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Bordeaux to Marseilles

Old 08-06-13, 12:21 PM
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Bordeaux to Marseilles

I'm planning a trip for three of us in the latter part of September this year from Bordeaux to Marseille. Weather should still be good in that part of France. If anybody has any suggestions on specific highlights along the way I'd be interested. I've captured the route at https://www.mycycletour.com/displayro...RouteNumber=79. It's a great site for planning a route. You can leave a comment on the site or here.

Thanks.

Last edited by mycycletour; 08-12-13 at 08:16 AM.
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Old 08-06-13, 12:50 PM
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I strongly urge you to head up the Dordogne valley (due east from Bordeaux) instead of directly toward Toulouse. The Dordogne & Lot valleys are gorgeous limestone valleys & gorges with many quaint medieval villages and a big concentration of castles and caves. Pass through Bergerac, then continue up the valley at least as far as La Roque-Gageac and Domme. From there, it's more nice scenery & villages if you continue up the Dordogne valley, but at some point, head south to the Lot/Cele valley, which is as gorgeous as the Dordogne valley eastward from Cahors. Both valleys have great networks of quiet roads. Since most of the riding is in the valleys/gorges, it's quite flat. From around Figeac (a pretty town), you need to choose whether to head up the Lot valley toward Conques (a nice ride) and then Millau, or head south through Najac (another pretty village), Cordes (yet another pretty town) toward Carcassonne and your original itinerary. The first alternative toward Millau will be somewhat hillier than the route to Carcassonne, but I think the scenery going to Millau is somewhat nicer, too.

I can give you specific town and sights worth seeing if you're interested in the route I've suggested. I've been in many of the towns your original route goes through, and I think there's a lot more to see if you head eastward up the Dordogne & Lot valleys. I once biked there in late September and the grape harvest had begun in the Bordeaux and Bergerac wine regions. I had great weather in that period.

The following website is useful for finding especially pretty towns in France:

https://www.les-plus-beaux-villages-d...illages-france
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Old 08-06-13, 01:22 PM
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Let me start by saying that I have ridden none of your mapped route.

Given that disclaimer, I've ridden from Sarlat (120 east of Bordeaux) to Avignon (60 miles northwest of Marseilles) but not on the route you propose. I went through the gorges of the Dordogne, Lot, Tarn and Jonte rivers. Stunningly beautiful river valleys with rock cliffs crowded with trees. Unless there is some reason why you chose the route you did, I'd highly recommend going through those gorges. If not those, go through some somewhere on the way.

I wrote a detailed journal of this ride. It began just outside of Paris, went over to Normandy, south to Sarlat, through the gorges, up and over the mountains, and then to Avignon. The journal starts here. The day I rode to Sarlat, the start of the route described above, is here. I have to warn you that I had taken a nasty spill gashing my elbow and cracking a couple ribs, a few day earlier. As you might imagine, the pain from this accident was a major focus of my experience and, as a result, of the journal. There are photos of my bruises, which slowly went away. Just so you know.

I know this is a link to the route I rode on a rival mapping site, but I don't want to recreate it for you site. It is the entire route but if you zoom in, you can find Sarlat and see it from there.

Highly recommended, though it does involve some serious climbing. The ride over over the Corniche des Cevannes from Vebron to Saint Jean du Garde is not for the faint of heart!
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Old 08-06-13, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by axolotl
I strongly urge you to head up the Dordogne valley (due east from Bordeaux) instead of directly toward Toulouse. The Dordogne & Lot valleys are gorgeous limestone valleys & gorges with many quaint medieval villages and a big concentration of castles and caves. Pass through Bergerac, then continue up the valley at least as far as La Roque-Gageac and Domme. From there, it's more nice scenery & villages if you continue up the Dordogne valley, but at some point, head south to the Lot/Cele valley, which is as gorgeous as the Dordogne valley eastward from Cahors. Both valleys have great networks of quiet roads. Since most of the riding is in the valleys/gorges, it's quite flat. From around Figeac (a pretty town), you need to choose whether to head up the Lot valley toward Conques (a nice ride) and then Millau, or head south through Najac (another pretty village), Cordes (yet another pretty town) toward Carcassonne and your original itinerary. The first alternative toward Millau will be somewhat hillier than the route to Carcassonne, but I think the scenery going to Millau is somewhat nicer, too.

