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France & Italy in April

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France & Italy in April

Old 02-27-19, 12:24 AM
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France & Italy in April

We are experienced bicycle tourists on our second trip to Europe. Our other European tour was along the N. Sea. This one is mostly France and a touch of Italy. I have attached the map of our route. We will camp and stay in hotels. We will also look for Warm Showers. Our language skills are weak but we have been working on our smiles. Any thoughts about things to see on our route, where to stay, etc. is appreciated. If you happen to be along our route and see a retired couple struggling along the road, stop and say hi.
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Old 02-27-19, 11:31 AM
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It could be cool and rainy in April. The weather may be more pleasant if you were to wait until the beginning or middle of May.
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Old 02-27-19, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by acantor
It could be cool and rainy in April.
+1. E.g., April is Lyon's rainiest month:

https://www.holiday-weather.com/lyon/averages/
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Old 02-27-19, 08:18 PM
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Why do you include this northwest loop? Not a particularly scenic region.

I'd probably start with an itinerary linking eurovelo routes (3, 6, 17, 8) , tweaked after having read a couple of Michelin green guides.

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Old 02-27-19, 11:20 PM
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Originally Posted by acantor
It could be cool and rainy in April. The weather may be more pleasant if you were to wait until the beginning or middle of May.
If they want to avoid the August nightmare that are the roads of France and Italy, the timing seems right
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Old 02-28-19, 07:08 AM
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There's a good chance you will have some chilly weather in April. But my bigger concern is your route. Unless there are now bike paths (I don't know whether they exist), the route from Genoa to the French border is hellish on a bike. Heavy traffic and nonstop development along the entire Italian Riviera. The French Riviera also has tons of traffic and development. If you stay along the Mediterranean, there are only a few short stretches between the Italian border & Marseille which aren't highly developed with lots of traffic. BTW, from Pisa north to Genoa, you'll have a good climb and also traffic, but the traffic level will be much worse after Genoa. Florence to Pisa is OK because there are several roads to choose from.

It looks like you tried to put together a route with as little climbing as possible, but there are so many better regions of France to bike in than what I see on your route. For example, the Luberon region east of Avignon is wonderful and so much nicer than the Rhone valley. There are some signposted recommended bike routes there (mostly on quiet roads rather than bike paths).

The one part of your route which seems good to me is in Normandy.

Rather than a continuous route from Point A (Venice) to Point B (Paris via Normandy), I would urge you to choose to bike in regions which offer more enjoyable biking, and take trains to connect them, if necessary.
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Old 03-05-19, 11:27 PM
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Why April ? April is the cruellest month, even south of the Loire: seems France is the key part of this tour so I'm slightly perplexed at the choice of route/tour, there are many more interesting routes depending on scenery and also your interests en route - assuming the journey is the point not a destination ?

The channel coast: Normandy, Brittany, the Pas de Calais can be particularly and unpredictably wet and windy in April...just like the south coast of England where we've just had Storm Freya - very wet and very windy since late Saturday (still wet and windy - not cycling weather).

Language skills are weak (no surprise), your route south of the Loire will be a greater challenge then.

J.
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Old 03-05-19, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by hobbs1951
Why April ? April is the cruellest month, even south of the Loire: seems France is the key part of this tour so I'm slightly perplexed at the choice of route/tour, there are many more interesting routes depending on scenery and also your interests en route - assuming the journey is the point not a destination ?

The channel coast: Normandy, Brittany, the Pas de Calais can be particularly and unpredictably wet and windy in April...just like the south coast of England where we've just had Storm Freya - very wet and very windy since late Saturday (still wet and windy - not cycling weather).

Language skills are weak (no surprise), your route south of the Loire will be a greater challenge then.

J.
Do you burst many people's bubbles?
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Old 03-05-19, 11:44 PM
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Originally Posted by MarcusT
Do you burst many people's bubbles?
Pot calling the kettle black syndrome !

The OP requested thoughts. I have lived in France and know it well, so like the other posters decided to add my thoughts: how about you, anything positive - rather than anodyne - by way of a contribution ?

J.
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Old 03-05-19, 11:50 PM
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Originally Posted by hobbs1951
Pot calling the kettle black syndrome !

The OP requested thoughts. I have lived in France and know it well, so like the other posters decided to add my thoughts: how about you, anything positive - rather than anodyne - by way of a contribution ?

