to kill in Paris - any tips on what to do with a few hours in Paris bearing in mind the burden of a bike!
Washing kit? Microfibre towel? Happy to have just one set of cycling gear and wash and dry it overnight?
Don't worry too much about planning, both the hostels and the municipal campsites in France tend to be excellent.
Difficult to know how to respond to a question about how to kill six hours in Paris, the opportunities are so vast. But it's one of the most beautiful cities in the world, if I were you I'd just ride around looking at it.
The region between Brive & Bordeaux is my absolute favorite area for touring. I suggest that you ride south from Brive to the Dordogne valley, and then ride up the valley eastward. You didn't say what sort of distance you expect to ride on average, so I don't know how far east to suggest, but with 18 days, you have plenty of time. Just to the east is the Massif Central which is also very nice for biking. The landscape changes abruptly from the Dordogne valley to the Massif Central. You'll have to climb upward from the valley, but gradients in France are usually not too steep. When you travel back westward, I urge you to follow the Lot valley from near Conques westward to Figeac, both very pretty towns. From Figeac, follow the Célé valley (a tributary of the Lot, which in turn, is a tributary of the Dordogne) to the confluence with the Lot. That little valley is simply gorgeous and has little traffic. When you hit the Lot, take a short detour SE to visit St Cirq-Lapopie, a pretty village. Also, before the confluence with the Lot, the cave Pech-Merle is worth visiting. Then continue westward down the Lot valley through Cahors and a bit further west, and then I suggest you head northward back to the Dordogne valley, so you can see parts of the Dordogne you hadn't biked through earlier. The entire Dordogne valley from Souillac in the east to Bergerac in the west is absolutely stunning, with the finest portion being around Beynac/Domme/la Roque Gageac. The vineyards and castle of Monbazillac (just south of Bergerac) are a nice detour. Continuing west to Bordeaux, you should visit St. Emilion, a magnificent village in the area which produces some of the most famous Bordeaux wines. In late September, the harvest of the grapes will be taking place.
The region is full of gorgeous medieval villages, plus caves, an abundance of castles, and some of the best food in France. Many of the castles and caves can be visited.
There is also a great network of quiet rural roads in the region. It is worth buying some detailed maps to pick your roads. Michelin maps are fine, though I preferred the more detailed 1:100,000 IGN maps. It used to be possible to simply say "take the 'D' roads (departmental) and avoid the 'N' (National) roads", but a few years ago, some formerly National roads throughout France had their designation changed to Departmental, so there are now some "D" roads with lots of traffic, and they are best avoided.
There are villages in France designated "les plus beaux villages de France" (the most beautiful villages of France). This region has the largest concentration in the country. The following website has details:
I can give you names of many of the villages in the area I've visited, if you want suggestions.
Campgrounds are abundant, and september is a superb time to visit the area.
axo summed it up, while I cant give detailed route suggestions, axos take on the whole thing is pretty much spot on. Campgrounds are plentiful (although some will be closed in sept, so perhaps be wary of that)
what sort of camp stove are you taking? I ask for the angle of fuel and availability of propane bon-bons as they call them.
You might want to leave the lightweight high heels at home ;-) although I applaud your choosing weight weenie ones over heavy suckers.
have a great time, Ive toured twice by bike in France and travelled by car other times, lovely place (I speak French which helps with things) and will surely tour again there one day by bike.
Behold my avatar:
Back in 2001 I toured:
Albi to Cahors
Perigueux to Bordeaux
Nantes to Quimper
taking trains in between
Loved it. I hadnt even planned on bike touring, but bought a used bike in Albi. Strapped my small backpack to the rack, and hit the road. Stayed in really cheap hotels, the kind that are shabby but not dirty. So I know nothing about camping there.
Why no camera? I think youd regret that decision.
Axo - i'd love to hear about some of the villages you visited.
I don't yet have a stove and know nothing about them. Any advice/ opinions welcomed.
