The 'forgotten' area of France and yet possibly one of the most stunningly beautiful. Fantastic cycling for all the family, with challenging routes through the verdant Vosges mountains and flat circuits through the vineyards of Alsace and its colourful villages.
After your cycle, relax with a chilled glass of wine at any one of the numerous vineyards offering hospitality.
A beautiful location, easy to reach and at the gateway to the Vercors National Park in France, St. Jean-en-Royans is the base for Velo Vercors. If you are looking for a road cycling holiday in France, riding quiet roads in stunning scenery there are plenty of places you could choose. They might do good food, and they might have nice rooms, and some good routes out of the front door. Velo Vercors brings it all together in a great package where everything just seems to come together, making for some sort of alpine cycling paradise.
An historic french house, with a nice big cool cellar to store and work on the bikes, a terrace for breakfast, sofas outside to chill out and enjoy the view of the mountains through the foliage of the garden, lovely food.
All of this comes together because Teresa is a great host, genuinely cares that her guests have a great time. Unsurprisingly when we visited there were return visitors.
The riding is fantastic, with breath-taking views, with more than enough to keep the most ambitious riders busy. Of course, having access to good roads is one thing, knowing where the routes are is something else. That's where Roger comes in - he knows his cycling, and he'll make sure you get to grips with the locale, making the most of the region with minimal faffing about.
When we went we made the Ardechoise sportive the focus of a long weekend, and Roger could not have been more helpful. Super long weekend with the boys, but equally I can imagine going back with the family for a week or two because there is plenty to do and it is just so relaxed.
The Ariege is a beautiful hidden corner of France and a delightful cycling destination. Stay at the iconic Les Deux Velos near Biert with Tour De France cols in all directions. Don't miss a lazy lunch at the Etang De Lers restaurant after tackling the Category 1 Col d'Agnes - there are superb Pyrennean views.
When considering a cycling holiday, one of the first destinations many will think of is France. The rolling mountains, the colour littered fields, the warm sunny weather and all the fresh carbs you can dream of from the local patisserie.
The Vercors, a region not familiar to most, is a range of mountains in the Rhone Alps, otherwise known as the Prealps; a 1.5 hour drive from Lyon or half an hour from Valence (Eurostar/TGV drop off). The scenery is simply stunning. Sheer rock faces suddenly appear on the horizon, displaying thousands’ of years of history, as the surrounding farmlands provide green tranquility. And, the roads through and around the Vercors are not only well kept (no sneaky pot holes) but quiet too. And by quiet, I mean you’ll see only one or two cars on a four-hour ride!
Within riding distance are the beautiful and historic towns and view points of Pont en Royans, whose houses hug the cliff-side; St Nazaire en Royans which is over shadowed by its aqueduct and fresh water lake; and Europe’s largest gorge, the Combe Laval; which, when cycling through can only be described as a scene from a James Bond car chase.
Velo Vercors is a small but specialised cycling holidays company run by Roger Dunne – an ex GB pro cyclist, and his wife Teresa. They cater for everyone, that is, families that may get out on their bikes a couple of times a year but want to explore the French countryside, through to training camps for cycling clubs.
And, with a broad range of abilities they also provide a range of suggested/mapped rides from 10-20km routes to spend the day at the lake; to a climb (and descent) up Alpe d’Huez, only 1.5 hours drive away. Arranging bike hire prior to your arrival, travelling there couldn’t be easier.
Their typically ‘French’ property, in the heart of St Jean Royans, one of the larger towns in the region, boasts self-catering gites (rural cottages) for a weekly break sleeping up to 15, or B&B accommodation with independent front door access for shorter stays. All surrounded by fantastic gardens, a ‘summer lounge’ and of course, over-looked by the stunning mountainside. Plus, there’s an open-air pool a two-minute walk up the road for the well needed rest days, and a masseuse on call to ease out the tight legs after a hard day’s climbing.