I can give you specific town and sights worth seeing if you're interested in the route I've suggested. I've been in many of the towns your original route goes through, and I think there's a lot more to see if you head eastward up the Dordogne & Lot valleys. I once biked there in late September and the grape harvest had begun in the Bordeaux and Bergerac wine regions. I had great weather in that period.

The following website is useful for finding especially pretty towns in France:

https://www.les-plus-beaux-villages-d...illages-france
I would also highly recommend this route, it is spectacular!!!
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Old 08-06-13, 02:09 PM
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Hi.
We live between Bordeaux and Marmande on your route. No complaints about your route apart from personal preference would be to avoid Toulouse and go across from Montauban to Albi then down to Carcassonne. We were down there for stage 7 of the tour this year and it's a nice area. Either way, have a nice trip, and yes, the weather is due to be good.
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Old 08-07-13, 01:38 PM
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I did Marseille to Bordeaux a few years ago but my route was more of a direct line W to E crossing the Rhone just S of Orange. Your route looks good if you like river/canal bank riding that's not very hilly.

Can't add anything to what's been said above. Best of luck.
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Old 08-12-13, 07:14 AM
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Amazing! I already started looking at modifying the route to start going along the Dordogne valley instead of direct to Toulouse. I will take your suggestion to go through Bergerac perhaps as far as Carsac then cut south towards Cahors and Carcassonne. Wasn't sure about Toulouse. I was there (not cycling) back in 2007 and I recall it being a fairly large compared to the places we usually like to stay when biking. Will also take a look at Millau as an alternative to Carcassonne - depending on ultimate distance and hills ;-)

There are some other great comments here on the route which I'll also take a look at. I'll edit my route on mycycletour.com and send out another post when it's done. I love getting the feedback. France is such a great place to cycle and this makes it even better.

Thank you!
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Old 08-12-13, 07:58 AM
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I've extended the route a little further east, not quite as far as Figeac but heading towards Cahors and Carcassonnes via a few of the towns on "les-plus-beaux-villages...". This avoids some of the more serious hills and still hits what looks like a great route.

I have one more question for anybody who knows... The current route passes on the south side of the Parc Naturel Regional de Camargue. Is the route through that part paved, or is it a combination of paved, stone / dirt? On these trips we really like to stick to paved surfaces. Also - is it worth going on the south side or just as good skirting it to the north e.g. via Arles? The edited route is still at https://www.mycycletour.com/displayro...RouteNumber=79 .

Thanks again for the info! We leave for Bordeaux on Sept 12. Counting the days.
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Old 08-12-13, 02:36 PM
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That's better, but I would still tweak it some more.

At the very beginning, I suggest you make a very small detour to pass through St. Emilion, which is a gorgeous little town. It's only a few km west of Castillon which is already on your route. You'll be riding through some of the most famous and valuable vineyards in the world. From there just continue eastward up the Dordogne like you now have. The downriver scenery is pleasant but nothing that special, but east of Bergerac, it gets nicer each kilometer.

From Cahors, I would urge you to head eastward up the Lot valley at least as far as St.-Cirq-Lapopie, one of those gorgeous villages. To be honest, the road just north of St-Cirq eastward along the Célé river gorge to Figeac is one of my all-time favorite rides. It's a pretty little limestone gorge with ancient villages and hardly any traffic. I realize that going to Figeac would take you a bit out of the way, but if you don't want to go there, I suggest that you at least stay in the Lot valley as far as Cajarc. That's a pretty stretch of the Lot valley from Cahors to Cajarc. From there you can head southeast through Villefranche and Najac (cute village and nice ride between Villefranche & Najac). After Najac, the landscape opens up. It was a pleasant ride to Cordes (very pretty town) and then to Albi. I have biked west of this route as you're presently planning on doing, but I found this route a bit to the east much nicer.