J.
Did living in france make you so negative?
There are ways of relaying your thoughts, then there is dropping a turd on someone. I did not discourage their plans. You made it as if you want them to cancel their trip completely.
Why are your opinions so valuable, yet mine are so offensive to you?
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Old 03-06-19, 04:44 AM
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You could be lucky and get warm dry weather in April. I've toured Brittany and Normandy in early June and found a few camp sites only just opening.Personally I'd be looking at Spain, Portugal, Southern-France and Italy....but that's just me.

Good luck.
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Old 03-06-19, 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Caretaker
You could be lucky and get warm dry weather in April. I've toured Brittany and Normandy in early June and found a few camp sites only just opening.Personally I'd be looking at Spain, Portugal, Southern-France and Italy....but that's just me.
I was going to say something about campgrounds being open that early. Back when I toured Andalucía in mid-March through April, other than along the coast, campgrounds being up and running was hit or miss.
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Old 03-06-19, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by hobbs1951
Pot calling the kettle black syndrome !

The OP requested thoughts. I have lived in France and know it well, so like the other posters decided to add my thoughts: how about you, anything positive - rather than anodyne - by way of a contribution ?

J.
+1. You offered substance. Sometimes people get not-so-great ideas. Nothing wrong with pointing that out., especially when it's based on first-had knowledge. If someone asked what people thought of their plan to ride across Pennsylvania using U.S. 30 I would tell them the truth: It would be a bad idea due to heavy traffic in many places and part of the highway being very bike-unfriendly. That's not dropping a turd. That's called offering an informed opinion. Keep up the good work.
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Old 03-06-19, 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
+1. You offered substance. Sometimes people get not-so-great ideas. Nothing wrong with pointing that out., especially when it's based on first-had knowledge. If someone asked what people thought of their plan to ride across Pennsylvania using U.S. 30 I would tell them the truth: It would be a bad idea due to heavy traffic in many places and part of the highway being very bike-unfriendly. That's not dropping a turd. That's called offering an informed opinion. Keep up the good work.
Appreciated.

Regards, John.
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Old 03-06-19, 04:02 PM
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I'd avoid the coastal road in Normandy for a parallel one a bit inland. Might not be so bad the time of year you are planing, but it is tight and windy and when I was there in July pretty heavily travelled by RVs. And if you're going that close anyhow, it'd be a shame to not take an extra day or two and go hit up Mont St Michel!

As far as the language, I've been to both. You can generally get by with English. Learn to ask in French/Italian if they speak English, and if they do you're generally good to go. Never understood all the claims that they are stuckup and hate speaking anything but French.
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Old 03-06-19, 05:06 PM
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I've biked France twice along w/20 other European countries. France is the best country in general to bike. As long as you stay off the N roads (red roads if you use the Michelin map), you should be fine. Most towns of size have a tourist office. I second the suggestion of going to see Mt. St. Michel. As I recall, I was only impressed by the visual of it as I road away - the place itself wasn't anything impressive and the crowds in April were bad. Paris will cost you 4x as much as the rest of the country and knowing even the basic words will help. Perhaps it's changed in the 18 yrs since I've been there, but I found that the French didn't speak English because they didn't know English. But those who want to communicate always make it work.
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Old 03-07-19, 07:19 AM
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Originally Posted by travelinhobo
...France is the best country in general to bike. As long as you stay off the N roads (red roads if you use the Michelin map), you should be fine... <snip>
Unfortunately, simply avoiding N roads is no longer a reliable rule-of-thumb for avoiding traffic in France because several years ago, many N roads were re-characterized as D roads. It used to be true that D roads were typically quiet roads with little traffic. Now, some of them are, but some of them aren't. It's still a good idea to avoid N roads, but now some D roads are best-avoided, too. Fortunately, France has a superb network of secondary roads with minimal traffic.
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Old 03-10-19, 07:17 PM
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Thanks to everyone for taking the time to respond. Timing and location are set so changing to other countries for example just can't be done. We are pretty experienced and have ridden in bad weather and on busy roads, mostly in the USA. While we like to avoid it, we know it will be part of the journey.

We do not arrive in France until May so we expect campgrounds to be available and the weather to get better. We have checked our Italy route and we will either just miss an opening or perhaps just get lucky with open camp sites. I hope the camping is as good as it looks online. Compared to USA, they are amazing.

For the most part we are following existing bike routes. For example Via Rhona, French Riviera, and the Ligurian Coast. We are looking at Velo Maps and hope they are providing the safest routes. We both have Garmin's and will have routes and maps.

