Touring in France - book ahead?

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iandusud
Posts: 244
Joined: 26 Mar 2018, 1:35pm

Touring in France - book ahead?

Postby iandusud » 20 Jan 2020, 7:08pm

My wife and I are thinking of doing some touring around Normandy and Brittany this summer. We haven't cycle toured for many years and previously we have camped. However we are planning on using hotels and B&Bs this time. We are aiming to go either 2-3rd or 3-4th weeks of August, cycling from Caen and wending our way through Normandy and Brittany probably returning via La Rochelle. How realistic is it to expect to be able to find a room on spec at that time of year, assuming aiming for towns that have more than one hotel?

The benefit of your experience would be most welcome.

Thanks, Ian

Thehairs1970
Posts: 189
Joined: 11 Aug 2018, 9:30am

Re: Touring in France

Postby Thehairs1970 » 20 Jan 2020, 8:53pm

Normally camp but I would have thought it could be tricky.

Jdsk
Posts: 146
Joined: 5 Mar 2019, 5:42pm

Re: Touring in France

Postby Jdsk » 20 Jan 2020, 9:56pm

I'd book every evening for the following night, and possibly one more at weekends. It might get tight and it's no fun not knowing where you're going to end the day.

Don't forget apartments and similar.

Jonathan

Mike Sales
Posts: 4440
Joined: 7 Mar 2009, 3:31pm

Re: Touring in France

Postby Mike Sales » 20 Jan 2020, 10:05pm

Jdsk wrote: It might get tight and it's no fun not knowing where you're going to end the day.

Jonathan


That rather depends upon your temperament.

MarcusT
Posts: 297
Joined: 31 Jan 2017, 10:33am

Re: Touring in France

Postby MarcusT » 21 Jan 2020, 5:25am

With the internet, booking last minute rooms has become so much easier. The day before should give you an idea of room availability and with that you can decide to book immediately or wait til the next day
I wish it were simple as riding a bike

PhilD28
Posts: 112
Joined: 26 Sep 2016, 8:31am

Re: Touring in France

Postby PhilD28 » 21 Jan 2020, 5:45am

As you are obviously aware it’s peak holiday period for all of France and will certainly give you problems in some areas of Brittany if not booked up in advance. I tour without booking anything for most of the summer in France but mostly camp using the option of hotels when I can’t find sites or safe camping. I’ve found hotels always difficult to get rooms in August unless in more remote locations and then hotels are rare.
So rolling up at a hotel.......basically its a lottery where the odds are against you in August.

iandusud
Posts: 244
Joined: 26 Mar 2018, 1:35pm

Re: Touring in France

Postby iandusud » 21 Jan 2020, 6:10am

Thank you all for the replies.

PhilD28, your reply confirms my suspicions that it would be risky to roll up without a booking. I think we'll probably book our first night and aim to book the following evening each day thereafter. Camping is so much easier from that point of view. We've never had a problem getting a pitch even when we turned up in Millau the day the Tour de France was coming in and the camp site was rammed. They still found somewhere for our little tent. But we are older now and appreciate a bit more comfort and less stuff to carry.

Cheers, Ian

willem jongman
Posts: 2027
Joined: 7 Jan 2008, 4:16pm

Re: Touring in France

Postby willem jongman » 21 Jan 2020, 10:17am

August will indeed be tough for hotels. I am turning 67 this weekend, but I still like camping. Fortunately modern camping gear is much lighter, and full camping gear for two people can now easily be achieved with 12-15 kg each. Modern insulated air mattresses like the Thermarest Neoairs are not only much lighter but also far more comfortable than the self inflating ones from the past.
My wife and I cycled in Tuscany last summer, and we camped most nights, but also used hotels at times. By and large neither hotels nor campsites were always easy to find, so it was nice to have both options. In France and Italy you could of course decide on a compromise: camp but eat out.

simonhill
Posts: 2727
Joined: 13 Jan 2007, 11:28am
Location: Essex

Re: Touring in France

Postby simonhill » 21 Jan 2020, 10:48am

If the Op is sill reading, here is some recent experience, albeit in early June.

I cycled from Bordeaux to Caen and used hotels all the way. The first 3 I booked well in advance as it was a weekend and a tgourist region. I was nearly caught out on the 3rd booking as a big storm came in, but luckily the rain passed overnight and I had a strong following wind. It could have been so different and that booking (my most expensive on the trip) would have been lost.

After that I booked the next night the evening before (on internet). I generally chose the cheaper budget/chain hotels and often found that the cheapest rooms weren't so cheap or weren't available at that short notice. These places are often around the larger towns and often in industrial estates, etc. There were usually a few (sometimes very) expensive places available, but these were more than I wanted to pay.

I used Booking.com and Agoda, but if nothing was available on or around my route, I used Google maps to search out small hotels in small towns. These were often cafes with a few rooms above. From the Google info, you can usually get a street view, plus website or phone number. Usually phone, so it obviously helps if you can speak a bit of French.

Unless someone has actually done this in August, it is open to speculation. Maybe everything will be full because it is prime holiday period. Alternatively, many of the budget places in larger towns may have more vacancies because its holiday and there are less business travellers. Who knows.

