Guest author Maggie LaCoste is a France aficionado.  Read any further and you risk dropping everything to set off on a tour of one of the world’s most popular cycling destinations.

When you think of French cycling, most of us think of Le Tour, the Alpe d’Huez, Mont Ventoux, Lance Armstrong, and lots of spandex.

But did you know that France is now one of the top destinations for recreational cycling?  Without question, there are other great places to bike, but France has the perfect combination of qualities that make it a perfect choice for cyclists of every age and skill level.

Granted other countries have great food, wine, cycling and markets.  But France has a perfect blend of these top features that consistently place it at the top my list of perfect cycling destinations.

So if you are contemplating your first cycling trip to Europe, are looking to add a weekend cycling adventure to your French vacation, or are just looking for a new way to experience Europe through the back door, take a look at my top 5 reasons to choose France for your next cycling vacation!

#1–French Food

From escargot in the Loire to Cassoulet along the Canal du Midi, to Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon in Burgundy, to seafood, crepes and galettes in Brittany and the Atlantic Coast, France is a food lover’s paradise!  Sweets like gateau au noix, creme brulee, tarte tartin, souffles, canneles and light-as-air macaroons make all the hard work on your bike worthwhile.

How can you possibly choose?

 

Then there is French cheese:  where else in the world would you find cheeses that actually have AOC status similar to wine?  France has 42 cheeses with AOC status, a quality label granted by the government, designating cheese from a particular area of France.

From Epoisses in Burgundy, rumored to have been Napoleon’s favorite cheese, to Valencay and Saint Maure in the Loire, to hundreds of goat cheeses and cow’s milk cheeses, France is a playground for cheese lovers.

Regardless of your budget, regardless of whether you prefer hard or soft, strong or gooey, you will never run out of cheese options in France.  With ham or salmon for breakfast, with bread and apricot jam and cold cuts for lunch or as a pre-dessert course at dinner, a meal without cheese in France is like a day without sunshine.

The goat cheese family.

 

And how could you forget French bread?  Thick crusted pain de campagne, whole grain pain aux cereales, sourdough pain au levain, baguettes in every size, croissant as light as air.  Bread in France is an institution in and of itself.

 

#2–French Wine

No matter where you go in France and no matter what your budget, you will always have an incredible variety of local wines to choose from.  Whether biking in Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Cotes du Rhone, the Loire, Provence or Champagne, just stop into the local grocery store and pick up a bottle to go with your picnic lunch or dinner.

Throughout the French countryside, you can buy local wines from 2 Euros in the local grocery.  All but the most posh restaurants feature several local wines by the half bottle or carafe, usually for less than the cost of a Coke.

 

Local Loire Wine for 2.40 Euro.

 

#3–The French Market

French markets are a 4th of July for the senses:  the brilliant colors of flowers and fresh produce, the intoxicating smell of lavender and fresh herbs, samples of cheese, foie gras and local delicacies all make market days a highlight of any trip to France.

A trip to the local market is an opportunity to experience French life up close and personal, to find new adventures around every corner. From early morning set up, to shopping for the perfect ingredients for a picnic lunch or dinner, to simple people-watching, local markets are one of my favorite French experiences.  Local market days are one of the first things that I put on my calendar when I plan a bike trip.

 

Specials of the day in Amboise.

 

#4–The French Picnic Lunch

There are few things I love more about France than the picnic lunch.  Sometime between noon and 1:00, the work day comes to a halt as people rush home, to their favorite restaurant, to the closest picnic table or to any available bench to enjoy lunch with family and friends.

Everything about the picnic lunch is fun;  planning and buying supplies for the lunch are almost as much fun as eating it.  There is something so comforting, old-fashioned and deliberate about the picnic lunch.  There is no rush.  It is a time for story-telling, sharing thoughts, discussing politics, and for cyclists, for meeting new friends.  It is the antithesis to the lunch on-the-go that is so common here in the U.S.  The picnic lunch is one of my favorite parts of the day when I am in France, and it is one of the things that I miss the most when I leave.

A Picnic in the Vineyards

 

#5–A safe cycling environment

While French bicycling is perhaps best known for the grueling annual battle of the Tour de France, over the last 10 years, it has also become paradise for the recreational cyclist.

So regardless of whether you are young or old, traveling solo or with kids, even if you have never taken a cycling vacation before, France is the perfect place for a safe cycling adventure–no spandex required!

 

 

About the Author

When she can’t be cycling the backroads of France, Maggie LaCoste is content to educate others about cycling in France.  Maggie publishes a popular blog, Experience France by Bike, the Insider’s Guide to cycling in France.
Her blog has quickly become the most comprehensive resource for information on the network of low/no traffic bike routes that are revolutionizing recreational cycling in France.  If you are interested in seeing France in a way experienced by few tourists, explore it by bike, and let Experience France by Bike be your trip planning resource!
Maggie is planning to begin publishing a series of e-itineraries for cycling in France beginning this spring.  You can read more about cycling in France at www.experiencefrancebybike.com.

Top 5 Reasons to Cycle France
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One thought on “Top 5 Reasons to Cycle France

  • Shakylegs
    August 20, 2014 at 7:43 AM
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    France is one of the best places for a long distance bike tour, and Maggie is certainly correct in extolling its virtues.

    Here is some practical info on a France bike tour:

    * The French railway system is excellent, and most medium sized towns are served by at least a local train. So you can hopscotch from region if you want.

    * Most small and provincial towns have a low cost “Municipal Campground.” Most of those are very nice with natural features, and not crowded. Many European campers prefer resort type of camping – swimming pools, saunas, etc. – but that is more expensive. A municipal campsite usually costs about $10 – $12 an night per site.

    * Every day, when getting to each town you have a logistical problem to solve: Is there a tourist bureau? If so where is it, and what are the hours? Where is the municipal campground? Where is the local market?

    * Maggie likes good food ( gateau au noix, creme brulee, tarte tartin, souffles, etc) but my budget and tastes are lot simpler. I do not cook or go to restaurants, and when I returned from my France trip I told my doctor: “My diet these last two months has been: That great French bread (I think they put some additive in it to make it addictive) Cheeses, Pate, Beer, Wine, and a ton of fruit.” “Sounds like a good diet to me.” he said.

    * I biked the Loire Valley, Brittany, and Normandy. The highlight of the trip: Biking the Normandy D-Day beaches.

    Try France – you will love it!

    Reply

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