Cycling Through France This Summer

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
Cachao
Posts: 51
Joined: 23 Jul 2010, 11:56pm

Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by Cachao »

Plan is either
Paris <-> Nancy <->Aix en Provence <-> Paris

OR

Paris <-> Aix en Provence <-> Nantes <-> Paris


starting shortly after 22nd July.

1. How does this sound? What is touring in France like? Only done two tours before and they were from Bristol > Exeter and Bristol > Peaks > Liverpool > Bristol.

2. What maps should we use? Should we plan the route?

3. How much would the Eurostar or travel to France be at that time of year? We would probably leave from London.

4. How would it compare to lejog?

5. Which way round should we do it? The cities in which order?

Thanks for the help :)
Last edited by Cachao on 9 Jan 2011, 1:34pm, edited 4 times in total.
MartinBrice
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Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by MartinBrice »

You'd be mad to use any form of transport other than the bike bus, although some people do seem to manage eurostar. You might be able to get to calais on the boat and just buy a ticket to paris on a train that takes bikes. but i'd have a serious look at the bike bus. (European Bike Express).
France is a lovely place to cycle tour - the IGN green maps are better than the Michaelin ones because the latter do not show contour lines. Campsites are plentiful and convenient although it is reassuring to know where you are heading for so it's a good idea to have some sort of campsites book - you might want to buy a used copy of the camping and caravanning club campsite guide on Ebay, which is what I did.
Two other tips: campsites don't have loo roll so take some - you can only buy it in packs of 6 rolls, which is a bit much. And you can't buy camping gas cylinders with the resealable top - but anywhere sells the canisters that puncture. I prefer meths as a fuel because you can buy it in any village shop or supermarket.
er, that's it.
davebax
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Joined: 17 Jan 2007, 4:08pm
Location: Bristol

Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by davebax »

MartinBrice wrote:You'd be mad to use any form of transport other than the bike bus . . .
. . . or a ferry from Portsmouth. Based on your 2 previous tours, I'm guessing you'll start from Bristol. A day ride to Portsmouth followed by a night in Southsea backpackers and a morning ferry, then the same in reverse on your return, is worth considering, may be cheaper than EBE, and would provide the peculiar satisfaction of doing your entire tour by bike (except the English Channel). I'm assuming you have no strong reason to want to start cycling in Paris.
tatanab
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Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by tatanab »

Cachao wrote:What is touring in France like?

Excellent. Lots of minor roads, cafe/bars, campsites, small hotels.

Does France have a Sustrans equivalent?

Don't know, and I probably would not follow it if they did. The country is covered in very quiet little back roads. In holiday areas you might find some off road cycle routes. There are also Voies Vertes http://www.af3v.org/ which are long cycle routes.

How should we plan the route?

Unless looking for off road routes I'd say don't plan. At least not too much. To me an ideal tour is when the only plan is that I need to be in X town on Y day to get the train/bus/ferry/train etc. I have a vague plan, formed by looking at Michelin 1:200,000 maps, but this plan is only a suggestion so that I have an idea about places to stay each night. Beyond that I tour on IGN 1:100,000 maps (referred to as IGN Green above but in fact the covers changed to yellow a year ago when the whole series was reissued) and pretty much make it up as I go along.
Cachao
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Joined: 23 Jul 2010, 11:56pm

Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by Cachao »

Thank you very much everyone, I will look into this.

We do prefer off-road routes, but we had some pretty bad experiences with off-road ones that were badly maintained (we cycled through a damn wood up a hill about 30%) so unless they're fantastic off road like canal paths I'm not too bothered. Although how are the French drivers? I heard that as bad as they are they're pretty good towards
Meths are fine, we have a chunky (ancient) trangia which takes meths.

Well my friend lives in Bristol and I've moved to Essex but Portsmouth is fairly good. We'd probably want to do all our cycling in France since we'll be short on time, but thanks anyway. Basically looking for the cheapest route even if it's a bit uncomfortable.

