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Cyclotouring Across France
The Mediterranean to the Bristol
 

 
Tour Summary

 

Following our big trip from England to Australia we returned to France to see Isa's parents before setting off back towards England. The route took us from Arles in Provence to Bristol, via Les Cevennes, the Massif Central and the ferry across the channel.

 

 

     

 
Commentary & Photos
 


The impressive Castle at Tarascon on the Rhone

 

 

We set off from a small town near Arles towards Isa's cousin in Les Cevennes. The weather in June was fantastic. We managed to leave just before the real heat of summer started. Typically the days were about 30 dC (2 weeks later the temperature was up into the 40's).

We followed small roads and lanes the entire way. France is blessed with a network of small roads with very little traffic. The drivers are very considerate towards cyclists. There are plenty of places to refill with water, Boulangeries and Boucheries abound and the hills are normally not more than 10% gradient.

All in all it is the perfect cycle touring destination!

Arles to Les Cevennes - 262 km

The route through South Western Provence and then into Les Cevennes is absolutely packed with diversions for the cycle tourist. Virtually every village has it's attractive stone buildings with typical tiled roofs, old churchs, narrow shaded streets, cooling fountains, shadowy plain trees and street side cafe's.

The real highlights were the Pont du Gard and the wonderful old city of Uzes. one could spend 2 weeks just exporing this area.

 
 


The beautiful Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct


Provence in June, vineyards and a refreshing rain shower

 

 


The Romanesque cathedral tower in Uzes

 

 
 

From Uzes we headed towards the mountains of Les Cevennes. The sun had turned itself up to full stregth as we sweatily wound through the trilogy - the essetials of agriculture in South East France - Swaying wheat fields, regimental vineyards and the gnarly old olive groves. It was picture book stuff.

As we climbed into Les Cevennes we were just amazed to see the fantastic choice of small roads in the area. We used a Michelin 1:200,000 road atlas of France. this was absolutely perfect for traversing France. It shows 99% of roads it has spot heights, shows steep gradients,has campsites and points of interest.

Virtually every road is worth cycling in this area (avoid La Corniche - too much traffic), and each one takes you through old stone villages and has great views. Allow plenty of time to explore and make the most of the fascinating area.

 

 

 


The narrow streets of Uzes

 

 
 


Shade of the trees and idyllic rural routes near Ledignan

 

At Les Salle Isa was met by her Parents and we were forcibly separated. Terry carried on back to England to see his family whilst Isa went back to Marseille. With a sad wobble and a tear in the eye Terry set off over the mountains back to England.

 


Heading erratically towards the mountains of Les Cevennes. The height of the mountains would provide a welcome break from the 34 dC heat.

 

 
 

 


A wealth of fresh, ripe produce at a local market. Melons may be heavy but in season are cheap and delicious.
Cycle Touring Tip: Don't put ripe tomatos at the bottom of your pannier.

Across the Massif Central - 733 km

The route from Les cevennes up to Argenton sur Creuse crossed the mountainous, varied landscape of deepest rural France. The scenery, geology, landscape, food, wine and cheese all change from one mountain valley to the next.

The French are very proud of their food and wine traditions and rightly so. Each region carefully guards it's traditions and specialities - much to the delight of the inquisitive, hungry cyclotourist.

 


The tiny roads and luscious woodland of Les Cevennes


"La voiture Balai", a common sight for the slower cyclists in Le Tour

 
 



Wild camping in the Sweet Chestnut forests


(above and left) Typical stone village in Les Cevennes

 

 

 

 

 

 
 


 

 
 

(above) Two of the perfect, meandering cycle touring roads. This particular roads were on the ascent of Mount Aigoual

 

 
 

 

 
 
Les Cevennes was an area cut off from the majority of France due to it's mountainous terrain. It was it's inaccessibility that lent it to becoming the centre for the Protestant church in France. Uniquely most of the villages still have a Temple (as the Protestant churches are known). Tourism has also been slow to get a grip on the area, which means it is still relatively unspoilt. The region is dominated by huge stone houses, narrow streets and dense sweet chestnut forest. The chestnut forests were planted centuries ago to provide food and flour for the local peasants.

 
 

Abandoned farmhouse in Les Cevennes
 


A hilltop village near Marvejols

 
         
 


The granite boulders and flower meadows of the the Aubrac Plateau

 

 


Every village has a butchers shop, and they sell wine as well!

 

 
 

The real highlights of the Massif Central were the ascent of Puy Mary in the Cantal and the granite landscape of the Aubrac plateau.

The Cantal is known for its striking volcanic landscape. Deep, lush, green vallies towering up to typical volcanic cones. Once again the roads provide plenty of options for quiet cycle touring. The climb up to Puy Mary is well worth the effort, providing a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding peaks. The Cantal is also known for its excellent cheese.

 
 


The solid, squat granite church and buildings of St Urcize

 

 


The lovely climb up to the summit of Le Puy Mary, in the middle of volcano country - Les Mont du Cantal

 

 
 


The descent Eastwards from Le Puy Mary

The Loire to Swineford (England) - 580 km

Following the beauty and hills of the Massif Central the Loire Valley and its tributaries looked remarkably flat. The Loire provides an excellent area for cycle touring, it is full of French history, has Chateaux on every corner and delicious white wines in the numerous river vallies of the area.

There are also a good number of long distance cycle routes - but most of them run in a East-West direction.

 


The wooded vallies and rivers of les Gorges de la Rhue

 

 
 


Argenton sur Creuse

 

 


Village life

 

 
 


Eventually the mountains of Le Massif Central gave way to the flatter rolling countryside of Northern France

 

 


Muncipal campsite on the river Creuse. Typically the Muncipal (local council) campsites cost 5 -8 euros per person per night

 

 
 

Following the historical and wine interest of the Loire the cycling became flatter and flatter. The wide open agricultural plains ran on and on into the distance. The only break to the skyline being the village churches and water towers.

At Argentan Terry camped in a lovely quiet campsite on a farm. It had been another scorching hot day - and the campsite had the perfect refreshement - homemade cider from their own apples - delicious! The cider didn't make getting up at 3.30am the next day any easier. Terry's ferry from Caen was at 9am and there was still 85 km to cycle! After the cycle to Caen Terry arrived back in England after 14 months and 19,500kms in the saddle - it was time for a rest.

 

 
 
 

(left) A typical snack, evening meal or mid morning refreshment in France. Red wine, camembert and fresh bread.

(above) The English equivalent!

And after a couple of weeks rest we were off cycling again!

 

 

 

 
For more information or questions please contact us at isaetterry@mac.com