Billy no mates, channel to the med

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
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Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby Rutland Cyclist » 16 Sep 2019, 4:58pm

Well not quite but none of my mates have the time for a trip Channel to the Med, so I'm putting out feelers for any like minded cyclists who might want to join me.

I'm looking into doing this trip next year, possibly June or Mid September, I intend to cycle across France ending up in Narbonne to get the Bike Express back to the UK. Intend to spend 10/12 days overall so about 70/80 miles a day. Carrying minimal luggage in panniers and staying in B&B accommodation pre booked if possible.
I'm in my mid 60's fit and healthy, regularly cycle 150 miles per week generally over 3 rides, average speed generally 13-15mph, and have completed 3 Coast to Coast trips and one LeJog. I have considered doing this with one of the tour groups however being a bit tight I reckon two people sharing a room can do this trip all in for about £1000 as opposed to the £1600 to £2000 it will cost with a regular tour group.

Downsides are my French is appalling, I can order a beer and a fromage and jambon sandwich but that's about it!

Over to the forum for feedback

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby horizon » 16 Sep 2019, 10:29pm

I'm just wondering if (especially with two people) you could camp it and reap the rewards of flexibility and cheapness. That's (a) because France has such a good network of campsites and (b) because booking B and Bs can be a bit of a pain. I have a similar plan on the back burner but you could go really light (as in don't cook, small tent(s), share tools and maps etc). Whether 80 miles per day would be achievable though is another matter. Just a thought.
When the pestilence strikes from the East, go far and breathe the cold air deeply. Ignore the sage, stay not indoors. Ho Ri Zon 12th Century Chinese philosopher

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby Rutland Cyclist » 16 Sep 2019, 11:35pm

the only reason I have not gone down the camping route is that I don't want to carry the extra weight of a tent and sleeping gear, at least with B&B's you get a decent nights sleep and a shower, hopefully. certainly for me 80 miles a day is not a worry, I've done it before and can do it again, still!!

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby Gmcg01 » 17 Sep 2019, 12:12am

Not sure if this helps as it is the opposite direction but myself and a mate flew to Carcassone last year with Ryanair. Bikes in cardboard bike boxes from local bike shop that we then put into the recycling bins at the airport. Rode back up the channel over 11 days staying in a mixture of B&Bs, hotels and the huts you find in campsites. I think accommodation was generally about €70 to €80 per night for the two of us. Takes a bit of planning to get a route that ends each day in a place with somewhere to stay and somewhere to eat but that’s all part of the fun. Ferry back to Portsmouth then a one way car hire back to Scotland.
Lots of amazing and mostly traffic free roads with great scenery, good food and really friendly people. The challenge though might be the language, as very few people spoke English but with my fairly basic French we managed to muddle through. Great trip.

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby Rutland Cyclist » 17 Sep 2019, 12:22am

That's the gist of my plans, thought about the bike bus to the south and cycle back, simpler than packing up bike and trusting airlines, but then thought why not cycle there and bus back, should be just as easy.

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby bohrsatom » 17 Sep 2019, 7:33am

I did this ride last year, from Caen to Montpellier, and back on the bike bus. A great route with plenty of options for hills (or not) depending on your preference.

I camped, so can't offer any suggestions on B&Bs, but just came on here to say that you'll love the ride, and by the end you might even have picked up some new French vocabulary (mostly for different varieties of sandwich!)

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby ANTONISH » 17 Sep 2019, 9:35am

I rode Narbonne to Dieppe last year.
I went by Ferry to Calais - train - Calais to Narbonne via Lille.
Partly dismantled bike in light bike bag - carried during the ride.
I've used the Bike Bus but the dates are limited and it's overnight on a coach - but it is a good way to take your bike.
Riding on your own is OK if you are self sufficient - I prefer it unless I'm with my partner who is very compatible as regards pace and conversation and habits.
The problem with looking for someone to ride with is that it's pot luck
I'm a good bit older than you so you should be OK particularly with your cycling experience.
My French is good enough for most situations but I find these days that most French people have reasonable English.
Learning two hundred useful words before you go is a good start - you will acquire more as you go along.

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby simonhill » 17 Sep 2019, 6:43pm

I've ridden a couple of fly out and cycle back trips recently. Last year to Basle and back along the WW1 battlefront to the North Sea coast and ferry home from Dunkirk. This year out to Bordeaux and ferry from Caen to Portsmouth.

A few thoughts:

I can see a drawback with getting your pre-booked transport on the return route. If you have any delays you may need to take transport and if you arrive early you will be kicking your heels. This is why I like the flexibility of booking out-bound and then only needing to book return ferry a few hours before sailing.

Re B&Bs. These tend to be expensive, particularly for one. My most expensive stay on the last trip was a very nice B&B in Cognac, when there was no other choice. Mostly I used or the often cheaper Agoda. Cheap French hotel chains were my choice, but these are often situated in industrial/retail parks on the outskirts of mid size towns. Accom was OK, but rarely anywhere nearby to eat except possibly fast food. A better cheap choice are small hotels, often associated with a bar that you often/may find in small towns.

France is not cheap (luckily I am off to Japan soon, which is much better value) and I found Lidl my friend. Use search on google maps for locations. I would stop in the late afternoon and buy sandwiches for next day's lunch and often a ready meal for the evening, plus fruit, bread, wine or beer. Most hotels have microwaves. I know this isn't French huate cuisine, but evening ,meals in France tend to be expensive and not a lot of fun on your own. Obviously if money is no object then splash out for a taste of local cuisine. I must admit to sometimes using the Turkish (?) kebab and chips places a few times - about E6 a meal.

