France

France is a big country and in spite of her well known interest in cycle racing, has come rather late to the concept of the tourist route, but the French are now tackling this deficiency with great gusto. The Lonely Planet "Cycling in France" Guide promises 135 days' cycling and there are reputedly 28 000 km of cycle paths in France. The Francevelotourisme website shows the main long distance routes, e.g. the velodyssy route which runs for 1200km from North Devon, England, across the English Channel (by ferry) and along the west coast of France from Brittany to the Spanish border. There is also number of voie verte - green routes similar to to the Belgian RAVeL paths for walkers, cyclists and horse riders  (http://www.voiesvertes.com/index.htm in French).

A few years ago we cycled along part of the Canal de Midi and found it to be excellent in the Haute Garonne Département, but the quality of the towpath in Département Aude left much to be desired. Our trip was cut short by illness, but from what we saw it would be better to follow the route of the canal along the minor roads running approximately parallel to it, at least in the countryside.

Some years ago we cycled along the Grande Traversées de Jura along the French-Swiss border. There are mountain bike and road bike routes available. It is a wild, empty area. We followed the MTB route, but cheated by avoiding the more technically difficult stretches by taking to the roads which are largely traffic-free. We went in October and had some problems finding accommodation. Booking ahead by phone in October is advisable, as many hotels seem to close for the period before the ski season. 

In addition a route we both fancy when we are lying warm tucked up in bed, is a route along the northern edge of the Pyrenees from the Med to the Atlantic. This whole area is being developed not only as a biking area, but also for road men (and women) and more easy going tourists, i.e. us. This however is not shown on the map on France Velo Tourisme website.

However common sense suggests that we should stick to lower altitudes at our time of life, e.g. Eurovelo Route 6 which crosses France up the Loire and down the Doubs Valley from the Bay of Biscay to the Rhine Valley before heading out for the Black Sea along the Danube. In the past we have followed part of this route from the Rhine Valley to Blois, before turning south to go towards Bordeaux. We described our travels in  http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/SpanishWedding.  The one thing we learnt is that it would have been better to have cycled east from Nantes with the prevailing wind behind us and not against it.  

I don’t know why the cycle routes in the Alpes-Maritimes region have yet to be shown on the France Velo Tourisme website. Perhaps it takes time France for information to flow up from the regions to the national authorities. However there are now a number of routes ranging from day trips for the family, serious sporting days out to several day tours. More information is available from www.cg06.fr.

If these links do not give you enough information then travel on minor roads which once outside of the conurbations are largely empty. French drivers in our experience are very tolerant of cyclists and give plenty of room. 


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copyright: Judith & Neil Forsyth, Konrad-Adenauer-Allee 51A, D 68519 Viernheim