After my recent post, about what I miss most about France, someone asked me: “Where will you go first when we are able to travel again?”
And one I’ve been pondering and planning the past several months. My French travel plans are based on a quest, a mission I began in 2010: To write a series of books about cycling in the different regions of France. And yes, this was an excuse to go on as many French cycling trips as possible. And tell people it’s “work.” Really, it is. I have to go.
So far, I’ve completed five books: Provence, the Loire, Normandy, Bordeaux and the Dordogne. These are probably the five most popular French cyclotourisme destiantions, so I could stop here, right? Are you kidding? I’m only getting started. And, every time I think the end is in sight, a new region/book pops up. I blame the Tour de France and all the amazing mountains, gorges, towns and farms they ride through.
And so, here are the trips/books currently at the top of my to-do list … with a trip this fall a possibility.
Sarlat to Avignon
I think this route has the potential to be one of, if not the best in all of France. If you like gorges. Which I do.
I’ve ridden the Dordogne portion of this route a couple times, and it’s wonderful. From Beaulieu on the eastern edge of the heart of the Dordogne, it’s on to Aurillac. And some spectacular routes: The Vallee de la Jordanne and up the famous Puy Mary.
Then south, along the Gorges de la Truyere and Gorges du Lot to the Gorges du Tarn. I know, that’s a lot of gorges. Three in a row. But there’s one more … east and a little north is the Gorges de l’Ardeche.
Then south to Uzes, over to the Pont du Gard and on to Avignon. It would be possible to do this trip in 10 or 11 days. But, in order to gather all the information I need, for my blog and book, I need 21 days and will ride about 850 miles, according to the route I’ve mapped out.
The Great Gorges
As you’ve already figured out, I love to ride along gorges. The Sarlat to Avignon ride covers the major ones west of Avignon, leaving the Gorges de la Nesque and Grand Canyon du Verdon. I’ve cycled the Nesque several times, and have driven around the Verdon in a car. That doesn’t count, so I need to spend a few days in Moustiers-Ste-Marie and to cycle all the way around this gorge … clockwise and counterclockwise.
I’ve ridden along the coast of the Riviera, from St. Tropez to Nice. Twice, in fact. And I’ve ridden up into the hills/mountains a bit, but not nearly enough. I haven’t cycled up the famous Col de la Madone. Or any of these other cols: Col de Turni, Col de Vence or the Col de Bleine. Plus, there are a couple of gorges up in the mountains.
I could cover this region in maybe 14 days, but if I tack on another week: Moustiers and the Grand Canyon du Verdon. They’re not very far away. So, 21 days and about 800 miles. Most of them up or down.
Alsace Lorraine loop
All the way back in 1992, I rode from Strasbourg to Colmar, in a day, and then east into what was then West Germany and is now just Germany. So, I saw this region, sort of. There are several great villages – Obernai, Riquewihr and Kayersberg – to explore and to do day trips from. Through the vineyards and west, into the mountains.
I figure 12 or 14 days and about 500 miles should do it.
When Susan and I talk about where we’d like to live in France, for a year or maybe longer, the town of Annecy keeps popping up. It seems perfect: big enough, but not too big; good railway connections, on a lake and surrounded by mountains. The only thing is, neither of us has ever been Annecy.
So, we must do an exploratory trip. A week. Minimum.
Annecy looks like a wonderful place for cycling day trips. Around the lake on the bike path. Up to the Col de la Forclaz. South over the Col de Leschaux to the Pont du Diable. I could take the train to Aix-les-Bains and ride back. So many possibilities.
I’m going to stop here, with these five trips and books. Even though I have several more routes in mind, such as an amazing Brittany loop I’ve mapped out in great detail; or way up north along the coast from Le Havre to Etretat and Fecamp; and then there’s the Champagne region and …
Oh well, it looks like my mission is far from complete. Sacrifices still must be made. Here’s the link, again, to my five Biking France books. They’re still half off, only $2.50, and $2 for the Loire. If you purchase one, I’ll eat a croissant in your honor on my next trip!
Gorges du Tarn: By Tobi 87 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84596396
Puy Mary: Puy Mary: By Pline – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28023984
Colmar: By Krzysztof Golik – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74220769
Lac Annecy: By Anthony Levrot, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83580128