Originally Posted by djb
I wouldnt suggest taking a stove that uses white gas/coleman type fuel as you wont find that around. The screw in propane jobs are the ones that you see in stores, but I think you should get some more recent advice from others concerning what was available in larger stores.
The ones Im thinking will be easier to find are the "bluets" ones, screw in propane ones. Perhaps you could try contacting some online bike touring or backpacking groups in France to get better answers, but then again, it probably would be all in French and being august, people are still all out on vacation....
good luck as this is pretty important to choose a stove type. I guess the other option would be to buy one there, but then you could be out of luck if stores are closed or if they are out of stock (again, vacation time right now)
have fun whatever the stove situation ends up doing.
Some pretty towns and villages a bit east of Souillac in the Dordogne valley: Martel, Carennac, St. Céré. (I especially liked these last 3 places because they weren't mobbed with other tourists.) Just south of Carennac is the Gouffre de Padirac, a cave with an underground river. I visited it on my 1st tour in the region. While it's very touristy, it's also pretty cool. Near it is Rocamadour, an abbey built along the side of a cliff. The first time I was there was daytime on a weekend and it was a touristy zoo and we hated it. The 2nd time, however, my friend & I visited at night when it's beautifully lighted and is nearly empty, and we loved it.
Sarlat is the largest town in the central Dordogne and can be very crowded with tourists, but it's admittedly a gorgeous place. A few kilometers south of Sarlat in the valley is the cluster of the beautiful villages of Beynac, la Roque-Gageac, Castelnaud, & Domme. The valley is stunning there. Also nearby is the castle Milandes which was owned by Josephine Baker and is now an interesting museum.
South of the Dordogne are the Lot valley and it's small tributary, the beautiful Célé valley. Figeac is a pretty regional town. St. Cirq-Lapopie is a pretty village. Between the Dordogne & the Lot, Monpazier is a well-preserved bastide.
When/if you go east of the region, in addition to the Massif Central, there's also the pretty Gorges du Tarn area. If you want to approach the Lot from the south, there's a pretty route from Albi, Castres, & Najac, to St. Cirq-Lapopie.
DJB - Thanks for the info re. stove. Axolotl thanks for info re. villages.
My route is constantly evolving which is inevitable as the tour gets closer and I think about what i'm actually capable of. It also becomes apparent that I want the trip to be fun and I don't want to put a great deal of pressure on myself by expecting too much.
Initially, when I thought about my tour I thought I'd try and take in Lourdes, Bastide-clairence and soorts-hossegor. And then head back up to Bordeaux through that huge pine forest. Now i think it may be better to stick fairly close to the Dordoigne valley. Hmm.
It's one of those - i guess I need to learn not to expect too much and just go with the flow when I'm out there!
Sounds like a great trip. How long did you tour for on that occassion?
Originally Posted by dgodave
Good point re. the camera - i'll find a way of carrying it! It'll either be a case of taking a small point and shoot or my dslr with 50mm prime so it's light.
Don't bother with Lourdes, it's a big nothing. I passed through it after a wonderful long descent from the Col du Tourmalet.
Originally Posted by ryanlikealion
As for camera, I absolutely recommended a point and shoot-- you'll have diff focal lengths, and being smaller you'll use itmore, plus you won't worry about it so much.
Even a cheap p+s will work fine, for me trip photos are for memories, not absolute best technical quality, and this is totally trumped by being easier to pull out and snap shots.
You'll have fun wherever you go, and yes, be realistic about distances to cover and leave time for serendipity, that's my take anyway.
Behold my avatar:
That was just a bit under 3 weeks. But I wasnt "on the road" every day. In a number of small cities I'd spend 2 nights, which allowed me to explore things in detail. I could ride around town unloaded, and then walk here and there. Some of my riding days were short.
Originally Posted by ryanlikealion
I used the Lonely Planet guide to find cheap hotels. I've heard L.P. has upscaled a bit since then, so I dont know if it helps find bottom-end accommodations anymore. Maybe I'm wrong about that. Beware of Sunday. Lots of stuff is closed.
Camera for absolute sure. Point and shoot so you can whip it out without a big hassle.