Roger, cycling clearly in his blood, is available as a cycle guide or domestique, which makes riding in a new area a breeze – there’s no worrying about taking the wrong turn, plus with his experience, he provides great advice and tips on the climbs and descents. God knows how he keeps going though – Alpe d’Huez twice and Mont Venteux in the space of 1.5 weeks? He must have a motor hidden somewhere!
All in all, a week at Velo Vercors may be absolutely shattering, but is definitely a holiday worth taking!
As long time cyclists in France now in our late sixties we have discovered the joys of cycling on the canal towpaths. We'd recommend from Bordeaux to Toulouse on the Canal lateral de la Garonne and then from Toulouse to Sete on the Canal du Midi or to Narbonne via Canal de la Robine.
Lots of interesting places to see, plenty of accommodation and easy cycling. We used the European Bike Express to get to and from each end.
Maps and accommodation list available from tourist office in Bordeaux and useful guide to Cycling the Canal du Midi by Declan Lyons published by Cicerone.
One of the best ways to see Corsica, l’Ile de Beauté (The Isle of Beauty) is to ride your bike along its 600km of coastal roads. Every night you can put your tent up in one campsite and leave the following morning for a new destination. Leave early to avoid the midday sun and you’ll have the afternoon to rest by the turquoise sea. Plan more time for the winding and hilly roads on the Western coast. It can be done in two to three weeks at an easy pace.
Without doubt one of the best cycling tours I've ever done. With the help of the Midi-Pyrenees Tourist Board www.tourism-midi-pyrenees.co.uk (which has dedicated cycling section) I arranged a tour gastronomique of excellent gastronomic chambres d'hotes in the midi-pyrenees. Designed as a four day car tour, we stretched it to a seven day cycling tour. The tourist board booked the chambres d'hotes and we took 'pot luck' in the days in between, sauntering, meandering and discovering the sights as we went, which meant we had plenty of time to get to the next destination. Epic scenery, gloriously quiet roads, beautiful historic cities and magnificent food enjoyed without guilt, as the calorie usage was so high. The website now has a section on Michelin chefs in the area so you could plan your trip around their restaurants, but to be honest the local workaday restaurants were sublime anyway. Truly a "cyclists' eldorado". Even cycling in and out of Toulouse airport was OK, though we arrived and left on a Sunday.
www.tourism-midi-pyrenees.co.uk have good English - speaking assistance for booking and advice.
The Marais Poitevin/Venise Verte is an undiscovered area recommended for beautiful countryside and interesting history. Cycling is easy on quiet roads and canal banks. An independent cycling tour can be arranged with bike hire from Bike Hire Direct. Proprietors Neville and Natasha provide good quality bikes and good advice. Rural chambre d' hotes can be booked online and in our experience have always been excellent and full of character. If a change from cycling is needed a network of small picturesque canals give the opportunity for boating and picnicking in waterside meadows.
Roger and Teresa run a small, specialist cycling holiday centre based in the spectacular Vercors National Park, in the Rhones Alps called Velo Vercors. They have a passion for cycling and this very special region where Roger Dunne has been cycling for most of his life and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the area and of all things cycling related.
Teresa, who is also a cyclist, prepares evening meals which are a gastronomic delight. There are three gites which have been recently renovated to a very high standard with delightful power showers to refresh the weary cyclist. They have recently added further accommodation in the form of two bed and breakfast rooms with private access.
We have spent three delightful holidays there and cannot wait to return.
For a cycling holiday that is car-free, level, and therefore perfect for families with younger children, cycle the voie verte from Rennes to Dinan along the tree-lined Canal d’Ille et Rance in Brittany. At a distance of approximately 80 kilometres, each family will want to plan their overnight stops before they set off – but my recommendations would include the pretty villages of Betton, Hede, and Evran. Dinan is the prize at the end: it appears like something out of the Three Musketeers - a perfectly preserved panoply of medieval cobbled streets, crooked half-timbered buildings, courtyards and clock towers. Several English speaking cycle hire companies exist in the region (try Brittany Borders Bicycling or Breton Bikes.) They can deliver bikes to you at the start of your holiday and collect them at the end, and help with accommodation along the way.
