Transcript for Episode 487: Burgundy Self-Guided Bike Tour

Categories: Active Vacations in France, Burgundy Area

Discussed in this Episode

  • Dijon
  • Chateauneuf
  • Beaune
  • Chagny
  • Chalon-sur-Saône
  • Cormatin
  • Mâcon
  • Tournus
  • Saint-Jean-de-Losne
  • Voies Vertes
  • Voie des Vignes
  • Voie Bleue
  • Stopping at the Cluny Abbey
  • La Vallée de l'Ouche
  • Abbaye Saint-Marguerite (not open to the public yet)
  • Chaudenay
  • Meursault
  • EuroVélo 6
  • Komoot


[00:00:15] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 487, quatre cent quatre vingt sept.

Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent, and Join Us in France is the podcast where we take a conversational journey through the beauty, culture, and flavors of France.

Today on the podcast

[00:00:31] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a trip report with Howard Kantoff. Imagine yourself pedaling along serene vineyard paths, through historic villages, and alongside tranquil canals.

Yes, today’s adventure is all about a self-guided bike tour in one of France’s most celebrated wine regions. You could drive if you wanted to, but Howard did it on a bike. And we also discussed the logistics of doing it on two wheels.

Podcast supporters

[00:01:00] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service, my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app, or take a day trip with me around the Southwest in my electric car.

You can browse all of that at my boutique

Patreon supporters get the episode as soon as it’s ready and ad free, and listeners who buy my VoiceMap tours from the boutique get a fantastic discount, by the way.

The magazine segment

[00:01:31] Annie Sargent: For the magazine part of the podcast, after the interview today, I’ll tell you about my food tour in Paris because it was fun to write and I want you to know about it.

Bonjour Howie Kantoff and welcome to Join Us in France.

[00:01:54] Howard Kantoff: Merci, Annie. Bonjour.

[00:01:56] Annie Sargent: How are you?

[00:01:57] Howard Kantoff: Very well. Excited to speak with you.

[00:02:00] Annie Sargent: Oh, excited to talk to you as well. You had some adventures in France and you did some stuff that I always dream about doing, but I haven’t done any of it yet, which is to do an itinerant trip on a bike. So you went from point to point, it was self-guided, right?

[00:02:17] Howard Kantoff: That is correct.

[00:02:18] Annie Sargent: Okay, so tell me how you organized this.

Well, first of all, did you do this by yourself, were you with a group?

[00:02:23] Howard Kantoff: I was strictly by myself, six days of biking by myself. After that, my wife came to meet me in Dijon and we spent three days together, but the biking was solo.

[00:02:35] Annie Sargent: Solo. And so this was entirely self-guided?

[00:02:39] Howard Kantoff: It was.

[00:02:40] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And how did you prepare for this trip? And what, well, first of all, what time of the year did you do this trip?

[00:02:46] Howard Kantoff: This was late September, early fall.

[00:02:50] Annie Sargent: So just a few weeks ago, it was September, 2023.

[00:02:53] Howard Kantoff: That’s right. It’s fresh in my mind.

[00:02:55] Annie Sargent: Fantastic. Fantastic. All right.

Planning the Trip: From Dream to Reality

[00:02:58] Annie Sargent: How did you organize this? How did you research it? How did it go? All of that. I want to know everything.

[00:03:04] Howard Kantoff: The planning and the research, that was half of the fun or maybe a quarter of the fun. I knew that as we’re coming out of the pandemic, I wanted to take an amazing trip out of the US. I’ve done it before, but not since the pandemic. It was time to take a fantastic trip again, and I just began searching Google for best biking in Europe.

I was actually almost prepared to do a trip in Austria and Hungary on the Danube River, I think it was the airfare that set me back on that, and I made a decision I would go in France, because what’s not to like about France? And then I took the search from there, best biking in France. I got some lists. Various areas were mentioned, Burgundy was one of them, and I settled on that because it just seemed to be right.

You know, there were, you can go in the Pyrenees, but I’m not a super expert Tour de France type of cyclist so that, you know.

[00:04:11] Annie Sargent: Most of us are not.

[00:04:13] Howard Kantoff: And so Burgundy seemed to have just about everything, some hills, but not too challenging, beautiful scenery, the wine country, and I made a decision that this is where I would go. And from there, I had to figure out where am I going to begin?

Where am I going to stop? Google was my friend and Google Maps was my friend.

The French Countryside: The Journey Begins

[00:04:35] Howard Kantoff: And I figured Dijon would be a good place to start, a decent sized city, that key point, they had bike rental available. I rented a bicycle, for better or for worse, and there was an outfit based in Dijon and Beaune called Bourgogne Evasion, they were terrific. They had, you know, wanted to make sure I could get a decent bicycle, and then from Dijon, I just, I looked at the map, I did some reading, I went to various websites, there was one, I think it was called Velo Tourisme de France, which was a go to, I had it bookmarked. And it kind of went in depth, what am I going to find, you know, right down to the elevation level, how bad are the hills?

And that helped me map out the route. The next thing I knew, you know, I had to make sure there was places to stay, places to eat. I stayed all in hotels and or Bed and Breakfasts, you know, modest, reasonably priced places.

And then I had to figure out the distances for the rides each day, so they weren’t too short or too long. And then I hammered out a route that began in Dijon, and it kind of looped South and then toward the East, and it ended in Besançon.

[00:06:02] Annie Sargent: Besançon. Yes.

[00:06:04] Howard Kantoff: Besançon. After which I took a train back to Dijon to meet my wife.

[00:06:08] Annie Sargent: Ah, so you brought your bike back to Dijon.

[00:06:11] Howard Kantoff: Yeah, that’s where I rented it, and that’s where I returned it.

[00:06:15] Annie Sargent: Very good.

