From the English Channel to the Mediterranean Sea
In 2009 Bikestyle tours will offer a 12 day, 11 night trip through the length of France from the resort town of Deauville on the English Channel (or the Manche, in French) to the Mediterranean Sea just south of the town of Montpellier. The “Manche to the Med” is the French equivalent of “Lands End to John O’Groats” in the UK. We will ride over 1000km (620mi) in 10 days with the majority of our trip on small country roads where traffic will be light.
Even on the busier roads you will find the French drivers understanding and most are courteous to riders which is often a pleasant change for the situation in other countries.
Our journey will take us through the rolling countryside of Normandy, the Chateaux of the Loire, the Forests and Lakes of Limousin, the Volcanic Vistas of the Auvergne and the Massif Central, the spectacular Limestone Gorges of Languedoc and the edge of Provence before we hit the Mediterranean Sea at Carnon Plage just south of Montpellier.
Duration: 12 days (11 Nights)
Dates: 4th to 15th June 2009
Start: Deauville Finish: Montpellier
Accommodation: 2 and 3 Star Hotels
Group Size: Maximum 15 people (2 Staff)
*Please note: We charge for our trips in Australian dollars, so the figure above is an approximate conversion from the $AU price (unless of course you’re in Australia)! For more details please see our terms and conditions.
We will meet in Deauville late afternoon, check into the hotel in time for an evening dinner in order that you may meet up with your fellow travellers. Deauville is an elegant resort town which has been fashionable since the 19th Century. Deauville is close to Le Havre for anyone connecting directly from the UK.
First day on the bikes with a 120km ride through Normandy to the town of Alencon. Normandy is closely linked to Britain both by its geography and ancestry. It is rich farming country with lush pastures which provide the rich dairy produce and vegetable fields interspersed with apple orchards. This is the home of calvados, the apple brandy famous throughout the world. Alencon was the centre of the lace making industry in France but the traditional methods are more or less obsolete.
Another rolling day as we travel through the edge of Normandy into the Loire Valley to the town of Chateau-du-Loir. Distance today will be 100km.
Another 110km day which should be one of the highlights of the trip as we pass by many of the famous Chateux of the Loire Valley. Our journey will take us first to the town of Langeais famous for its Chateau. The original Chateau was sold to the French by the English in 1427 on condition that it was pulled down. Only the 10th century stone tower still exists and it now lies next to the new chateau built around 1465, famous for its sculptured gardens. Our next stop will be the outstanding Renaissance Chateau at Azay le Rideau and finally on to our overnight destination at Loches. Loches is a pleasant medieval town enclosed by 13th century walls.
A shorter day today as we head south again with an 85km trip to the town of Argenton sur Creuse. A good part of the day will be spent on quiet roads as we pass through lakes and forests of the Parc Regional de Brenne. Argenton is a small picturesque town situated on the banks of the River Creuse.
Another 110km day as we now begin our southwards journey through the Limousin region in Central France to our next overnight stop at Aubusson. As we get further south the going starts to get a little tougher. Aubusson is famous throughout the world for its tapestries and carpets which have been produced here since the middle ages. There are still examples of the houses of this period to be seen in the town.
A lumpy day today as we cross over many of the river valleys of the Auvergne as we travel the 110km through to our next overnight stop at Riom-s-Montagne which is the centre for making an aperitif containing gentian. There is a museum showing the various stages of its manufacture from the gathering of the yellow flower to the bottling. Perhaps we could have a well earned drink before dinner.
Whilst it is only 80km today it will not be an easy day as we travel through the volcanic country of the Auvergne to Chaudes Aigues. There are many climbs including the Col d’Etremont before rolling into our overnight stay after a hard but satisfying day.
Today is another solid day with 105km from Chaudes Aigues to Ste Enime. Towards the end of the day our route down the D907 takes us through the Tarn Gorges. These limestone canyons in places over 400 metres deep will provide a spectacular backdrop for our last 25km into town. Not an easy day but one well worth the effort.
A tough day today even though it is only 105km from Ste Enime to our next overnight stop at St Hippolyte du Fort. Whilst the five Cols we traverse today are not as high or as long as the passes in the Alpes or Pyrenees there will be a real sense of achievement when we reach town after 4 pretty hard days on the bike. As we have all day however we don’t have to push the pace (unless you want to? :-)).
Our last day on the road should be easier but there are still a couple of small climbs. We will head east around the city of Montpellier to the town of La Grande-Motte where we should have our first real sight of the Mediterranean Sea. We will travel along the shores of the Mediterranean to Carnon-Plage where there will be time for a ritual dip before we continue to Montpellier where we spend our last night together. Montpellier is a lively student town with many cafes around the old town. The distance on our final day will be slightly less than 100km.
Time to say ‘au revoir’. Montpellier has access back to Paris by train or from the nearby Montpellier-Mediterrenean Airport to Paris Orly or London Gatwick or Stansted. The main airlines using the Airport are Air France, British Airways and Ryanair. We will assist you with your transfers to the station or Airport.
What we provide:
- Pick up from the ferry in La Havre or the railway station at Le Havre or Deauville.
- Drop off to the airport or railway station in Montpellier.
- 11 nights accommodation on a twin share basis
- Breakfast each day and dinner on approximately half the nights.
- Daily transport of luggage from hotel to hotel
- On the road guides. Our guides will travel with two groups. The first will be at the speed of the slower riders and the second to suit the majority of the quicker riders. Daily maps and route guides will be provided should you desire to travel at your own pace. Our guides have experience of similar trips through France and the UK.
- Back up support in case of an emergency.
On most of the Bikestyle trips we use three or four star hotels however on a trip such as this, one of the logistical problems is matching the daily riding distances with the availability of hotels. By choice we keep away from the large centres where possible. Whilst this facilitates the riding and navigation it does impact on the availability of hotels. Often the only available accommodation in the smaller towns is the family run hotels usually two or three star. We have to use what is available however all have private facilities.
Riding and Bikes
The goal of the trip is to ride ‘end to end’ through France. This means we will ride each day whatever the weather. Limited transport will be available but this will normally be kept for emergencies.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to transport your own bike by air or rail. As this trip has different starting and finishing points we would strongly suggest that you utilize one of the Bikestyle bikes. We have a range of Viner and Giant road bikes as well as mountain and hybrid bikes. The bikes can be set up to suit your individual measurements and there is a choice of gearing to suit all riders. All you need to bring are your shoes and pedals. You can also use your favorite saddle if you wish.