At 365km end to end you could make a weeks holiday cycling along this beautiful canal path. However, we took an easier option and camped at the green and leafy camping municipal in the small town of Blain, right next to the canal, and cycled our family up and down for a relaxed and flat good few miles each way. There are plenty of picnic sites to stop at, different boats sailing up and down to look at and working locks to stop and observe, which makes this route ideal for taking with children. The Chateau de Blain also has a tower section which can be visited and explored.
Catch the ferry to Dieppe and follow the Avenue Verte route to Paris. It begins on a flat and car free disused railway line for 40km, continuing on quiet roads through rolling countryside. Plenty of places to stop and picnic on baguettes and the delicious local Neufchatel cheese. Fun, easy, cheap, and of-course a very green way to travel! Donald Hirsch does an excellent on-line guide, with step by step instructions, maps and places to stay en-route.
This rather quirky, old fashioned youth hostel was the highlight of our Brittany cycle trip on the V7 - rooms two metres from the sea and fantastic communal breakfasts to power you for a day cycling - all for €16. You just need to find it hidden behind the Aquarium.
2013 will be the third year in succession that we are returning to the small village of St Jean-en-Royans, in the Vercors national park (close to the French Alps), where Velo Vercors, run by Teresa Harte and former pro cyclist, Roger Dunne is based. There are three comfortable gites (all with cooking facilities) plus bed and breakfast accommodation, located in a converted 18th Century mill house. Velo Vercors specialize in cycling holidays for cyclists of all levels and abilities with rides devised by Roger to accommodate this. Even if you are not a budding Bradley Wiggins (we are not!) you can enjoy rides through fabulous countryside, stopping off in cafes in traditional French villages, simply soaking up the breathtaking scenery as you amble along. We have been with friends who have children (aged eight and 10) and the children thoroughly enjoyed it. There is a swimming pool close by for those with the energy after a day in the saddle and also massage and yoga available on request. For those wanting a more strenuous day's riding Roger provides accompanied trips to the classic Tour climbs such as Alp D'Huez. Bike hire is available locally (the quality of bikes available is very high), or you can bring your own. Storage facilities and parking are available on site. This part of France is off the beaten track, but nothing beats cycling through walnut groves on a sunny day, stopping off for lunch in the beautiful village of St Antoine De L'Abbaye, before following the meandering course of the Isere river back home for a relaxing drink of Clairette de Die in the evening with the hosts and other guests on the terrace.
Part of the Marais Poitevin, (drained wetlands) and crisscrossed by duckweed laced canals, Green Venice is ideal laid back, flat cycling country. Quiet little roads and tracks take you between picture postcard pretty small bustling towns and tranquil villages, open and wooded and dotted with riverside cafes and bars. Beautiful flora and fauna and you can get great cycling maps from the tourist information. Don't miss the summer market at Le Vanneau-Irleau where cows are transported precariously the traditional way - punted along on the flat bottomed boats.
Velo Vercors, situated in The Vercors, French Alps is a specialist cycling holiday base catering for all levels of cyclists. From start to finish a personal service is offered by English couple Teresa Harte and Roger Dunne (ex pro cyclist). They provide a Gite or B&B option all including a warm welcome, comfortable accommodation (in a unique environment, 18th century watermill), guided or self guided rides, superb home cooked and locally sourced food and transfers to TGV or nearby airports.
Riding out from Velo Vercors can be as easy or as challenging as you want it to be with a real variety or terrain from mountains and gorges to gently rolling hills and beautiful valleys, what ever you chose to do the area is stunningly beautiful with dramatic landscapes in abundance. Roger Dunne, an experienced professional cyclist is also hugely knowledgeable about the local area which adds value to the whole cycling holiday experience. Whether you're a family with young children or an independent traveller wanting to train for a particular event, Teresa and Roger will organise and plan a holiday to meet your needs. I highly recommend Velo Vercors!