Taking a bike on the train

[00:06:16] Annie Sargent: How was it taking a bike on the train? I want to hear about this.

[00:06:20] Howard Kantoff: That was a key learning experience. In a nutshell, very easy, very user friendly. The first time I had to do this, I’d gone four days without a drop of rain. On the fifth day, I was stuck in the village of Sures, in a rainstorm and I’m looking at my phone and I’m standing under an awning behind somebody’s house in a small village as the rain’s coming down and the thunder is banging and trying to figure out how am I going to get to St-Jean-de-Losne, where my reservation is tonight. It was about 15 more miles and I wound up taking the train from Sures. So easy. I read about it, but you get down to that moment when you’re boarding the train and you’re a little nervous. I brought the bike on the train. There was another gentleman who did the same thing, who had obviously done this before.

You bring it on, there’s a little area for the bicycles, and this man saw me kind of fumbling around and he told me what to do. There’s these elastic straps at the side of the train that you just pull over your seat just to secure the bike. It was very, very easy. You just roll it right aboard.

Now the cars are marked, whether they have bicycle space. I did this two or three times and each time it was no trouble finding a space. I’ve read that the long distance routes, the TGV, you may have to book in advance or double check that they offer bicycle space.

[00:07:58] Annie Sargent: Yeah. I think you have to pay a little bit to take a bike on the TGV. Did you have to pay at any point for your bike or was it just part of your ticket?

[00:08:06] Howard Kantoff: No, it was just part of the ticket. And I had downloaded the SNCF? SCNF?

[00:08:14] Annie Sargent: SNCF, yes.

[00:08:15] Howard Kantoff: SNCF app on the phone, and it made things so easy. I could just purchase my ticket right then and there. Nobody ever checked that I had a ticket, but I’m sure that if I didn’t buy one, then they would check it.

And so…

[00:08:30] Annie Sargent: Yes. Well, yeah, you should get a ticket because it’s mightily unpleasant if you don’t. I mean, they don’t check every train, but there are spot checks, so that’s important.

[00:08:38] Howard Kantoff: Yeah, I’m sure of it. And that, like I said, it was an empowering experience to learn how easy this was, and then I just hopped off at St-Jean-de-Losne. The rain was still coming down, but I just had to ride to the hotel.

[00:08:52] Annie Sargent: You were close. That’s good.

That’s good. Yeah. That’s always a possibility. And there are some train systems in France that are more, they’re better prepared for cyclists than others, okay?

So, probably this is one of the good ones, which is very good to know, because typically if the trains you tried are well set up for bikes, it means that most of the regional trains in that region can handle bikes.

They do this all the time.

[00:09:19] Howard Kantoff: It seemed that way. Yes.

[00:09:21] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. And also finding another cyclist who could show you around that, that helped, that saved you some grief, I’m sure.

[00:09:28] Howard Kantoff: Absolutely.

[00:09:29] Annie Sargent: And then the other trains, it was the same type of setup, right?

[00:09:32] Howard Kantoff: Yeah. And then, by then I was an expert.

[00:09:36] Annie Sargent: You could help other people.

[00:09:38] Howard Kantoff: Right.

[00:09:38] Annie Sargent: That’s fantastic. Okay.

Unexpected Challenges

[00:09:40] Howard Kantoff: Well, did you run into any catastrophes? Like, did you have a bike breakdown? I don’t know. I’m hesitant to talk too much about it, the company I rented from was terrific and very helpful. On the first day, the bike that I thought I was getting was not the bike that they gave to me. And so I had to sort of work that out with them to get a proper bike, for six days of riding. They’d given me more of a comfort style with a mushy seat.

For long days on the bicycle, I’ve learned that a harder, firmer seat and style of bike is going to be best. So I waited an extra hour, hour and a half, while they prepared the bike that I ordered from them, and then I was on my way. It was a little bit stressful because I guess, time is money and, you know, you want to get to where you’re going, and not be arriving after dark or so late that you miss dinner.

The rainstorm, I would not call that a catastrophe. In the end, I think it makes for a good story.

I came prepared. I had my rain gear and rain jacket, but it was a thunderstorm. And so, I didn’t want to be out in the middle of a field, by a river, in a thunderstorm.

[00:10:56] Annie Sargent: No, you do not.

[00:10:58] Howard Kantoff: If there’s a will, there’s a way, and you know, worked out just fine.

So no, no catastrophes, just a few minor hiccups along the way.

The logistics of bringing your own bike

[00:11:08] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And it’s true that perhaps a lot of serious cyclists, the ones that I’ve talked to before, they bring their own bikes typically, but that’s another whole, you know, level of difficulty. Did you consider that?

[00:11:22] Howard Kantoff: I absolutely did consider it, but I’m still just a little bit hesitant to go through all that. The packing, the bike box, the disassembling. I consider myself a medium serious cyclist, but not hardcore serious. And so, maybe next time, it’s time to try that out, but then there’s the logistics of, okay, I’ve arrived, I’m at Charles de Gaulle with a giant box, and what am I going to do with this while I’m riding?

I mean, there’s ways to figure it out, I’m sure.

[00:11:56] Annie Sargent: Yeah, you’ll hear an episode coming out soon after we record this, where they did this and they explain how. So, there are ways, it’s just, it adds a level of difficulty. And I’m pretty sure also that if you find a good bike shop, they’ll work with you. I mean, they might not be prepared right as you arrive, as you experienced, but eventually they took care of you and gave you a bike that didn’t cause you any trouble.

[00:12:23] Howard Kantoff: It did not, it did not break down. No flat tires. I found the rental to be the path of least resistance.

[00:12:31] Annie Sargent: Yeah, that sounds good to me.

10 favourite things on this trip

[00:12:32] Annie Sargent: All right, let’s talk about your 10 favorite things on this trip. And if people want to see the details of, you know, your route, where you went, all of that, it’s in the document. It’s going to be in your guest notes, but we’re going to skip around a little bit.