Just found the maps, how about this one? Do you think we could do the entire thing with one map?
http://www.mapsworldwide.com/sku_2112.htm

This seems like an awful lot of maps, doing the previous tour we ended up using the green OS road map.
http://loisirs.ign.fr/5294259/serie/car ... op-100.htm

So what are peoples recommendations? This or Lejog?
Cachao
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Joined: 23 Jul 2010, 11:56pm

Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by Cachao »

"But primarily one item we’d leave behind next time would be, surprisingly, the Trangia. Before this tour I swore by the thing, in every sense it is practical. But after 2 weeks we ran out of Metholated spirit and found it hard to locate more. Despite always cleaning it after use and wrapping it plastic bags it would always manage to leak and stink out and stain everything in the panniers. We ended up sending it home in the post and reverted to Gas. It was lighter, cheaper, cleaner, lasted longer and was readily available everywhere."

Saw this on travellingtwo.com and it was two guys that cycled through France. Any reactions?
tatanab
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Joined: 8 Feb 2007, 12:37pm

Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by tatanab »

Maps - I cannot imagine the lack of detail on the map you've suggested. My last trip took 11 IGN Green maps, no big deal, especially if there are a couple of you to carry them. However, since you need to press on a bit and not fiddle around in little roads, then I suggest the ordinary Michelin 1:200,000 will do nicely. Your trip will take only a couple of sheets, or you could buy a Michelin road atlas and rip out the parts you want, or you just take the first map with you and buy the rest along the way.

French drivers are superb when it comes to behaviour around cyclists. Watch out for drivers with GB plates.

Not had a problem with a Trangia. I used one for years but have stopped because I don't cook much. Meths is easy to find in big supermarkets or in hardware stores. I now use a small gas stove.

Off road routes - no thank you. Not when France has an enormous network of quiet roads which to me are far preferable.
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pedalsheep
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Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by pedalsheep »

L&D Lines ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre is generally much cheaper than the Brittany Ferries.
'Why cycling for joy is not the most popular pastime on earth is still a mystery to me.'
Frank J Urry, Salute to Cycling, 1956.
MartinBrice
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Joined: 13 Nov 2007, 9:57am

Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by MartinBrice »

"the Trangia. Before this tour I swore by the thing, in every sense it is practical" - indeed it is, I think it's great.

"But after 2 weeks we ran out of Metholated spirit and found it hard to locate more" - i find that very hard to believe, it's sold in every hardware store, and just about every supermarket. It's cheaper in a supermarket, of course, but I've bought it in some funny places.
"Despite always cleaning it after use and wrapping it plastic bags it would always manage to leak and stink out and stain everything in the panniers" - again - hard to believe - i just let it burn the end of the meths inside nand then let it cool down. Never smelt at all.
"Gas. It was lighter, cheaper, cleaner, lasted longer and was readily available everywhere." - some people like gas, I prefer meths.
A trangia is windproof for those stops on windy days when you want to cook/brew. Gas is not.
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b1ke
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Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by b1ke »

Plan is Paris > Nancy > Somewhere in Provence/Toulouse-ish > Nantes > Paris from the end of July over some of the school holidays


If you want to cycle to Paris, there's a ferry option from Newhaven to Dieppe. From there, you can cycle along the Avenue Vert to Forges Les Eaux (old railway line - traffic free). Thereafter, there are a couple of options for getting to Paris. Direct route is via Gournay-en-Bray, Cergy Pontoise and Saint Germaine to Paris. Not pleasant and a lot of traffic. Alternatively, you can take quiet roads towards Chantilly and get into Paris via Saint Denis. Far less traffic and nice rolling hills, but more miles.

Don't know routes to Nancy but Provence to Toulouse gives the opportunity to cycle the Canal du Midi. It starts in Agde and goes via Bezier and Carcassonne through Toulouse and on towards Bordeaux. It ends about 60-80km from Bordeaux and from there you could cycle north to Nantes. The Canal du Midi is very popular with cycle tourists, but it's a pretty choppy surface until you get about 40km from Toulouse. Thereafter it's all smooth tarmac. After Toulouse it becomes the Canal du Garonne (can be tricky to find). Best to have a bike with off-road tyres. We did it on a fully-loaded tandem which was interesting. Camp sites are not that frequent on the Canal itself (we wild camped), but there are probably a few municipal sites in the surrounding towns.