Don't expect to find cafes, bakers, shops, etc in small villages. You need to plan your day a bit as supplies can be surprisingly hard to find in rural France.

However you do it, you'll have a blast, enjoy.

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby dodger » 17 Sep 2019, 7:11pm

Have a look at Green Jersey Cycle Tours. They offer a Calais to Nice tour, fully supported. Just been on a tour with them and they are professional. Lots of support, pre-booked hotels, tea, coffee and cake, pre-booked restaurants and transport of all luggage. Not the cheapest, but you get what you pay for!

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby ossie » 17 Sep 2019, 8:04pm

Looking at those organised group prices I'm glad I've got a tent and the Archies camping app.

That aside daily mileage is also highly personal. If you can find someone willing to do 70/80 miles a day, for 12 days then best of luck. That's not a tour its a mission. You won't exactly be taking in the local culture, although its actually the way I usually ride when I can .

Hotel / B&B prices aren't actually that bad even now with the crap exchange rate but you will get stung and if booking in advance you're inviting a degree of pressure with those daily mileages.

Best of luck... I've done Girona to the channel but camped and did it in 10 days. Was it a stand out trip amongst my tours, not really. If you want to make progress the roads you will take will be 'fast' traffic wise and sometimes busy. I guess you're used to that.

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby simonhill » 18 Sep 2019, 4:11pm

If you struggle with the language, are you aware of apps like Google translate?

It does words and phrases in text and also 'spoken'. I've not used the spoken, but have found the words useful. For example in Japan asking for a bike box is a daunting prospect. However showing written translations (on your phone screen) of words like cardboard, bike, box, aeroplane, etc make it possible.

If you don't like apps, then a small pocket dictionary can be useful. Personally I don't like phrase books as they are too prescriptive and more often aimed at up-market tourists (my air con is not working; the water is not hot enough; etc). With a dictionary you can just pick one or two words and then maybe gesture eg 'hot' and 'water' with a shaken head or even a fluent "non" is pretty simple to explain what you mean.

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby LeBrignall » 18 Sep 2019, 5:57pm

Look at Airbnb which is big in France now - and so much cheaper than hotels/ trad B&B. We just did a five day tour of Normandy (4 of us) and stayed in AirBnbs all the way.
Worth considering - if you go alone rooms for €20+ should easy to find

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby nirakaro » 21 Sep 2019, 1:45pm

simonhill wrote: Personally I don't like phrase books as they are too prescriptive

A selection of useful phrases, culled, apparently, from genuine foreign phrasebooks:

Where is the nearest rollercoaster? (Danish: Hvor er den nærmeste rutsjebane?)

Do you serve rhubarb in this restaurant? (Dutch: Serveert u misschien rabarber in dit restaurant?

There are many bears in our forest.(Russian: В нашем лесу много медведей.)

I am sorry I have to leave you, but I must buy a hat. (French: Je suis desolé de vous quitter, mais je dois acheter un chapeau.)

That man is a witch-doctor, see the frog in his pocket! (Swahili: Huyu mchawi, ona chura katika kifuko yake!)

Excuse me, miss, could you please tell me where around here I might purchase a lap protector? (Norwegian: Unnskyld, Frøken, kunne De fortelle meg hvor i nærheten jeg kan få kjøpt et forkle?)

:D :D :D

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby bigjim » 21 Sep 2019, 3:21pm

The "point it" book is very good. Just a picture of what you are trying to say. You can add picks on uncommon things like a bike cable etc.
I've toured France a few times and usually found accommodation at €40 a night for two on a regular basis using the app. I like the hotel chains as they are good value, though the rooms are tiny. You often have a restaurant attached with a good, two course, buffet style meal for €12 ish. One I stayed at that was on the very edge of town and no restaurant but staff rang a Takeaway Pizza place for us and a splendid meal was delivered. The chains usually do a good buffet breakfast for €6 where you can fill up for the day. The small hotels tend to serve you with a coffee and a small bun with a piece of processed cheese and ham in it and call it breakfast.
If you do find a village bakery open they will not be cheap but very tasty. I take an emergency tent with me and lightweight sleeping bag. No mat. I've only be caught out once since I started to carry it, but it's worthwhile for me.
80 mile days would be too much for me. I like an earlyish finish. About 4pm. I have done a 95 mile day before now but it was not planned and I would not do it again. i'd rather throw my emergency tent over a hedge and wild camp. Worth carrying some porridge or pasta for these times. I always carry a very small stove and cup or bowl with me as I do stop on the road and brew up. Always stop at a Lidl if I see one. Great value and in France they have good clean restrooms.
I don't do the bus. Too big for a cramped seat. Two hour flight suits me fine. I'm up North so the ferry is not convenient.
Last edited by bigjim on 3 Oct 2019, 4:55pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Billy no mates, channel to the med

Postby Sweep » 21 Sep 2019, 6:26pm

bigjim wrote: I'm up North so the ferry is not convenient.

Well you could always incorporate a bit of uk cycling tour into the trip? Lots of interesting routes to down south.
Can recommend london northwestern trains for getting self and bike from crewe to london.