I just want to go from, you know, your favorite thing.

Because that’s always a delight to hear about.

[00:12:52] Howard Kantoff: I would say overall, and this was day in, day out, just the scenery and the landscape of this part of France was spectacular. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was just so amazing and so beautiful. And as I moved around, it would kind of shift and change a little bit. On the second day, in between Chateauneuf and riding down to Beaune, before I hit the Voie des Vignes, it was just so completely amazing, like, you know, giant hills with rock faces and horses and cows grazing, like being right in the middle of your very own painting. I think that was probably the highlight of the whole thing.

[00:13:41] Annie Sargent: We should briefly mention where you started and where you ended, which you did, but tell us the kind of the stops, you know, I went from here to here. I slept here and then I went to…

The stops along the trip

[00:13:52] Howard Kantoff: Okay, so the first day of riding I began in Dijon, and I went, I started heading a little bit west through the Ouche Valley, and most of that was along a canal side, and then I went away from the canal, up into the hills, to get to Chateauneuf-en-Auxois, I believe.

[00:14:13] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Chateauneuf-en-Auxois. Yep.

[00:14:15] Howard Kantoff: The canal paths were very flat, but then I had to go up into the hills, which was a little more challenging, but not insurmountable. I spent the night in Chateauneuf. Day two, it was from there to a midday stop in Beaune, and then you know, right outside of Beaune, you pick up the Voie des Vignes, which I took down to Chagny.

[00:14:38] Annie Sargent: Okay.

So, Voie des Vignes, tours to Chagny. Okay. Very good.

[00:14:42] Howard Kantoff: Spent the night in Chany, then the next day it was through Chalon-sur-Saone and then onward, and that’s where I picked up the Voie Verte, just outside, or actually right in the middle of Chalon, picked up the Voie Verte, and start heading southward, I spent the night in Cormatin.

Ah, very good!

From there, I completed the Voie Verte, went down to Mâcon through Cluny, and then to Mâcon, and then I started heading back up north on the Voie Bleue, and then I stopped for the night in Tournus. And then, there were two more days from Tournus, it was back through Chalon, and then I picked up the EuroVelo 6and spent the night in St-Jean-de-Losne.

I learned it is not St-Jean-de-Losne, it’s St-Jean-de-Losne.

[00:15:42] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes, it’s Losne. There’s an S in the middle that you don’t say, yes.

[00:15:46] Howard Kantoff: Yeah, and that was the day where I kind of finished off my day taking the train. And then the next day it was onward to Besançon.

Besançon to meet your wife.

Actually, I spent the night in Besançon, and then the next morning took the train back to Dijon.

[00:16:02] Annie Sargent: Very good. Yeah, so that sounds like a very nice adventure. And mostly you didn’t ride on roads, did you?

[00:16:10] Howard Kantoff: It was predominantly paved bike trails, and that was another highlight I wanted to mention. You know, I’ve read it’s throughout the country, but I know that in this part of the country the bicycle trail infrastructure was just fantastic. Here and there I had to go off the trail and take some roads, but they were always deserted country roads, very few vehicles.

I always felt safe. That was a big part of planning the trip. I was not so interested on getting on highways with trucks and cars. The trail system in this area, the canal paths and the Voie des Vignes, Voie Vertes, they all kind of link up with one another and it made for a good sort ofcircular loop.

[00:17:00] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So did you have any contacts with locals in the area ? Did you kind of reach out to a biking club or anything like that?

[00:17:07] Howard Kantoff: Not so much. I think as far as it got is I would say Bonjour as people were, I was passing folks on the pathway. But it was, you know, a couple small conversations here and there, but I was mostly on my own during the riding portion of the trip, which was just fine.

Biking with panniers and few things

[00:17:29] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. So did you have panniers? What, how did you keep your stuff?

[00:17:33] Howard Kantoff: Yes, I rented two panniers from the company. That, I’ve learned is really the way to go for an overnight trip. Even still, I had to pack pretty minimally. I had a couple sets of biking shorts and biking jerseys.

[00:17:50] Annie Sargent:

[00:17:50] Howard Kantoff: And then just maybe like one and a half outfits for the evenings to go to dinner. My wife would be horrified, but I figured out I’ll be wearing this shirt, you know, for a couple hours each night, I’ve only got so much space, I want to look presentable, but I could not pack full outfits for every single day.

[00:18:10] Annie Sargent: No way. And you probably had to do some sink laundry as you went along.

[00:18:15] Howard Kantoff: Actually no, I’ve done it before. It might not have hurt with some of the, because I would reuse the bike shorts and the biking jersey maybe a couple times, but it worked out okay.

[00:18:28] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Well, you know, you have the scent of the trail, I guess. That’s how it works.

[00:18:33] Howard Kantoff: Right. But there was always a hot shower at the end of the day.

[00:18:37] Annie Sargent: Yes. Yeah. And you are correct. There are bike paths like this all over France. If you set your mind, if you set your heart on a part of France, you can research what’s around there and you can also reach out to a local club.

You can find, you know, bike club and then whatever town, email them and see if they send you some tips.

[00:18:59] Howard Kantoff: Right, right. The company that rented the bicycle, Bourgogne Evasion, they also offer guided tours of all shapes and sizes from say, an afternoon in the wine country to multi day trips. They have maps and suggestions if you need them.

[00:19:18] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And you never, I mean, obviously, you didn’t have camping gear or anything like that. That was okay, right? You were pretty secure. You had booked your places to stay in advance, perhaps?

[00:19:30] Howard Kantoff: I did, everywhere I stayed, I had booked in advance.

Length of journey each day

[00:19:34] Annie Sargent: So you had to make a pretty good guess how far you could go.

[00:19:37] Howard Kantoff: Right, right.