France is pretty safe to cycle. Much better than England. There's no Sustrans type of organisation in France that I'm aware of, but it's less necessary there since the drivers generally give you plenty of room and there's more space so it feels like there are less cars. It's a lovely country well worth touring, I'd say. If you can take in some of the French Alps, then all the better. They're pretty stunning.
http://www.farewellburt.wordpress.com - Europe on a Tandem....
http://www.thespokeandwords.wordpress.com - West Africa on a Tandem....
Cachao
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Joined: 23 Jul 2010, 11:56pm

Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by Cachao »

Thank you everyone for all the help :)


We're going to look seriously into maps in the next couple of days, the IGN Yellow (green in the past) the Michelin and whatever else IGN suggests. I think unless there's a solid cycle path which is tarmac we may want to stay on-road because this year we had many issues trying to find these cycle paths, but if the road is so good we may as well stick to them.
The weight of evidence is with our meths trangia, so I'm going for that (gas was convenient but difficult at times this year).

Transport is still an issue. Will Eurostar hike their fares massively during holiday season? We'll probably be leaving shortly after July 22nd and returning up to three weeks later. Eurostar seems best at the moment because it takes us directly to our start point at quite a good price and we're pretty short on time - although if they do up the price Newhaven > Dieppe seems like a good second option, but we would have to take the train into Paris since that's already some significant cycling.

Thanks for the tip about the Alps, we'll almost definitely be going to Provence, so if anyone has any suggested routes both for that or any other leg of the trip, it would be very much appreciated.
Is there a specific route that we should take? Going through the Parc National des Ecrins seems like a good idea.

Thanks again.
vernon
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Location: Meanwood, Leeds

Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by vernon »

I've spent three out of the last four summer holidays cycling in France.

Here's some observations:

There are some off road routes that follow canals and some that follow rail tracks I think that they are called Voies Verte. They aren't too bad but can take you away from villages and shops.

Camp sites are not always as plentiful as some folk would have you believe. Last summer I wild camped five nights out of twenty one. It's no hardship.

Take toilet rolls with you. Most camp sites don't provide toilet paper.

Metholated spirits is stocked by most supermarkets. It's called L'alcool à brûler. It burns with a hooter cleaner flame.

Table wine is gluggable at 1.50€ per litre.

French motorists are very caring towards cyclists - stick to the minor roads.

Camp site owners will do their best to accommodate cyclists when they are full.

Some shops are closed on Mondays. Look out for Saints days too as shops also close on them.

A lot of camp sites will take orders for bread and croissants for the next morning. Take advantage of the service.

Try to learn a little French. I've always tried to communicate in French and have entertained the French with murdering of their language. They react very positively to your efforts. Apparently I speak French with an American accent.


You might consider getting a ferry to St Malo - go overnight and get a night's sleep in. Cycle south to the Loire at Nantes and follow the Euro Velo 6 eastwards towards Switzerland. You cpould catch a European Bike Express bus back to England from Beaune


Have a look at the Euro Velo Six route on the Internet it might just fit the bill for you.
crazyferret
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Joined: 15 Jun 2010, 8:48pm

Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by crazyferret »

im the original posters friend and will be doing the tour with him
we are going to look at maps in a minute

what do we do about phones, arn't they really expensive over there
i have a blackberry and cachao has a bog standard phone
is there anything we can do to make them cheeper in france or should we just buy a cheep phone over there
tatanab
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Joined: 8 Feb 2007, 12:37pm

Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by tatanab »

crazyferret wrote:what do we do about phones

Go into a newsagents or a Tabac and buy a phone card. You can then use all the phone boxes.

I know, I know, only a senile old luddite does that :D
Ray
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Location: West Yorkshire

Re: Cycling Through France This Summer

Post by Ray »

tatanab wrote:Go into a newsagents or a Tabac and buy a phone card. You can then use all the phone boxes.


Even cheaper to buy a card (often just a printed slip of paper) from 'La Poste', which enables you to use a code to call the UK very cheaply indeed. Explain that it is for calls from France to the UK.

Depends what you intend using your phone for. Texts (Fr. call them SMS) are cheap enough, but I always buy a card/coded slip and use a call box if I want to natter; you can talk for 20 mins for a few pence - far cheaper than a mobile. Many/most campsites have a call box.

Ray
Ray
The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt - Bertrand Russell
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