If you decide you want to go to Millau instead of Carcassonne, I would suggest you continue eastward up the Lot river, then pass through Conques, one of those de-populated little French towns that has a huge old cathedral. It was an easy and pleasant ride. The landscape changes greatly as you head eastward and gently gain altitude along the Lot river.

The Tarn River gorge which Raybo mentioned is very pretty, as is the Corniche des Cevennes (I think I told him about them). But be warned that the Corniche des Cevennes involves some serious climbing. The Tarn gorge road, however, is flat. If you're around Millau at the south end of the gorge, I would make an effort to see the stunning new bridge. (google "millau bridge") It wasn't yet built when I was there.

I've biked to Arles (pretty town with some great Roman ruins) from the north but I haven't biked in the Camargue. I think if you look at a map on the Michelin website (www.viamichelin.com) you'll be able to figure out if the road in question is paved or not.

Last edited by axolotl; 08-12-13 at 02:45 PM.
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Old 08-13-13, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by axolotl
The downriver scenery is pleasant but nothing that special, but east of Bergerac, it gets nicer each kilometer.
Indeed! Here are some scanned slides I took on a trip in 1987.

Beynac et Cazenac. Chateau de Beynac is out of view on top of that cliff...........



Chateau de Beynac..........

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Old 08-19-13, 11:00 AM
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Wow. Spectacular. I've already adjusted the route up front to go through St. Emilion. Will also take a closer look at heading east out of Cahors as suggested. Thank you for the suggestions and the pics!
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Old 09-01-13, 10:44 PM
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Wow. I'm quite jealous.

Back in 2001 I bike toured some of those regions (+ Bretagne). Albi to Cahors. And Périgueux to Bordeaux.

I really liked Périgueux. Cahors. Najac. Cordes sur Ciel. Albi. My day trip up the Tarn river. I chose the most backroady of backroads, and might have missed a few sights. But I loved the quiet.
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Old 09-04-13, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by mycycletour
Wow. Spectacular. I've already adjusted the route up front to go through St. Emilion. Will also take a closer look at heading east out of Cahors as suggested. Thank you for the suggestions and the pics!
The campsite just a couple of Kms. East of St. Emilion was the most expensive one I ever stayed at. About €25 for one night. Beware, St. E is an upmarket destination.
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Old 09-04-13, 12:53 PM
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Yes - we land in Bordeaux next week at 6:50AM on Thursday and will bike about 45km which will get us just short of St. Emilion. I noticed that everything in St. Emilion is a little upmarket so we'll tour through on day 2. I'd rather spend my money on their wine than their lodgings ;-) although I don't expect we'll have much issue with wine anywhere along this trip. Thanks for the info.
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Old 09-05-13, 07:19 AM
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We arrived midday in Bordeaux and spent out first night in Libourne and passed through St. Emilion the next day.

Monbazillac chateau (a short ride south of Bergerac) is on a hilltop surrounded by vineyards. You can go on a self-guided tour of the castle and are given a glass of the sweet wine at the end.

Milandes chateau (near Castelnaud-la-Chapelle) was owned by Josephine Baker and was interesting to visit if you have an interest in J. Baker.

Many of the caves are worth visiting. Years ago I visited Padirac. You travel on a boat through an underground river. Peche Merle cave is one of the few with prehistoric painting that is open to the public. It is very much worth visiting.

I had a very different impression of Rocamadour the 2nd time I visited compared to the 1st time. The 1st time was during the daytime and my friends & I all found it to be a crowded tourist trap. The 2nd time was at night, and it was quiet and beautifully lit.

The little medieval villages which dot the region are wonderful to wander around.
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Old 09-11-13, 11:53 AM
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We leave tomorrow! Like axolotl we are staying our first night in Libourne as well, then on the Bergerac via St. Emilion. Weather looks fabulous. Our final route is online at - https://www.mycycletour.com/displayro...RouteNumber=79

We'll take a look for Monbazillac and Milandes chateaux (amongst others). Hopefully we'll find accommodation as we go (although we are booked in Libourne).
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Old 09-12-13, 07:26 AM
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You've probably already departed, but I hope you have a fantastic trip. Bonne route!
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