[00:19:38] Annie Sargent: Did that sometimes feel like too much or not enough?

[00:19:41] Howard Kantoff: I think in the end, so here in the Midwest United States you can go 50 miles on a flat surface in four or five hours, but the same 50 miles in France, with some hills and you want to stop and take pictures and see things, that might be a good 7, 8, 9 hours. And so I think in the end, I would go anywhere from 30 to 45 miles per day.

And it was manageable, and those were not extreme distances for me.

[00:20:16] Annie Sargent: That’s not what you, I mean, you’re not looking for extreme sports. You’re looking for a pleasant vacation.

[00:20:22] Howard Kantoff: Exactly a pleasure trip, but in the end, it always took, it took more time than I expected. Like, oh, I think I’ll be able to make this in six hours and it would take eight hours because, you know, I stopped all the time to take pictures, I took some videos as I went.

Stopping for a visit of the Abbey de Cluny

[00:20:41] Annie Sargent: And it would be a shame not to. Yeah, you have to plan some of that. You’re going to go through some stunning landscapes and also some, like you mentioned Cluny earlier, I hope you stopped and looked around.

[00:20:55] Howard Kantoff: I did, and that was really, you know, that was one of the only times or days where I actually stopped and took in a bona fide destination site.

In Cluny, I went to the abbey, the monastery, which was well worth it, you know, I spent about an hour and a half, but I had to work that time into my schedule.

Other villages, I would stop for a half hour, maybe an hour, to enjoy a glass of wine or have lunch or, you know, stop in the cathedral. But there was not a whole lot of time for deep exploration of historical sites, et cetera, but just a little bit.

[00:21:37] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Well, you probably could have seen more of them possibly, but I guess if you did that, you’d have to plan on more like 20, 30 miles a day.

[00:21:48] Howard Kantoff: Exactly.

[00:21:50] Annie Sargent: Right. Which can be done as well, but it’s a choice you have to make. Do I do more tourism or do I do longer distances?

[00:21:57] Howard Kantoff: Right. You know, overall, it all worked out, but I think I erred on the side of too much riding, you know, like you said, maybe 20 to 30 miles a day would be just fine and allow a little more time to slow down, you know, spend a morning in a village, sit in a cafe or whatever you want to do.

[00:22:19] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so a lot of these Voies Vertes, at least the ones in the southwest where I live, they will have places that you can go off to, you know, there’s a waterfall in this direction, or there’s a cave you can visit, or there’s, you know, things like that, that as you read about the Voies Vertes, some of them take you to some really fun outdoor things that you can do.

[00:22:42] Howard Kantoff: Right. And, I’d seen a few of these in the map as I was planning the trip, but I really didn’t make it to any so much. I pretty much stuck to the path.

[00:22:52] Annie Sargent: So La Vallée de l’Ouche, where you started, has a steam train, for example.

So that’s the sort of thing, like, typically French families, when they do this, especially when they have kids, they will do shorter distances, and they will just stop at the steam train, stop at the cave, so they ride for perhaps three hours total during the day.

And then they just go from fun activity to fun activity. And there’s plenty of Voie Vertes where you can do that. It’s just a matter of finding them, you know, that’s always the trick is doing the research, but it’s part of the fun.

[00:23:26] Howard Kantoff: Absolutely. There was one site that I discovered on the map in between, it was in between Chateauneuf and Beaune, and I just saw it in the Google Map, the Abbaye Saint-Marguerite, which was, you know, this thing I saw on the path, and I kind of looked it up, and it was an abandoned monastery in the middle of the hills. And it just looked like, you know, there were no roofs, no ceilings, the grass was just growing up through the walls. And I thought, I would like to go by that, I sort of adjusted my route, so I would take the, you know, get off of the pathway, and take this tiny little road through the hills so that I would pass the Saint-Marguerite. I did this and it was beautiful, the path got a little bit rough along the way, and then I came over a hill and I saw it in the distance up on the hilltop and I was very excited.

However, when I actually got to the site, I discovered to my dismay that it was closed. It was under private ownership and they were renovating the site for tourism. So I only got as close as the barbed wire fence that was surrounding the area, but I was able to see it off in the distance. But that would be one example where I kind of adjusted my route to go see something that I thought would be interesting. I’m glad I did too.

[00:24:59] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and very often these places are closed off to the public because they might be dangerous. They don’t want an old wall falling on people or something like that, so…

[00:25:07] Howard Kantoff: Surely, no.

[00:25:08] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Okay. We got distracted from your 10 favorite things. Let’s get back to number one, shall we?

[00:25:15] Howard Kantoff: Of course.

Ouche Valley

[00:25:16] Annie Sargent: So that was cycling the Ouche Valley.

It starts just outside of Dijon and then making your way to Châteauneuf-en-Auxois. And that was mostly scenery, right?

Barge and bike trips are popular in Burgundy

[00:25:27] Howard Kantoff: Yeah, and primarily a canal path, right, and so alongside the canal, it was delightful, you’d go, there’d be the locks, and every lock would have a little house, where the lock keeper, I don’t know if they really live there, but I saw several people showing up to do some maintenance or to let boats through. You would see the boats going through the canal, some of them, I’ve read, you know, you can do a boat and bicycle tour, so you would see the people cruising along on the boat, they’d have their bicycles up there, it looked like a delightful way to travel, and I would just kind of roll on by them.

[00:26:06] Annie Sargent: Yes, this is very popular in that part of the country. You have a bike on the boat, the boat stops and you go off to explore somewhere and then you come back and have a nice meal that somebody prepared for you. It’s pretty good. It’s pretty good. All right.

Exploring the Véloroute Voie des Vignes

[00:26:22] Annie Sargent: Number two was the stunning scenery, like we just mentioned, and then you did the Véloroute Voie des Vignes. I want to hear about this.

