France is understandably famous for cycling with thousands flocking to its shores every year to watch the Tour du France, the premier cycling race in the world. While it would be lovely to be fit enough to do the route as a holiday, I imagine many of us are in the boat of needing something a little more sedate, a little more relaxing.
While you can do a little of the Tour, France has much more in its cycling portfolio than just this route. Touring little corners of France is the ideal way to see the country, experience its people, rich cultures and take your time to enjoy the stunning scenery.
All of this is compounded by the fact that French people love cycling, they are used to cyclists on their roads and respect the rights of the cyclist, which makes for a much less nerve-wracking trip on the occasions where you have to venture off the cycle path and on to the road. In France if there is an accident involving a bike, the larger vehicle (car, van, bus etc) automatically gets the blame, so motor vehicles tend to stay well clear of bikes.
There are delightful places to discover all over France, but here is a quick guide to the prime spots to explore on your bike. Be warned, much of this revolves around wine (unsurprisingly, being France) and while we do not recommend drinking and cycling, doing a little tasting while on your bike is almost unavoidable. Just do it sensibly, spit a few out and drink plenty of water and you will be fine.
Provence was almost made for cycling. There is so much going on in this region that you can link up on your bike that it makes for a tremendous cycling holiday. You can experience the beautiful hilltop villages of the Luberon Valley, speeding down the hills to pedal through varied, rustic landscapes. You can take a Bike & Boat trip from Avignon to the wetland wilderness of the Camargue, filled with flamingos and Cowboys. I kid you not!
Provence is famed for its fresh local produce, which means that your meals are generally going to be of a very high standard and if you get the chance to stop at a local market, definitely do it. The colours, smells, little bites to eat and of course, the characters make you wish you lived there permanently.
There is, of course, the wine. Vastly underrated, Provence produces some incredible wines and the variety when you are over there is staggering, we only see a fraction of it over here. Rosé is the main focus and the do it arguably better than anywhere else in the country. There is also the Rhône valley, which borders Provence and you can visit on our Biking in Provence trip.
The Loire is so unbelievably beautiful, quiet riverside paths and forest trails give way to vineyards and the most stunning array of Chateaux in the world. White, elegant and refined, these castles spring up everywhere in the Loire, often set in stunning, manicured gardens where you can while away your time in a fairytale setting.
White, elegant and refined also accurately describes the wines of the Loire. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé dominate here, made from Sauvignon Blanc, but not like your typical New Zealand Sauvignon. There are many vineyards to discover and then over dinner find your perfect match with the fresh fish caught in the Loire River.
I am not going to lie, Burgundy is pretty much all about the wine. It does look beautiful, it does have lovely half-timbered buildings, great towns and cities and lovely people. The food is some of the best in the world and yes, you will have an amazing time cycling here, but if you don’t like wine perhaps think about one of the other regions.
To my mind, this is the greatest wine-growing region in the world. While I may not love every Burgundy I drink, this is the greatest example of craftsmanship and love in the wine world. Two grapes dominate in Burgundy, Pinot Noir for the reds and Chardonnay for the whites. For those of you still stuck in the notion of ABC (anything but Chardonnay) please go to Burgundy and your mind will change instantly. Two vineyards, side by side, same soil, same weather, same grapes, wildly different wines. Burgundy is wine heaven and going from cellar door to cellar door on your bike is an experience you will never forget.
There is no major wine area here! You are safe from wine chat! Brittany has so many sides to it, that it is a delight to explore by bike. The culture here is very different to the rest of France, in fact, sometimes it seems that they dislike the French, which is odd, but the strong Breton culture is wonderful and makes for vibrant little towns all along your cycling routes.
You can explore the Granite Coast, the pink-hued geological delight lined with golden beaches and wonderful little towns. You can cycle along the network of canals in Brittany (always nice as it is guaranteed to be flat) or take a trip from the port town of St Malo, both of these trips ending up at the surreal, but utterly beguiling Mont St Michel.
Wherever you choose to cycle in France, you are sure to be enchanted by the way of life there. If you have any questions about any cycling holiday in France, don’t hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org