Bicycle Trips in France

We outfit many cycle trips in our home country.  This page offers hints on how to choose among them.  Click on the regions on the map, below, for details regarding each route.

  • Not all of our French routes are offered every year.  Those that are not are available as guest-initiated trips.
  • We also offer 1, 2, & 3-day trips to the regions around Paris.  Details are here.
  • On the map, but not discussed on this page, are our Basque and “Swiss” routes.  Both are bi-national, spending significant time in France.  These French border areas have as much in common with their sister regions across the border as they do with France.  So, we point them out here, but focus on them elsewhere.


A Certain “Joie de Vivre”

France is a special place, about which few are dispassionate.  Her appeal is strongest amongst those who know her best.  An “Economist” statistical analysis of “Best Places to Live” put her 11th, but when they simply polled their staff, she won hands down.

A strong native culture partly insulates her from Anglo-Saxon influence.  This complicates our ability to understand her – when it doesn’t provoke blind rage!  But her frequent rejection of our certainties has naught to do with us.  Rather, it is symptomatic of the way in which she sees herself, and of the unique prism through which she views the world (philosophy is a required subject in French secondary schools).  If the process frustrates, we are no less drawn to the result.

Those who have travelled in rural France will need no encouragement to return.  Newcomers will be delighted at what they find.  Approached with an open mind, France is tremendously rewarding.  Exploration leads to the roots of a delightful lifestyle.

It is no accident that Blue Marble’s base is in Paris.  French culture fits ours in many respects (7 weeks’ paid vacation, for instance) and influences our style of travel even in other countries.

And then there is the food.  And the wines!  The French table is a deity:  the great social organizer, leisure activity, consumer of disposable income.  If French gastronomy has such prestige, it is because the French spend their time on it.  Inevitably we shall, too.  And then cycle through picture-book landscapes to work it off.  Well, try to work it off....

How to Choose?
We love all of our French rides, but for different reasons.  Which one you, personally, will most enjoy probably says more about you than about the intrinsic quality of the ride.  So, see what calls to you, and choose a ride that suits your tastes....

Here are some hints (these only compare the purely French routes, not the Basque and Swiss routes):

Our Cycle Trips

Overview Map
of the places we stage trips

Departure Calendar
of our scheduled trips

Trips by Length / Title

Short Trips from Paris

What's Included
... the Trip Cost

Additional Services...
...which you can add to your trip.

Other Trips We Offer

Or, as we call it in English, cuisine

Burgundy (both North and South) places a strong accent on what most of us think of as traditional French gastronomy.  An inordinate amount of time is spent at the dinner table.  When you get up (if you can), you do so with an understanding of why France’s cuisine is so well-reputed.
The Loire, known as the Jardin de France, is a cornucopia of fresh produce.  It is also home to what the French themselves would probably most closely identify as their cuisine, and even their language (the “best” French is said to be that spoken in Tours).
Bordeaux & the Dordogne
and Alsace both share the culinary enthusiasm, but with marked styles in each case (lots o’ duck in the former, munster cheese and a wealth of varietal wines in the latter, foie gras in both).  
The food in the Cévennes is less fancy, but based on the most local of local products:  down home country, à la française.  The Jura is a less-varied version of the same:  though the locals would object, this is Switzerland (cheeses, mushrooms, mountain game...) at a 50% discount.
Brittany’s cuisine is also better known for the quality and freshness of its ingredients than for their elaborate preparation.  Many of these are ocean creatures, the variety of which seduces even hard-core carnivores.
Mediterranean Cuisine Provençale needs no introduction.
And guess what Champagne features?
All of our French routes eat and drink very well, and of dishes that will please adventurous palates.  Conversely, France may not be the best place to travel for people on a diet (or not much interested in the topic).  For better or for worse, a well-developed sense of taste is a big part of appreciating France.

SCENERY Scenery buffs will vote for the Cévennes, for the drama of her extraordinary landscapes.   Spring wild flowers and autumn colors are equally beautiful in these mountains.  And the Jura is a mini-Switzerland:  rushing streams, deep forests, mountain pastures....  Though no other route is such a constant feast, sections of each rival for natural splendor.  Northern routes tend toward the pastoral, southern toward the dramatic (read “hills”).  Alsace has plenty of both.  And Brittany offers daily ocean vistas from her craggy coast.
WINE COUNTRY CYCLING Wine Country Cycling offers an ambiance all its own, whether in the vineyards or the villages. Featured in Champagne, Southern Burgundy, Alsace, and (to a lesser extent) in Bordeaux & the Dordogne, the Loire, and Northern Burgundy.
We cycle through vineyards on every single day of our Provence trip, and on virtually every day of our Northern Burgundy ride, but also spend a lot of time not in the vineyards, and you won’t feel it is a principle focus.  The Jura produces some of France’s most interesting (and least-known) wines, but only the second half of our route really touches on the vineyards.  The Cévennes, while home to modest wines of local interest, do not form one of France’s great viticultural regions.  And Brittany imports virtually all its wine from France (wink!), though the only breton wine, Muscadet, marries wonderfully with oysters.
“EUROCHARM” Little villages and family farms are especially typical of Provence, of Bordeaux & the Dordogne, and, surprisingly, of Champagne, though all of France has its share.   Architecturally, Alsace looks like what one imagines Germany must have looked like before WW II.
INTERESTING CITIES Interesting cities include Blois and Tours (Loire Valley), Burgundy’s Dijon, Alsace’s Strasbourg and Colmar, Brittany’s St.-Malo, the Jura’s Besançon, and Champagne’s Reims.

Avignon, Nimes, Arles, and Aix-en-Provence are all accessible to our Provence route, but if you spend all your time in them, you don’t do any biking!  There are no cities at all in the Cévennes, but many interesting sheep.
THINGS YOU’VE HEARD OF... Things you’ve heard of are most common in the Ile-de-France (Versailles, Chartres, Proust’s Combray, the château at Blois), the Loire (châteaux, Da Vinci’s villa, the river itself…), and in Provence (Roman arenas, Avignon’s Papal Palace, urban and rural scenes that inspired countless Cézannes and Van Goghs…).

Burgundy (North and South) is chock-full of things the French think important, and that you would have learned about in school, had you been paying attention (basilicas, ancient hospitals, historic Roman battle sites, important cheese farms...). 
HISTORY “Pre-history” is a feature of Cro-Magnon Bordeaux & the Dordogne.  The Romans banged around Provence, while Southern Burgundy’s Cluny and Northern Burgundy’s Vézelay were centers of medieval spirituality and religious architecture.  Brittany’s history is often linked to that of the Anglo-Saxon world in interesting ways, and her seafaring traditions add to the sense of outside influence.  “Modern” (post 15th century) history comes to life in the Ile-de-France and in the Loire Valley, the pre-Versailles center of France’s royal power.  The Jura offers interesting examples of the city-states and independent provinces that gave birth to Switzerland, and yet long allowed the Hapsburgs to govern much of Europe.  Religious wars ravaged the Cévennes (and Bordeaux etc. to a lesser extent) even until the 18th century.  World War I battle sites of the Marne and their moving memorials dot Champagne.  Regarding war history in general, Alsace is of far too much interest for that to have been good news for the locals of the day.
“TRADITIONAL FRENCH CULTURE” Traditional French culture, defined as “lack of McDonalds,” will stand out in the Cévennes (where you can drink milk out of a cow – or a sheep), or on the Northern Burgundy route. An atypical subset is on display in Alsace.

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