[00:26:30] Howard Kantoff: Yes, that was an absolute highlight of the entire trip. This was a dedicated bicycle path that shot straight through the vineyards, beginning outside of Beaune, and it goes about 15 miles down to Chaudenay and then Chagny. This was something I discovered in my research, it was almost kind of a centerpiece of the entire tour.

Like, this is a destination, something I want to do.

[00:26:59] Annie Sargent: You wanted to do this, yeah, yeah.

[00:27:00] Howard Kantoff: It was absolutely stunning, you know, to take a paved bicycle trail, you’ve got the vines and the fields on all sides of you, the hills going up in the distance, and it went through the wine villages as you make your way down.

Meursault was a place that I stopped in, a beautiful little village and I stopped at a bar and sat outside, had a glass of wine. That was one of my favorite moments, but, you know, the villages were pretty close together, you know, like every 10, 15 minutes you’d ride into one.

Apparently, this is where some of the top wine producers of Burgundy have their chateaus and their operations. I know some folks would like to arrange tastings at the different wine chateaus. I didn’t do this, I just stopped at a bar in town and that was fine for me, but I would ride past and you would see the processes happening. You could smell the fermenting grapes as you ride through the village.

[00:28:03] Annie Sargent: Yes. In September, yes, that’s when they start working the grapes in earnest. Yeah, definitely. That was very fun. Let’s see, going down your list. You enjoyed the wine on the patio in Meursault. That’s a beautiful place.

A Journey Through France’s Biking Infrastructure

[00:28:17] Annie Sargent: And then you took the Voie Verte between Chalon-sur-Saone and Mâcon.

So this was a different Voie Verte.

[00:28:24] Howard Kantoff: Yes, and like a perfect example of just the terrific biking infrastructure in France. A paved pathway began in Chalon, kind of went out through their suburban area, but then the next thing you knew, you were back in the fantastic landscapes. There were more vineyards along this particular Voie Verte, because it’s a former railway, passageway, you would see the old train stations as you moved through, which was kind of a nice touch. As I was approaching Macon at the southern end of this, it went through a tunnel, the tunnel to …. I forget the name of it.

But this was the longest dedicated bicycle tunnel, I think in all of France, and possibly all of Europe. It just went on and on, and on, maybe over a mile, you go inside the tunnel.

[00:29:29] Annie Sargent: Is it lit?

[00:29:30] Howard Kantoff: The Tunnel du Bois Clair.

[00:29:32] Annie Sargent: Tunnel du Bois Clair.

[00:29:33] Howard Kantoff: Yeah, there were little lights along the side, but you get in there, and it was very dark, it was cold inside the tunnel, because you’re kind of going underneath the mountain, but that was a fun, exciting, and kind of quirky part of the adventure.

[00:29:49] Annie Sargent: So were there any goats, or cows, or any… because in the Pyrenees, goats and cows love to go in those tunnels.

[00:29:57] Howard Kantoff: I didn’t see any, may have been some bats, but I’m not sure.

As far as I know, it was just me in there. It was dank, damp, and dark.

[00:30:08] Annie Sargent: You definitely wanted to get to the other end of this thing as fast as possible. That’s great. That’s great.

Abbaye de Cluny

[00:30:16] Annie Sargent: You visited the Abbaye de Cluny, which you mentioned earlier, and you said it was very well worth it.

[00:30:22] Howard Kantoff: Terrific. Just austere old, you could feel the history behind it. Spent about an hour or so on the site, in the buildings. Well worth my time.

[00:30:34] Annie Sargent: And they had a place where you could lock up your bike.

[00:30:36] Howard Kantoff: Yeah, outside of the site, there were some bike racks. It was no problem.

[00:30:40] Annie Sargent: Yeah, bike racks are very common in France. It’s usually easier to find a bike rack than a parking spot, most of the time.

Self-guided vs Guided Tour

[00:30:49] Annie Sargent: I have a question. At any point during this trip, did you think, Oh, I should have booked a guided tour?

[00:30:56] Howard Kantoff: Not really. This is kind of, you know, my personal choice, this is how I wanted to do it. I wanted to do the planning. The one point in the year I get a little bit of me time, as we say. And something I wanted to mention to your listeners, there are a million ways of doing this, and it really depends what you prefer from the solo planned tour, there’s companies that will set you up for an independent tour, but they’ll handle the bookings, they’ll give you a GPS that tells you where to go, and everything’s set, although it’s still an independent tour.

You can do, there are tour groups and people enjoy that, something I might do one day, you know, as I get older, and just want somebody else to handle all the details and the work.

[00:31:48] Annie Sargent: Yes. And also there’s a lot of accommodations in France that are bike friendly.

They usually have a, they will have a locked garage space for the bikes, they’ll have basic repair tools if you want to tune up your bike or whatever.

[00:32:04] Howard Kantoff: Yeah, that’s what I found every day, as I was getting ready, I would send each of the hotels a note, Oh, I have a bicycle, and they’d write back, right away, no problem, we have space, and they were ready for that.

[00:32:17] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. It’s very good in France. You typically don’t really, I mean, you don’t have to bring your bike into your hotel room. They’ll have a place for it somewhere.

[00:32:27] Howard Kantoff: Right, which I’ve done on some of my United States tours, take the bike right into the room.

[00:32:32] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Which, I mean, it works, that’s what you have to do, that’s what you have to do. Yeah.

Culinary Adventures and Accommodation Insights

[00:32:36] Annie Sargent: Number seven is a night in Tournus, Aux Terrasses, Hotel and Restaurant. Want to hear about this.

[00:32:43] Howard Kantoff: What a surprising place, the Aux Terrasses. Once again, I found it on the Google Maps, and I kind of looked into it and lo and behold, there’s a Michelin starred, one star restaurant in this hotel, in this village. And I thought, as long as I’m there, I would like to try that out.

