So, after Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Belgium I arrive in France on my pre-Eurovelo 1/3 quest to have put at the very least a bit of thought into the planning of the route. Only one country to go – Spain – which will be the first of the trip. But back to France. Here are my thoughts…
The country I know best. That said, cycling across southern France in 2013 from Italy in the direction of Spain had its issues; following the Route du Sud a Velo wasn’t quite as easy as I had imagined and the Mistral wind as I crossed the Rhone Valley around Avignon was one of the greatest physical challenges I experienced throughout the Mediterranean journey. Fortunately my 2015 route will stay well clear of that… On the subject of which, here it is:
I arrive from Spain at St. Jean Pied de Port, the starting point of the (last leg) of the Camino de Santiago. In fact, the blue line on the map above isn’t quite correct as it follows the Eurovelo 1 which doesn’t actually pass through St. Jean Pied de Port. I plan to do so however before hopping over from the Eurovelo 3 just north of St Jean to the Eurovelo 1 which follows the coast (probably at the point where they appear closest on the map above). I want to experience some of this French section of the Eurovelo 1 that hugs the coast and this portion to the south of Bordeaux seems the best place to do so. It is, apparently, a very well sign-posted route, away from the traffic along the flat western coast of France. In France they call this route the Velodyssey – there’s a website dedicated to it – and a lot of time, effort and no doubt money has been spent developing a bit of quality cycling infrastructure. There are more details about the section from Bayonne to Leon here and from Leon to Arcachon here. Somewhere shortly after Arcachon I will once again move over in the direction of the Eurovelo 3 as it passes through Bordeaux.
Bordeaux is a beautiful city. I visited a few years ago and have no hesitation is taking the opportunity to do the same on this trip. Once back on the Eurovelo 3 I’ll be straddling the ancient French regions of Poitou and Limousin and I will stay on the Eurovelo 3 all the way to the border with Belgium. The following information is furnished by the official Eurovelo page for the French section of the Eurovelo 3;
“Eurovelo 3 is 1500 km long in France. It starts in Jeumont along the Sambre river next to Belgium and reaches out to the Pyrenees between France and Spain, going through Paris and its region, the Loire Valley, the Poitou and the Gascogne regions. Eurovelo 3 is not quite in place yet but the french are working on it. So there is more to come in the next few years for the greater pleasure of all European cyclists on the French part of the pilgrim’s route!”
I’m cycling in a reverse direction to that of the description of course and two sections of the route in France are ‘realised’:
I wait to see just how the section that passes through Angouleme has been ‘realised’ but the section from Tours to Orleans is a section of the route that is shared with the Eurovelo 6 as if follows the Loire river. I spent several years during the 1990s living in Tours and it will be interesting revisiting the city (as well as meeting up with an old friend and colleague who still lives nearby) and seeing many of the chateaux that dot the landscape en route to Orleans.
From Orleans to Paris I’m not too sure what awaits me as when I lived in Tours this was a journey that I only ever made on the high speed train that whisked me to the capital in under an hour. Once in Paris, I am tempted at this stage of the planning process to say that I will take an extended break from my cycling and stay for a two day break. Accommodation could be provided by the excellent FIAP Jean Monnet. I have stayed in this establishment several times over the years with groups of school children but it caters equally well for the lone traveller and is centrally located. I can’t really imagine there is a better alternative. It may, however, require advance booking.
The section of my route north of Paris towards the border with Belgium might not be the most exciting part of the entire trip but I await to be surprised. I guess that the crossing point between this journey and my cycle along the Eurovelo 5 (or my version of it) back in 2010 will be in or around the non-descript town of Maubeuge. This is what I wrote about my stay there at the time. The good news is that it does indeed have a campsite – here’s the link – and I shall endeavour to make sure I find it this time rather than spend another night in the Grand Hotel…