We may be near St Michel but thanks for the tip on that and the tourist offices. We will keep an eye out for them. We also have had great luck from bicycle stores as a friendly stopping point for questions and just meeting locals with similar interests.

Duolingo has become my friend. Given my language ability, I will need to protect the USA's reputation and tell people if they ask that I am from Australia. American's reputation for language is pretty bad already. (This is a joke).

Thanks again.
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Old 03-15-19, 12:52 PM
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france and italy

Just my point of view :
following the Seine river from Paris to Rouen is not a good Idea : you will cross infinite industrialized suburbs and a lot of trucks. I would go near the loire area as soon as possible, for instance targetting the Angers area
Mont St Michel, St Malo and Dinant are really much more scenic and pleasant places;
I see you will arrive to Marseille crossing the northern suburbs : it's exactly the same problem : crowded suburbs, crazy drivers and no bike lane. Plus the "quartiers nords" of Marseille are very poor places with petty criminals and drug dealers, no real risk, but avoid leaving your bikes alone ...
That said Marseille is a wonderful city but not for the faint of heart, it can be really dirty, people are talking extremely loud and are not particularly nice with foreigners (ie every other place in France exept Corsica).
The french riviera is probably very different from what you can imagine : the sea side is full of places made for tourists : big housing projects connected by freeways, many things are closed between october and june.
In this ocean of middle class tourist traps there are preserved places, mostly the towns (Cassis, Toulon, Nice, Menton), the Calanques area east of Marseille, these are generally places for very wealthy people, like russian plutocrats, french soccer players etc.
The alps goes down in the mediterranean sea there, this is quite mountainous even near the sea.
The "arrière pays" is much less populated.
THis is my perception of things, I'm french and aging, so, it maybe a bit of a caricature ! But Ihave been to this places not very long ago, so it's quite acurate.

For tourist offices : check the opening hours
For campgrounds prefer "camping municipal" they are generally cheaper and basic, all other campgrounds have accomodations for children, not really useful for you.
If you want to go to restaurant, ask people around for what's best, don't be afraid to order "le plat du jour" and ask for plain tapped water : "une carafe d'eau" it's free, if you want to taste wine, on the contrary it's not a good idea to ask for "une carafe", it's the cheapest wine available from the cheapest supermarket nearby. Go to a "caviste" and don't forget to take a corkscrew !
Have a nice trip
If you want more infos just ask
Yves

*
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Old 03-20-19, 08:00 AM
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I am actually about to do a portion of your tour, in the opposite direction, starting next week. I’m riding from Marseille to Siena, following the Mediterranean coast. I’m told the hills near Manaco and Genoa are steep climbs but have rewarding views.

I share many of the same concerns voiced here related to weather and traffic for portions of the trip. As to traffic / difficult roads, I’m considering taking a train from Genoa to Pisa to alleviate some of that. As to weather, I’d rather deal with some rough weather to avoid the high season traffic.

As far as accommodations, I plan on staying overnight in hotels in the less tourist-y cities. I have an idea of which towns / hotels, but given the need to stay flexible, I haven’t booked anything I can’t cancel.

Your trip, while maybe not the perfect version for all the sites / routes looks fun. I hope you enjoy it.

Will
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Old 03-20-19, 09:02 AM
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I am also doing porting of Your route in second half of July byt going from Marseille to Genoa (or Savona) along the Meditteranean...I plan to stick to the water as much as possible for the entire route, that includes Marseille...

Our full route is from Barcelona to Genoa and the plan is to stick to the saltwater routes as much as possible. This does seem to avoid most of the elevation but there are sections that simply have to be climbed. It will be interesting to see how construction and traffic affect our experience (based on axolotl's point of view)
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Old 03-20-19, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by yves845
Just my point of view :
following the Seine river from Paris to Rouen is not a good Idea : you will cross infinite industrialized suburbs and a lot of trucks. I would go near the loire area as soon as possible, for instance targetting the Angers area
Mont St Michel, St Malo and Dinant are really much more scenic and pleasant places;
I see you will arrive to Marseille crossing the northern suburbs : it's exactly the same problem : crowded suburbs, crazy drivers and no bike lane. Plus the "quartiers nords" of Marseille are very poor places with petty criminals and drug dealers, no real risk, but avoid leaving your bikes alone ...
That said Marseille is a wonderful city but not for the faint of heart, it can be really dirty, people are talking extremely loud and are not particularly nice with foreigners (ie every other place in France exept Corsica).
The french riviera is probably very different from what you can imagine : the sea side is full of places made for tourists : big housing projects connected by freeways, many things are closed between october and june.
In this ocean of middle class tourist traps there are preserved places, mostly the towns (Cassis, Toulon, Nice, Menton), the Calanques area east of Marseille, these are generally places for very wealthy people, like russian plutocrats, french soccer players etc.
The alps goes down in the mediterranean sea there, this is quite mountainous even near the sea.
The "arrière pays" is much less populated.
THis is my perception of things, I'm french and aging, so, it maybe a bit of a caricature ! But Ihave been to this places not very long ago, so it's quite acurate.