And so, I booked myself the night in the hotel. It was pretty reasonably affordable, you know, just a little over a hundred Euros. And I booked a reservation in the restaurant as well, because why not? And it was terrific. The hotel itself, it was kind of that modern, stylish kind of hotel, which I enjoyed.

The room was just so, very clean and very neat. And then the meal in the restaurant, it was fantastic. Between you and me and all of our listeners, I sort of preferred the more home style, local kitchen cooking that I found throughout the trip. This was a very chefy, fine dining experience.

Don’t get me wrong. It was wonderful.

[00:33:48] Annie Sargent: But you don’t want to do that every night.

[00:33:50] Howard Kantoff: No. But I’m glad that I did, you know, with the small plates of the very finely tuned dishes. It was very, very good.

[00:33:58] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so they want to bring you different flavors, different textures, you have very small servings of a dozen things and you like some better than others, typically.

It’s for the exploration, the adventure of the palate, I guess is what they do.

[00:34:13] Howard Kantoff: Yes. But like I said, I enjoyed some of the other meals I had in some of the other towns, even better than that, kind of like I said, the home cooking, local style. That really spoke to me.

[00:34:27] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. So yeah, in a lot of places in France, these villages where you stop for the night, I mean, perhaps this person went to cooking school, but possibly not, possibly they’re just enjoy cooking and can run a restaurant. Yeah. Why not? Fantastic. All right.

Experiencing the EuroVélo 6

[00:34:43] Annie Sargent: So then, oh, you went to the EuroVélo 6.

So tell us about that a little bit.

[00:34:50] Howard Kantoff: That was something that I was really excited about. That, you know, I had read about for the longest time. This is a Europe-wide system of bicycle paths and trails, you know, from the northern tip of Scandinavia down to the Mediterranean and Spain, and they just crisscross the entire continent.

The EuroVelo 6 goes from the Atlantic Ocean just outside of not, through France, and then it kind crosses through Burgundy, where I picked it up for a couple of days, but then it moves onward into Switzerland, Geneva, into Germany, Austria, right through Eastern Europe to the Black Sea. It’s about, you know, maybe 6,000 kilometers.

People do the whole thing, that would take six to eight weeks to do it.

[00:35:45] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:35:45] Howard Kantoff: I don’t have that kind of vacation time. But I was excited, like I said, to pick up just a little piece of this in Chalon-sur-Saone, heading up northeast toward Besancon, and that too, it was a signposted pathway, but this kind of varied, you know, you’d be, you would utilize whatever was there. Canal paths, bicycle trails, or areas just out on the roads, but you know, they were specifically chosen to be safe and traffic free.

You know, you would see the EuroVelo 6 sign every few minutes, so it was very hard to get lost.

[00:36:28] Annie Sargent: So that was another question. Did you ever get lost? Did you have difficulties finding the Voie Verte? Because sometimes you’re like, okay, I’m in the town, but where does it, where is it exactly?

[00:36:39] Howard Kantoff: Right. For the most part I did fine, but a couple of times, exactly like you’re saying, okay, I’m in the town, where do I pick up the trailhead? And for that, all the different apps were my friend. There’s one called Komoot that hikers and cyclists probably know about. So I was able to set up my routes in advance, and have guided direction throughout.

But like you’re saying too, you know, if you’re in a town and need to find the trailhead, I found that Google Maps was very effective in just getting me from the center of town, say, to pick up the Voie des Vignes outside of Beaune.

A couple of times on the Voie Verte, it got a little tricky, like I’d make the wrong turn, and then after a few minutes, like, yeah, it’s just doesn’t feel right anymore. I’d look at my phone, oh, I’ve gotten off, I need to get back and find the route. But, that was uncommon. For the most part, everything was very well signed and easy to navigate.

[00:37:49] Annie Sargent: Yeah, once you’re on it it’s pretty easy to follow it. It’s just finding the start sometimes. We went to Mazamet to find the Passa Païs, which is, you know, it’s well-known Voie Verte. And I even called the tourist office before I went. And she says, well, just go to the train station, which made sense because it’s an old train track, right?

And I go there, and I’m, no, it’s just a train station, you know. And it wasn’t very far, but it took a little bit of, you know, a few hesitant steps, and with Google Maps, we did find it, and we went to it, and sure enough, there it was. And most of the way, the Passa Païs is, it’s kind of a crushed, crushed stone type of path, is that what you had most of the time?

[00:38:36] Howard Kantoff: Most of what I found was paved tarmac kind of pathways, occasionally some of the crushed stone or hard packed dirt, but most of what I rode on was fully paved.

[00:38:49] Annie Sargent: Huh, huh,

What type of bike did he use?

[00:38:50] Annie Sargent: What sort of bike did you get?

[00:38:52] Howard Kantoff: This was a hybrid they gave me, sort of in between a mountain bike and a road bike, so it had the straight handlebars, slightly thicker tires.

[00:39:03] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:39:03] Howard Kantoff: It worked out just fine.

[00:39:05] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes, I think they call those a VTC, Vélo Tout Terrain, or Vélo Tout, whatever. Yeah, they’re pretty common, that’s what my husband rides as well. Yeah.

And they probably would have rented you an electric bike if you had wanted that.

Oh, sure. I saw other cyclists, moving in a, you know, back and forth in all directions on all types of bikes from, you know, your hardcore racing bikes, to electric bikes, to kind of more uprightcomfortable bikes. It was all out there.

Yeah, yeah. All right.

Advice for Future Cyclists

[00:39:39] Annie Sargent: So, do you have any advice for people who want to do this? What should they be aware of? How do you feel about doing this sort of vacation after doing it?

[00:39:47] Howard Kantoff: My advice is get out in France on a bicycle. It’s a terrific way to see the countryside, to see the areas in between the towns, experience the landscape and the villages. I find, if you’re going to be on that bicycle more than a couple hours per day, you want to have the padded shorts.