Personally, I would risk it. Camping isn't only about carrying a tent, but also pitching and packing up, not to mention living on your knees........and yes, I have camped a lot.

dodger
Posts: 665
Joined: 28 Jan 2007, 9:33pm
Location: East Cornwall

Re: Touring in France

Postby dodger » 21 Jan 2020, 7:22pm

You will probably find hotels/Chambres d'Hotes in the inland areas, but close to the sea and in main tourist areas, rooms will be at a premium. I've always found tourist offices helpful in booking ahead, especially if your French is a bit rudimentary.
Booking.com was helpful for me this month in planning a Brittany trip in June, but you will find the cheaper rooms may well have gone fairly early on.

Angstrom
Posts: 55
Joined: 21 Nov 2018, 6:57am

Re: Touring in France

Postby Angstrom » 22 Jan 2020, 11:52am

Hello,

Although I am not from Normandy, I am French and can tell there is a huge difference between the weeks in August. The weeks leading to and including August 15th long week-end (a "Bridge" as the French call them; this year it's a normal week-end as Aug 15 is on a Saturday) are very busy and booking last minute will be a challenge anywhere near resort venues and landmark sites.
The week after this long week-end is much better, and the last one in August is very calm. Most working people are back home and retirees have not yet flooded the roads with their camper-vans (you understand why folks oppose so strongly changing retirement age and lower pensions in France ? :roll: :wink: ).
If you have the choice of your travel dates, it will matter which one you choose.
I must say that people tend to think that those weeks are more subject to rain, but I do not trust what people tend to think and prefer to see stats. And in today's climate change I'm not even sure stats of the past are that useful for making present decisions...

bretonbikes
Posts: 659
Joined: 3 Dec 2008, 12:35pm
Contact:

Re: Touring in France

Postby bretonbikes » 22 Jan 2020, 12:06pm

iandusud wrote:My wife and I are thinking of doing some touring around Normandy and Brittany this summer. We haven't cycle toured for many years and previously we have camped. However we are planning on using hotels and B&Bs this time. We are aiming to go either 2-3rd or 3-4th weeks of August, cycling from Caen and wending our way through Normandy and Brittany probably returning via La Rochelle. How realistic is it to expect to be able to find a room on spec at that time of year, assuming aiming for towns that have more than one hotel?

The benefit of your experience would be most welcome.

Thanks, Ian


I do this for a living so booking hotels last minute is part of the job;-) At that time of year, and pretty touristy area you are taking quite a risk as finding accommodation on the fly is going to be tricky. I would plan 2-days ahead and book but I fear you may spend a lot of time on the phone and internet trying to get somewhere - plus be prepared to make pretty major deviations, all it all it could end up being fraught and frustrating experience. However the difference between the 2-3 and 3-4 week of August is pretty major - the latter will see around a 30% drop in tourist numbers so the later you can make it the better, 1st week in September I'd be happy to do it on-the-fly...

Inland and away from tourist hot-spots it can be easier, but then there are fewer hotels and B&B so your route changes may have to be more major.

I'd be tempted in your shoes to carry basic camping gear and plan to do a mix. There are lots of campsites in tourist areas and most have pitches for lightweight campers especially if you ring a day in advance - then you always have options. Inland you'll find few campsites full and closed to lightweights whatever the season.

From the sound of it you'll be spending a lot of time in Brittany so please pm me for advice if you wish, though when you are in France we'll obviously be otherwise occupied!
35 years of cycletouring, 30 years of running cycling holidays, 5 years of running a campsite for cyclists - there's a pattern here...

iandusud
Posts: 244
Joined: 26 Mar 2018, 1:35pm

Re: Touring in France

Postby iandusud » 22 Jan 2020, 5:34pm

Thanks again to everyone for the helpful comments. My wife and I actually lived in France for 21 years up to 2013 so are aware of the difference in the numbers of French holiday makers up to the middle of Aug and after. My personal preference would be to go the last two weeks and to take camping equipment. However my good lady would prefer the comfort of a proper bed and also the more reliable weather earlier on. (We lived in the Roussillon and there was always a notable turn in the weather after the 15th Aug, but I don't know if that bears true for the north of France). So if we do go for the hotel option I think it would be wise to plan an itinerary and book hotels/B&Bs in advance.

Cheers, Ian

djb
Posts: 45
Joined: 24 Mar 2013, 9:27pm

Re: Touring in France

Postby djb » 22 Jan 2020, 10:51pm

iandusud wrote:Thanks again to everyone for the helpful comments. My wife and I actually lived in France for 21 years up to 2013 so are aware of the difference in the numbers of French holiday makers up to the middle of Aug and after. My personal preference would be to go the last two weeks and to take camping equipment. However my good lady would prefer the comfort of a proper bed and also the more reliable weather earlier on. (We lived in the Roussillon and there was always a notable turn in the weather after the 15th Aug, but I don't know if that bears true for the north of France). So if we do go for the hotel option I think it would be wise to plan an itinerary and book hotels/B&Bs in advance.

Cheers, Ian


good that you are familiar with all stuff French then.
re weather. From my experiences biking in Normandy Bretagne back in the 90s , and from a good friend who lives in Normandy, as you say there is always a chance of funny weather and rain.
Of course, its hit and miss, but I once biked the pyrenees etc and by late aug was going up near Les Landes and Bordeaux and weather started to get a bit iffy.
I suspect your plan to book ahead will be the wisest thing to do, but do be conservative and realistic about daily distances to avoid any feelings of being on a forced march, especially for the other half.
good luck planning and enjoy

nsew
Posts: 344
Joined: 14 Dec 2017, 12:38pm

Re: Touring in France - book ahead?

Postby nsew » 23 Jan 2020, 7:32pm

I always book ahead but have had little luck with anyone picking the phone up
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