Being brought up by my cycling bonkers grandad and family, this is the place where I holidayed and began my love cycling from the age of seven. This cycling mecca is for everyone, not just Middle Aged Men in Lycra (MAMIL).
The village of Malaucène located at the base of the impressive Mont Ventoux - the mountain which peaks all others in the Tour de France - is a great cycle holiday location.
Whether you are a keen cyclist looking for the next challenge or enjoy cycle trips to local village markets filled with wonderful smells of olives and lavender, this is the perfect location to stay.
After a long day of cycling you deserve to relax by the pool or take the plunge. This isn’t your usual holiday park but an authentic Provence residence.
As always in the south of France, guaranteed sunshine.
PS Cycling Bonkers Grandad did Ventoux 33 times and was still cycling Ventoux at the age of 73.
Boulevard des Remparts, 84340 Malaucène
+33(0)4 90 12 62 00
Google map: bit.ly/19cFyzG
My husband and I have stayed at several dozen country French hotels, chambre d'hotes, and gites in our 12 years of regular travels there, and few if any charmed and delighted us as much as Balcon en Foret. The place, which consists of a main house occupied by the hosts, Sandra and Baudoin, and a beautifully restored outbuilding with two spacious, rustically elegant, private suites, truly deserves its name, for one feels as if one were living in a treehouse, perched above (yet still within walking distance of) the village of Beynac. Our room (the smaller "loft") was stunningly large, with a pristine and lovely bathroom and picturesque views. The situation is ideal: Beynac is, quite simply, the most charming village in the Dordogne, and to be able to walk there in the evening (once the majority of the tourists have cleared out) is special, all the more so to be able to return to a little patch of woods and meadow where one hears nothing but crickets and the odd frog. Three things in particular made our stay especially memorable. First, Sandra and Baudoin are superb hosts - helpful in every way, funny and charming to talk to, precisely the sort of young, energetic, hardworking and creative people who really should be doing this for a living. They are attentive without being overbearing, and they have a true commitment to the Dordogne, its landscape, and its traditions that comes out in various choices they have made about the property (we loved, for instance, the possibility of tasting local, biodynamic wines from young producers that they had selected with care). Second, the one dinner we enjoyed there was the best meal we had on this trip - fresh, simple, but also innovative and sophisticated (cold beet gazpacho topped with a kind of curry cream, followed by chicken in a delicious sauce of walnuts, a local delicacy, and a lovely, fresh salad), each course reflecting the culinary traditions and offerings of the area and yet without any of the dreary, heavy qualities that southwestern French food usually has. The breakfasts were also top-notch, always with fresh fruit, French toast, scrambled eggs and plenty of very good coffee. Last, and not least, Balcon en Foret itself is the sort of landscape where one feels that one can be a child again: luminescently green meadows, dark forests that seem somehow haunted, castle turrets abounding in the vicinity, plenty of fresh air, and no modern intrusions (well, they do have free wifi, which was awfully nice). With increasing hordes of tourists descending upon the Dordogne valley each year, the Balcon en Foret really preserves the magic and the serenity of this region. A perfect experience, splendid in every way.
Situated on a wine estate overlooking the Baie de Paulilles, Le Clos de Paulilles epitomises classic but informal French dining. Each course from the farm's one fixed menu is accompanied by a different type of their own wine. As you feast on the (very) local produce, watch the evening sun set over the Pyrenees.
Walk off the indulgences of the evening with a stroll along the adjacent beach.
Between the Marais and the Bastille, the Hotel De Neuve is in a great location for both sightseeing and nightlife. The area around the hotel is actually very quiet, but it only takes 5-10 minutes on foot to get to the busy neighborhoods. The hotel itself is a contemporary style boutique hotel with a stylish decor, the room we had was elegant and comfy. We had a lovely stay, we enjoyed every minute of it.
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