10 Sep 5 Reasons to Bicycle Tour the Loire Valley
Where would you take a novice on their first bicycle tour?
A few people asked us: where would we take somebody new to bicycle touring on their first big bike tour, so they would want to go bicycle touring again? Luckily, we don’t have to think about this answer very long, because immediately bike touring the Loire Valley in France pops into our mind and here are 5 reasons why.
Apparently, this is a pretty common question and over the last few years, we have noticed that there are many bicycle tourers out there who would love to share their bicycling and traveling passion with family and friends. Believe it or not, many of the guys would love to take their wife or girlfriend on tours with them instead of having to go on their own. Unfortunately, many people new to bicycle touring are afraid of all the hazards of cycling. Riding on the road with car traffic, having trucks zing by at high speeds, and maneuvering through crazy intersections in big cities can be a little bit intimidating on your first big tour. Worrying about having to climb mountains and slowing down their more experienced cycling partners seems to turn off a lot of potential touring cyclists as well. So let us tell you a little bit about the bicycle experience you could have along the Loire Valley.
5 Reasons to start bicycle touring in the the Loire Valley
1. The Logistics
Well, you would not have to miss out on a couple of days in Paris. It is possible to get airplane tickets to Paris, enjoy a few days strolling along the Seine, checking out the Louvre, and wandering along the Av des Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. You can climb the Eiffel tower and see what ever else you want to explore in Paris.
Afterwards, load your bicycle, gear and yourself up on a train to Orleans to start your bicycle tour along the Loire Valley. Once in the Loire Valley, there is a train that follows the river all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It is especially equipped to handle bicycle tourists. You can choose to either cycle the entire stretch to the Atlantic Ocean or skip a section by train. Once at the end you just take the train back to Orleans and then back to Paris.
Taking a bicycle on the train is easy. Generally, a separate ticket is needed for the bicycle and on some trains you have to reserve a spot for your bicycle. Disassembling the bike is usually not necessary and most of the trains, especially the one along the Loire Vally, have special cars for bicycles, where it is possible to roll your bike onto the train very easily.
2. The Bicycle Paths
Cycling in France in general is wonderful. There is a huge network of cycling paths and routes which transverse the country like a small bicycle-interstate-system and there are many country roads with mindful car drivers, which makes for a relaxing cycling experience, and it is easy to have a conversion with fellow cyclists along the way.
The cycling path along the Loire is actually part of the EuroVelo6 route which leads from the Atlantic Ocean near Nantes all the way to the Black Sea. The most western part of the EuroVelo6 follows the Loire river to the Atlantic and is called the “Loire a Velo”. It consists of about 800 km of beautiful cycling paths. The sign posts are easy to follow and no matter which way you travel, up stream or down stream, there really is not much of an elevation difference. According to most sources, it is only a 180 meter climb over the 800 km of cycling, should you decide to start at the Atlantic. The cycling paths are usually completely separated from the road traffic and when they do merge onto any streets, they are typically quiet country roads with hardly any traffic on them. When entering towns, the paths may still be separated from the road traffic or cyclists have their own bike lane, complete with traffic lights and directional signage.
3. Chateaus and Castles and other Curiosities
Like having a bike path along a beautiful river is not enough, ponder this: 2/3 of the Loire a Velo covers a perimeter that is listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. There are more than 18 beautiful Chateaus and Castles, that wait to be discovered. Whether you prefer a medieval monumental fortress like the one in Angers or a Renaissance castle like the Château of Blois, the Loire Valley has something for everybody. Even the prehistoric fans can find ancient, megalithic “Flintstone Houses” and for the ones that look for something extraordinary, go discover the ancient village hewed into the rocks at
4. The Information Centers and Maps
Just about every town along the Loire Valley, or most of France for that matter, has a tourist information office where it is very easy to find information about what to see in the town and its surroundings. It is also a great way to check anything on the internet or write a quick e-mail, should the need arise. Most of these centers have either a computer accessible for tourists or free WIFI.
The information centers are also a wonderful place to find free maps. Not only do they have the local city map, but also cycling and hiking maps for the entire area or county. The maps are usually complete with bike routes, points of interest, campgrounds, museums and accommodations. So buying a map beforehand to travel along the Loire Valley is really not necessary. We found that the local maps gave us so much more information.
4. The Campgrounds
Of course there is a plethora of hotels and hostels along this route, which are great for credit card cyclist. Yet, for the budget traveler and the avid bike tourist, this is also a camping paradise. It seems France is perfectly set up for bike tourists that travel on the cheap. Just about every town has a campground.
There are several private campgrounds with all the fancy amenities and other shebang, which are usually a little bit more pricey. In addition, there are many little–and sometimes not so little–municipal campgrounds. The “Camping Municipal”, as they are called, usually have everything a cyclist needs. There are toilets and warm showers, some have tables and benches just for cyclists, others have whole kitchens set up where hungry cyclists can cook up a meal on a regular stove with borrowed pots and pans. You might even find a communal refrigerator to store your food and of course there might be a small kiosk to buy local wine, beer and delicious food. Most of the Camping Municipals that we have encountered in France (not just along the Loire Valley) were at beautiful locations. We stayed at rivers, lakes, quaint little towns, and inside a citadel. The best part is the campgrounds are generally spotless and the prices are very reasonable. In general we paid an average of 10 Euros for two people, most of the time even less. The highest price that we remember paying was 13 Euros and this was at a private campground just outside of Nantes.
5. The Food and Wine and the People
If by any chance, beautiful natural landscapes, historical buildings, quaint towns, and generally good summer weather is not enough to lure you in, maybe the cuisine will help. It is hard to beat the plethora of good tasting wine and food that France has to offer. The options are limitless. The bakeries are filled with tasty fresh breads and croissants. We usually could not wait to hit the bakery for breakfast, to pick up some of the finest pastries.
There are 5 star restaurants where one can order the most expensive, fancy unpronounceable meal and wine. On the other hand it is just as exciting to pick up fresh bread from the local bakery, which goes great with the huge variety of cheeses and meats available at the local grocery store. Throw a bottle of local wine in the mix and have a pick-nick at the river’s edge. This is also a great way to meet the very friendly local people, who will usually be happy to tell you a little bit about the life in the area, who knows somebody might even invite you to their home for more food…after all this is really what bicycle touring is all about..building great, new memories!
These are our 5 reasons to bicycle tour the Loire Valley. Let us know where you would take your friend on their first big tour and shoot us a message.