For tourist offices : check the opening hours
For campgrounds prefer "camping municipal" they are generally cheaper and basic, all other campgrounds have accomodations for children, not really useful for you.
If you want to go to restaurant, ask people around for what's best, don't be afraid to order "le plat du jour" and ask for plain tapped water : "une carafe d'eau" it's free, if you want to taste wine, on the contrary it's not a good idea to ask for "une carafe", it's the cheapest wine available from the cheapest supermarket nearby. Go to a "caviste" and don't forget to take a corkscrew !
Have a nice trip
If you want more infos just ask
Yves

*
My wife is actually the planner.* Here are her comments from your post.* Comments from you and others continue to be appreciated:

"Thanks so much for your helpful comments. I took your advice and routed us from Rouen to Paris away from the Seine; it's the route suggested by the France velo tourism site that has been terrific for route planning. I also used their route to get us through Marseille, avoiding those northern suburbs as much as possible by heading more northeast to get to Aix-en-Provence. We realize what we will be dealing with on the Riviera; hopefully being there in May will be less crowded.

Also appreciate the reminder about municipal camping, which is also preferred in Italy.*
A corkscrew is on the packing list!
Any other food and accommodation recommendations are welcome, as well as anything else you might want to mention about the route."
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Old 03-20-19, 08:09 PM
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Originally Posted by debade
I took your advice and routed us from Rouen to Paris away from the Seine; it's the route suggested by the France velo tourism site that has been terrific for route planning.
You might want to ride in the Seine valley from Rouen to at least Vernon in order to visit the wonderful Monet gardens at Giverny (very close to Vernon). The industrial area doesn't start until you get much closer to Paris. May & June are the best times to visit Giverny because the gardens are largely perennials, and those 2 months are their peak bloom times. However, if you'll be there in early May, that might be a bit too early. I've been there in late May, and the gardens were superb then.
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Old 03-21-19, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by axolotl
You might want to ride in the Seine valley from Rouen to at least Vernon in order to visit the wonderful Monet gardens at Giverny (very close to Vernon). The industrial area doesn't start until you get much closer to Paris. May & June are the best times to visit Giverny because the gardens are largely perennials, and those 2 months are their peak bloom times. However, if you'll be there in early May, that might be a bit too early. I've been there in late May, and the gardens were superb then.
thanks, t we will indeed change our route to include the gardens, especially since we will be there in June.
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Old 03-25-19, 12:14 AM
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I cycled along the riviera 30 yrs ago on my way to italy and it was great. So when I went back there in 2005 with my wife and our brand new tandem we intended to ride from nice heading west along the coast. The traffic at the beginning of June was horrible. We made it as far as Antibe and caught the train to Les Eyzies in the Dordogne. We rode around there down to Cahors where we caught the train to Carcassonne and from there rode across the Languedoc region to Avignon, then through the Haute Provence region to the Maritime Alps then down to Menton and cycled back to Nice. We were in France for 5 weeks and most days were about 38C so we had to be on the road and cycling by 6am for me to survive the heat. We would be at our destination each day by about mid-day just in time for Plat du Jour and a bottle of rose. It was easy to tell good campgrounds as they were the ones that had bottles of rose in the fridge for sale to go with dinner.
We are about to head to Italy at the beginning of May and we are planning on flying into Milan. Staying there for a few days to recover from jetlag and we will stay in a hotel where we can leave our S&S bags for the tandem for our return. We are going to catch a train from there to Palermo? and then ride back avoiding Naples and Rome. We have 7 weeks so we should make it as far as the dolomites and we hopefully will be fit enough to ride up Stelvio by then. I'm sort of following the route of the Bike Dreams "Bella Italia tour". We are hoping that by doing this the weather will be getting warmer as we head further north and we'll avoid hot weather in Sicily. Lots of things undecided yet but I'll be keeping the daily distance to only 50-60 kms for the first couple of weeks because although I'm training 7 days a week my wife has to work and isn't really getting enough kms in.
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