It’s going to be important. And do some planning in advance, you know, have all plans, you know, you’ll veer off of at some point, but it’s good to kind of have a basic idea where you’re going.

I discovered that it was actually important, as you’ve mentioned on the podcast, to you know, make reservations for dinner in advance when you can, because some of these small restaurants would fill up and you could be turned away and if there are only two or three restaurants in a town and one of them is closed on a Tuesday night, it’s helpful to have a reservation. And I was able, in some cases, during the day and the afternoon, you know, just to be safe, go online and most of them had online reservations. It made things very easy.

[00:40:54] Annie Sargent: It’s very important because, and even when it comes to these accommodations, even though they are inexpensive, if there’s a wedding taking place that weekend, or if there’s an event of any sort, it all of a sudden, everything’s booked up. And you’re like, well, I’m in the middle of nowhere, why would anybody want to come stay here?

Well, it’s because there’s an event of some sort that you don’t know about and also if you make reservations, it ensures that it is open that day, you know, so many people have no concept of when these, you know, when the stores, the restaurants, the hotels might open or close.

So it’s best to try and reserve.

[00:41:34] Howard Kantoff: Right. And that goes to my other piece of advice. And maybe in hindsight, kind of planning things out and being aware of, you know, the things you want to do and making sure that they are open on the days that you’ll be there, whether that’s a particular museum or a restaurant or a village market.

I found myself I’d be in a small town, it’s like, oh, the market was yesterday, or the market was tomorrow. Luckily, when I met up with my wife in Dijon, it was Saturday morning, that was the market day, so I got to experience that, but yeah, in other places, there was a photography museum in one of the towns, in Chalon-sur-Saone, where the founder of photography was from.

[00:42:22] Annie Sargent: I’ve been to that one, it’s very nice. It’s a good one.

[00:42:25] Howard Kantoff: Yeah, I was very interested, but the day that I was rolling through town it was not open.

[00:42:30] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it happens. It’s best if you look these things up before you arrive to make sure, I mean, you might not be able to be there on the day it’s open, but at least you won’t be looking forward to this, and then, oh… you know.

[00:42:45] Howard Kantoff: Right, and then alongside of that, back to what we were saying before, you know, allow a little extra time in your day to do these things, you know, maybe a little bit less riding and more time to see the things that you want to see.

[00:42:59] Annie Sargent: In your document you recommend some restaurants, some food items that you liked. It sounds like you enjoy just everyday French foods, really.

[00:43:09] Howard Kantoff: Yeah, that, that’s pretty accurate to say.

[00:43:12] Annie Sargent: But you did try Andouillette. Ha, ha, ha.

[00:43:16] Howard Kantoff: Yeah, and I know, you know, I listened to dozens of your shows getting ready for this trip, and I know in one of them, you covered this, you talked about the Andouillette, but there I was thinking I’m going to get, you know, some kind of sausage that I had it in my mind’s eye.

[00:43:34] Annie Sargent: Yeah, you thought you were in Louisiana, and you were not.

[00:43:38] Howard Kantoff: Right. And it came out, and you know, I took my first bite. I’m like, oh, okay, that this is not what I expected. It’s a little different, I’m going to enjoy this as best I can. I’m sitting there at the table and I looked up Andouillette and I found a description, it said you know, this, that, then it said, “the smell of decay” and that’s what it was. It was a good experience. I’m glad that I had it, but would probably order something different unless you are, you know, that’s something that you really enjoy, the smell of decay.

[00:44:18] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes. Let’s see, what else did you have? Oh, the question, did you make any mistakes? Well, you’ve talked about this, perhaps you should have brought your own bike, perhaps you should have planned shorter rides. Yes, that you didn’t have quite enough time as you would have liked to wander around and just take it easy, which you know, it makes sense.

Stressful car trip

[00:44:39] Howard Kantoff: Yeah. And then, I would like to mention really quickly, so I did meet up with my wife in Dijon. We rented a car, which we used, I wanted to show her some of the beautiful areas that I had seen. We drove through the wine area down to Beaune, and we got a good taste of that for half a day or so, and then we took the car and drove it all the way to Paris.

Which presented probably the highest level of stress of the entire trip, you know, to make sure are we going to get this thing back in time so we don’t get charged an extra day?

Are going to be able to fill it with gas?

That kind of raised the blood pressure a little bit.

[00:45:23] Annie Sargent: You were back in real life, everyday life with a car.

[00:45:27] Howard Kantoff: Right, approaching Paris in the suburbs in, you know, traffic jams, just like back in Chicago. You know, at the end of the day, we got the car back, got settled in, we stayed in Montmartre, and we had a couple of days there, and that was also a terrific part of the trip.

We really enjoyed.

[00:45:45] Annie Sargent: Yeah. It’s true that, you know, cars do raise your blood pressure, especially traffic, city traffic. Oh, Paris, oh, yeah, not my idea of a great time, but sometimes you need a car.

Well, it sounds like you also listened to a lot of the podcast episodes, you listened to trip reports and all that, and that helped you some.

[00:46:04] Howard Kantoff: Absolutely.

[00:46:05] Annie Sargent: You know, it’s always good to hear from people, because you can read a lot, but you’re always wondering, is this for real? Did these people really do this? Whereas, you know, you’re talking about it, you did it.

[00:46:17] Howard Kantoff: Right, it was helpful, yeah, just to get a sense of you know, what I’m in for and, you know, I’ve decided to go to this area. I don’t want to know everything. I want to discover some things for myself, but to have a general idea what it’s going to be like or what I can expect.

[00:46:34] Annie Sargent: Would you do this again at some other time in your life, perhaps a different part of France?

