Guest Notes for Episode 474: Pedal Through France a Self-Guided Cycling Adventure

Category: Active Vacations in France

Susan Crump 58, Ron Crump 64 Married

What were the dates of your trip?

June 6 – July 21 (on bikes June 9 – June 30)

What parts of France did you visit?

We started in Amsterdam and rode to Belgium, then to France. In France, we tried to stay true to the Euro Velo routes 1 and 4 – passing through or near Dunkirk, Calais, Wissant, Fort Mahon Plage, Dieppe, Le Harve, Deauville, the Omaha Beaches, Avranches, and Mont St, Michel. We then headed south toward Renne, then east toward Laval. Then south again to Angers, Saumur, Thouars, Airvault, Parthenay, Niort, Surgeres, then Rochefort sur mer, and La Rochelle.

Regionally: Hauts De France, Normandy, Pays de la Loire, and Novelle Aquitaine.

Rank your favorite activities and places on this trip (list at least 10)

Camping, Biking, Normandy beaches, Mont St. Michel, Markets, La Rochelle, Family, Decathlon. I’ll need to work more on this list – but Carrefour contact saved our lives.

Did you stay at hotels or apartments? Please list them and write a sentence or two of what you liked and didn’t like about each.

Combination of campgrounds, hotels, apartments, and Airbnbs. We loved each of them equally, because at the end of the day we were REALLY ready to collapse, so as long as there was a place to rest and enjoy a meal and a beer, we were happy.

Did you have favorite restaurants? Please name them and say what city they were in.

My favorite restaurant on the bike trip was in a chateau (our room for the night) near Saumur. It was a pretty fancy place to roll into on our bikes all smelly and sweaty. We found it on and with points, the room cost $12. The hotel is called Domaine de Presle Although, we speak decent French, we had a really hard time ready the menu – luckily our young waiter spoke 4 languages and was able to help us order. And the chef came to our table, which was a very cool experience.

We also enjoyed several French food trucks – the ultimate meal being a huge hamburger smothered with Camembert on a giant brioche bun. Total heaven.

What were your favorite foods on this trip? Did you try something you didn’t like at all? Do you remember what it was called? What can you say about restaurants in France in general?

We loved every meal. I can only echo what Annie has said before – French restaurants are only open during mealtimes – if you understand this you are fine – if not, you will be hungry. I also love that in a French restaurant, there is no rush – for the most part the table is yours for the evening. Learning to sit back and relax and enjoy the time is hard for a lot of Americans but it’s normal in France – when in France do as the French do – enjoy and savor the experience.

How did you get around? Trains? Car rental? Metros? Walk? Did you run into transportation problems?

We rode our bikes for 21 days for 1,050 miles. We did run into a transportation issue – on June 18th – all the bridges and ferry crossings on the Seine from La Harve to Rouen were closed due to the Armanda of tall ships. And our hotel was on the other side of the Seine – in Deauville and then there was a huge L’ORAGE. I almost panicked – and was about to start knocking on doors to ask if we could put our tent up in a yard – when we found a campground 7 km’s away – we rode through the storm and sought refuge in the campground sanitary block until we could put our tent up. And it was Sunday… so luckily, I had a stash of canned lentils. It was horrible, and hilarious in hindsight.

What did you learn about France on this trip?

Normandy is hilly and looks like Kentucky. The French word for hill is colline. France’s topography is vast – Normandy and Brittany are so different from the south and southwest of France.

Did you make any mistakes on this trip? Is there something you wish you had known before you came?

That Normandy was hilly. All kidding aside, I thought the north of France was going to be flat – I have no idea why I thought that, but it’s not flat – Il y a beaucoup de collines. My husband said he knew it was hilly and he said he told me – I missed that conversation.

What tips do you want to share with other visitors? Perhaps something that surprised you?

In my opinion, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and Italy have more dedicated bike paths. In the parts of France we traversed, the urban areas had a lot of dedicated bike paths, but once you were outside of those urban areas, the D roads were the bike routes. Sometimes the busier D roads would have sections of dedicated bike path that ran alongside the D road. We were also covering a lot of miles – so the D roads were the best way to cover those miles (versus taking a longer route – along a canal route with a dedicated bike path).

Overall was your trip restful or stressful? Did you try to do too much or was it just right?

Restful – but we did have to make some tough choices on destinations. We passed stopping in Bayeux and Saint Malo. But we did see all of the Normandy beaches and Mont St. Michel.

How did the podcast and other trip reports help you prepare for your trip?

I think I’ve listened to every podcast – so many have helped me over the years. My favorite takeaway is the “always say bonjour…”. I’ve been to France many times, and I know this to be true, and Annie has stressed this time and time again. But I actually forgot this one day (because I was tired from the day’s ride), and the look I received, was priceless – I quickly corrected myself and the experience was much improved going forward.

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Category: Active Vacations in France