Cycling in France for a mini break holiday – what could go wrong? Evidently nothing or rien as they say in France!
That’s what English language teachers, Kate and Dominick have said, or rather, have raved about, since coming back from their cycling 5-day break in the Loire Valley in August. Now, summer 2023 may seem a long way away in the depths of winter but time to start thinking!
Cue Kate: “There’s no better way to discover the delights of the Loire Valley than by bike, in a perfect mélange of nature, culture and, of course, wine!”
So, my curiosity ‘piqued’, I can’t wait to find out more. And after a dinner out with Kate and Dominick, I’m sold on it too.
The holiday itself is through a company called Randovélo and was just what Kate had been looking for: “I had been toying with the idea of a cycling holiday for some time, attracted by the thought of a more active way of exploring a destination and finally got round to doing some research” says Kate. While checking out the competition, she finally settled on Randovélo because “I was immediately impressed with their broad choice of routes and positive reviews”.
Not one to hang about, Kate “got on her bike” and decided it was the holiday for her. One brief chat with colleague Dominick and he was in too. So, they booked. And never looked back.
Kate enthuses: “Randovélo proved to be very well organized and efficient. On arrival we were given a welcome pack with maps and clear directions. I had previously been sent instructions about how to download a phone app with GPS maps which all added to the sense of being in safe hands.”
Dominick nods in agreement and makes a point about The Loire Valley itself: “It really is geared up for cycling. Endless bike paths, signs and routes help the cyclist navigate with ease.”
What they make a point of selling is that throughout the holiday, Randovélo took care of everything as they cycled away: “Every day, when we arrived at our evening destination, we found our luggage waiting for us.”
So, every evening was the perfect end to a day out cycling … without a care dans le monde!
And the cycling? Magnifique, too? Well, oui!
“The route did not disappoint and took us along peaceful cycle paths running beside the Loire, through rolling vineyards and sleepy hamlets.”
Kate waxes lyrical about French drivers too: “The short stretches we did on country roads were enjoyable since the drivers seemed quite used to cyclist and were very respectful of distances and over-taking – necessary due to our relaxing pace of about 14km/hour!”
Dominick nods in agreement but adds an aside about country lane pedestrians:” There is a secret cycling etiquette that we knew nothing about, and which wasn’t mentioned in our welcome pack.”
“Which is?”, I ask with raised eyebrow.
“Well, don’t cycle up behind someone without ringing your bell. To our British minds it seemed rude to, but we soon learnt it was rude not to. And another unwritten law is always stay in one lane, even when on an uncrowded cycle path! Otherwise, a grumpy French man might shout at you!”
Kate laughs but gets back to being very entente cordial: “The Loire Valley boasts some incredible chateaux and the ones included in the tour were impressive testimony to France’s rich history”
Their tour included Chaumont, Chenonceaux, Cheverny and Chambord.
And Kate and Dominick didn’t miss out on one no matter what it took. Dominick explains: “We sometimes shaved a few kilometres off by diverting onto bigger D roads so we could fit the chateaux in. On our fourth day, two chateaux were included in the itinerary with 50 km to do, which seemed like an unattainable task. So, we cut out the very bumpy bike path and headed straight down the D road instead.”
One question I really wanted to know the answer to was ‘Was the cycling difficult? I mean, can anyone do it?’
Kate “I was quite apprehensive about the choice of difficulty (rated 3 stars out of 5) since I am not a regular cyclist. However, the tour was split over 4 days with an average 40km a day, mainly on the flat and just a few gentle hills – some sore bits the next day but absolutely doable!”
And Dominick cycles the point home: “All my fears of not being able to do it were alleviated after the first 20km. I realized it wasn’t as physically draining as my mates made out it would be.”
Now, I’m not a cyclist but that doesn’t sound too bad, and in the spirit of adventure, I’m still on the right track to French revolutionize a future holiday to ‘The Loire Valley’s Greatest Chateaux by Bike.’
Once I hear the competitive prices and what’s included Monsieur Bob’s your uncle!
- 5 days / 4 days riding
- Difficulty: Moderate – Round trip with daily departure from Blois
- August – peak season
- €895 total per person – includes 4xhotel B&B formula (€660), half board (€155), visitors’ pack (€80), bike, saddle bag and luggage transfer.
Kate adds some great advice: “The visitors pack cost €80 and included entrance to 4 chateaux enroute and wine tasting, but it turned out to be a good choice because we didn’t have to queue for tickets at the busier chateaux. The half board option was also a good idea since it meant we could enjoy a full day’s cycling without having to worry about where to eat on arrival”.
Aha! Now we’re parlering! Food and drink! We can’t leave that out, can we?
And with this Kate and Dominick have their heads (cork) screwed on!
Dominick begins: “We learnt the need to have a filling breakfast and not to skip lunch! A wine and goat’s cheese pit-stop became the norm to split the day up.”
Sounds like sound advice to a cycling novice like me!
He continues: “For fun, we decided to do a list of our top starter, main and dessert from the half board menus we had tried that were all very French. We both agreed that the salmon tartare was the clear winner from the starter category, although we were both intrigued by the veal tartare that was served with an olive oil ice cream.”
” We didn’t know how to actually eat it. Do the French really put ice cream on their raw meat…? Well, it seems that they do, and this particular dish is quite famous across the Loire region”.
What strikes me throughout our conversation is how much fun they had, how enthusiastic they are about the French and France and how things had gone so cyclingly. And if anything did ‘go wrong’, it just added to the fun.
“One day we ventured into an orchard. After being surrounded by dogs and a very pleasant French man in a beret, we realized we weren’t in the right place, but in someone’s orchard!”
Almost sounds like the right place to be!
And that seems to sum up their whole holiday in the Loire Valley: the right place to be!
Final word goes to Kate:
“France itself was also a great choice as a destination and offers something for everyone together with quality services, great customer care and attention to detail, which all combine to turn a holiday into an unforgettable experience.”
To find out about your unforgettable experience in the Loire Valley and more visit:
Hope it all whets your appetite for your summer holiday 2023 as much as it has mine.