[00:46:39] Howard Kantoff: Oh, absolutely. I plan on it for sure.

[00:46:43] Annie Sargent: Fantastic. Wonderful.

Well, Howie, thank you so much for talking to me. It’s been very interesting because this is something I aspire to and I just haven’t gotten to it, you know, but you really need several days to experience this sort of thing. I think six days is probably a good amount of time, wouldn’t you say?

[00:47:02] Howard Kantoff: For sure, you know, and like I was saying, I think everyone’s a little different, you know, how much being out of a bicycle seat that they can handle, but I enjoy it. And so six days to fully immerse and kind of just settle into that, you know, worked great for me.

[00:47:18] Annie Sargent: Wonderful. Merci beaucoup Howard, and I wish you more wonderful bike trips in France.

[00:47:24] Howard Kantoff: Merci Annie, it’s been a pleasure.

[00:47:26] Annie Sargent: Au revoir.

[00:47:27] Howard Kantoff: Au revoir.


Thank you, patrons!

[00:47:35] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for giving back and supporting the show. Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing that. You can see them at

. A shout out this week to new patrons: Lis Henderson, Hélène, Wendy Gebb, lizinCT?

Oh, I think it’s Liz in Connecticut. I think. And Gwen Y.

And to all of my current patrons, it is wonderful to have you onboard in the community of francophiles who keep this podcast going.

And to support Elyse, go to And when you do, please don’t click on the ‘Join for free’ button because it won’t help you or me.

Zoom with Patrons

[00:48:26] Annie Sargent: This week I had a Zoom call with my patrons and it’s always a pleasure talking to them. I also published some photos and recommendations for visiting new museums and exhibits in Paris. Paris is getting new museums, can you believe it? I wouldn’t think they needed more, but they are getting more.

My thanks also to Audrey Jenkins for sending in a one-time donation using any button on Join Us in France that says: ‘Tip Your Guide’.

Audrey wrote: “Thank you for taking me to France every week. Your podcast got me through a difficult recovery from a major surgery. Every night I sat in bed listening and for that time I was in France. It gave me hope to listen to you and Elyse“.

Oh my God, Audrey, that is so touching to me. You know, this podcast is not going to cure cancer, but it helps people have a great trip to France and it feeds our passion for France, which is necessary.

I wish you continued health and hopefully you can visit in person soon.

By the way, my husband was hospitalized unexpectedly this week and it was a scary time for us too. I’ve never seen him so sick. Thankfully, doctors did a great job and he’s home and on the mend. But these are scary times sometimes and, you know, every little bit of positivity helps.

Marais Tour Review

[00:49:48] Annie Sargent: Somebody wrote this review of my tour this week. They said: “Thanks for an informative tour, I visited the Marais on Sunday, so be prepared for crowds“.

Yes, yes, crowds in the Marais is pretty normal. I think it’s best to visit the Marais on Monday through Thursday, because of crowds and also some store closures that happen over the weekend.

New Food Tour in Paris: Les Halles Food Tour

[00:50:13] Annie Sargent: Let me chat about my new food tour in Paris on the VoiceMap app. First of all, you may wonder, is a GPS app really the right tool for a food tour? And I would argue that it’s the perfect tool because it is just you and me. I show you the foods that you should get.

Photos appear on your app at the right time, I explain how to choose cheese and wine and oysters, and I tell you how French people shop for these items, I even have a kind of a graphic that I made to explain oysters. Just like any other food tour guide, I selected the best stores in a particular part of Paris, and I give you the tools to go in there and buy what you like.

You know what they say about give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and feed him for a lifetime? Well, not as grand as all that. My goal in writing this food tour was to give you the tools to get the best French gastronomy has to offer again, and again, and again. You’re not just following someone who’s handing you little tastes, you are learning how to do this by yourselves.

The tour starts at La Samaritaine and ends at the top of Rue Montorgueil. Along the way I tell stories, I recommend restaurants, several of them, I tried them all by the way, I’m not recommending stuff just because I saw it on TripAdvisor or whatever. I tell you about regular life in this wonderful regular neighborhood of Paris.

People say, oh I want to experience real life in Paris. Well, here’s your chance. I bet you would never go to Les Halles without this tour because most visitors never make it there. This one is my shortest tour and I think it’s going to be a favorite for lots of people. If you walk it, please review it at the end because it’s brand new and it needs a lot of reviews to get some attention from people who don’t know me from Adam, so I am counting on you.

The other thing I want to say is that those self-guided GPS tours on the VoiceMap app are easy to follow. And even people who are a little bit on the technophobe end of the spectrum can install this app and use it. It’s pretty easy. And that’s why I don’t write the app, VoiceMap does this, I just write the content. And they take care of the app, they keep it updated, they keep making it better all the time.

You can enjoy this tour on your own schedule, you can start and stop as many times as you wish, you can listen from anywhere in the world, and as many times as you’d like, you own it, you can skip around, go back and listen again, play it from your sofa, play it in Paris, it’s all good.

And the photos enhance the experience quite a bit as well, and I took all of them, so you can see my handy dandy work with my iPhone 13. I didn’t bring my big camera on this trip because, you know, if it’s not flying or playing basketball in a dark room, you don’t really need an L lens to do this. You can do it with your iPhone.

Now, podcast listeners should buy my tours from my website because you get a really nice discount of as much as 30% from the price on the app. And to see all of that, go to the boutique:

My thanks to podcast editors, Anne and Cristian Cotovan, who produced the transcripts.

Next week on the podcast

[00:53:38] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode about the Ariège Department with Elyse, a fantastic place for folks who love nature and want to practice their French, as well as go into a boulangerie and cheese shops to enjoy some wonderful food.

Thank you for listening. And I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together.

Au revoir.


[00:54:02] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2024 by AddictedToFrance. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.


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Categories: Active Vacations in France, Burgundy Area