Ever wonder what it’s like setting off to see France on a bicycle? I have wondered many times myself because I admire people who take Provence Cycling Tours or cycling tours anywhere in France for that matter!
Ilona and Jim Kucharczyk love active vacations and they’ve ridden in the Bourgogne area, the Loire Valley, Provence and are planning on an upcoming tour of the Bordeaux area. They come on the show to share tips and tricks for those who are thinking about doing the same thing and could use a little bit of forewarning about what lies ahead.
Places Mentioned in this Episode: Avignon, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Lisle-sur-la-Sorgue, Gordes, Roussillon, Les Baux-de-Provence, Arles, Uzès, Pont-du-Gard
Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.
Provence Cycling Tours Trip Report, Episode 149
Episode Highlights with Timestamps
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- [5’06] Visiting the Grotte de Niaux, la Rivière Souterraine de Labouiche and Carcassonne.
- [6’01] It’s great to see how many of you talk about visiting the South West of France on our Facebook Closed Group.
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- [7’47] Cycling trip around Provence in October 2016. Ilona and Jim are not Spring Chickens, they’ve been married for 35 years, and they took up cycling 4 years ago.
- [9’26] They do have a fair bit of training, but they worked up to 70 or 80 miles per day slowly.
- [10’31] In France cycling is huge, there are cyclist all over, especially in rural France. Marion Clignet was on Episode 52.
- [12’28] Why did they choose Provence? Comparing the level of difficulty between different regions of France.
- [14’43] Choosing bigger roads to go longer distances. Doing day-trips from a central location instead of a circular route. The issue of luggage.
- [16’52] What’s a great central location in Provence and renting bicycles from L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
- [18’18] What happens if you run into a problem like a flat tire or a mechanical problem?
- [20’20] Did you consider joining a group of cyclists? No, because we love the planning process. More freedom if you ride alone.
- [21’40] Vélo Loisir Provence Association
- [24’40] Are French drivers considerate to cyclists?
- [26′] What GPS did you use? Garmin and Ride with GPS, some D roads are busy, especially around Avignon
- [27′] French roads classification: A for Autoroute (freeways), N for National, D for Départementale. Have you used Google Maps’ cycling option? Ride with GPS is better because it’s more of a community where real people share experiences of cycling.
- [28’31] How often did you get lost? Letting Garmin select dirt roads as an option.
- [31′] Getting lost is par for the course when riding or hiking.
- [31’51] Provence cycling tours day by day itinerary
- [32′] Fly into Paris CDG, RER train into the city of Paris, then the TGV to Avignon, then a bus to Saint-Rémy de Provence.
- [32’40] The first leg of cycling was north through Avignon, with Chateauneuf-du-Pape as their destination for the day. That was a lovely ride with lots of vineyards, small roads, beautiful views onto the Rhone Valley.
- [35′] How did you plan your lunch stops?
- [36′] Stop at the restaurant Le Pistou in Châteauneuf-du-Pape
- [37′] Long riding day on Saturday at Lisle-sur-la-Sorgue, Gordes, and Roussillon, which was challenging as far as elevation is concerned.
- [39’47] Running out of daylight and trying to pack too much into one day because it means there isn’t enough time spent at each location.
- [40’26] Planning overnight stays in a few select places so there’s enough time to see it. 75 or 75 miles is too far for an out and back.
- [41’55] Les Baux-de-Provence, mistral wind and needing to walk.
- [43’48] Riding to Arles. Valley roads and river roads tend to be flat (unless it’s a gorge!)
- [45’11] Stumbling upon random Roman ruins because you’re cycling. Walking and cycling are probably the best way to see France.
- [46’15] Giving up on cycling for one day because of the wind and weather.
- [46’44] Bus driver refusing to back her bus up a few inches to open the bay on the cargo bus so they could take their bikes on.
- [47’40] Learning French
- [49’14] Uzès and the Pont-du-Gard
- [50’20] Planning another trip around Bordeaux: stay in Bordeaux and doing over-nights in Médoc, Saint-Julien or Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Emilion, cycling association in Bordeaux called Les Dérailleurs.
-  Paris for a few days where they took a walking tour and a dinner cruise, picnic at the Tuilleries.
- [54’09] General tips for people who want to go on provence cycling tours. Try things so you can have realistic expectations, but don’t be afraid to try. Plan out where you are going to eat and bring snacks.
- [56′] In rural areas you have to bring food and water because stores close and keep strange hours.
- [59′] Balancing pleasure with sports, taking your time to see things and yet not stop all the time to take photos!
- [61′] Bring battery backup power and put your phone in airplane mode when not using it. Little battery packs are vital if you’re going to be away from your hotel all day. Sometimes you can plug-in at the restaurant.
- [64′] Signup for a France data plan with your provider. Buying a local SIM card is not worth it any more.
- [63′] France is so gorgeous that you could take a cycling vacation every year for the rest of your life and not see it all!
Cycling vacations will keep you strong and healthy and will give you good reasons to enjoy dessert and a bottle of wine at night. And Provence is gorgeous. Who could ask for anything more?
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