We will be arriving in Paris via airplane, and then doing a 10 day bike tour that starts in Bordeaux and goes through Dordogne. We have never been to Europe and have so many questions. Should we rent our touring bikes in Paris, or wait until Bordeaux? If we aren't going to ride through Paris, can we still approach Warmshower hosts in Paris, as we would like to see the city by foot/subway for 5 days, or is this site exclusively for when we are actually on our bikes? Can you take a bike on the train between Paris and Bordeaux? Is there a really good bike rental company in either Paris or Bordeaux? Last, but not least, is there a common route for cyclists in Dordogne? We want to ride for 10 days, and hope to ride about 40 miles a day. Thanks!
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Ter, 2011-04-26 19:43#1
Hi lucky travellers,
You will enjoy your trip so much! A very beautiful area.
I did some touring in this area, about 1 week, in 2007. I used the Lonely Planet guide called "cycling France" quite extensively. they have tours and also lots of information, both local and general. They describe a tour in the Dordogne region, which we followed pretty much. We hired our bikes locally, and found this company terrific - very helpful and flexible:
Joel was the guy at that time. They have great touring stuff, and heaps of ideas for your own freetours (independent cycling.)maps and routes etc.
We were based in Paris, and caught the fast train to Bordeaux. I think it's not possible to bring a bike on the fast train. From Bordeaux, we caught a local train to I think Sarlat, and began touring from there. It's easiest to plan your trip by looking at the train stations, and begin from there. In the end it's all good, all gorgeous! so go with the simplest option you can! If you wish to cycle from Bordeaux, surely you will find a place there to hire bikes.
Regarding staying with W/S hosts in Paris while you're not actually cycling, it's up to them... just say what you're doing and they can respond. I think generally people understand that you fly into a major city, may not cycle there but would enjoy looking around for a few days, and will then cycletour. also you may need to recover from jet lag. I stayed in Paris with some different cycle tourists, and they were wonderful. I just loved it. I stayed both on my way into and out of France, for a few days.
You can hire bikes easily in Paris from that local bike scheme, not tour bikes, but city bikes. Very fun! a great way to enjoy Paris! I recommend it. You need to have a credit card to use their system, and your card must have a chip... then off you go! You can hire the bikes from any of many start points, and return them to any of the points.
enjoy! I hope this is helpful, and can send more detail if you need it, eg of the route...
Helen, Thanks so much. Your input has guided several decisions. If you are in Santa Cruz, CA...we would love to host you. Sincerely, Leslie
I have some ideas which could help you:
1. If you decide to take your bikes be prepared for the fact that Paris is not ADA compliant and you will be dragging, lifting and luging your case through the Metro. Nice Parisians often help me which is kinda awesome. If you are very comfortable on your own bike and plan on putting away what might be more than your normal weekly/daily mileage you may want to cart your bike along. (I don't know if 40 is more or less in your world. My partner s about to ride PBP so for us 40 is the low end.) Comfort and known gearing can be a real saving grace. However if you are planning on a lightweight tour or 'credit card tour' (staying in hostels/hotels rather than camping) renting bikes might do you just fine. I am lucky enough to be able to be very picky about my bike so I always take my own. Icelandair right now has the best rates for taking a bike on an airplane. Unfortunately I can't help you with bike rental info but I bet other people on here can.
2. You didn't say what time of year you plan on going. Take note that August is vacation month country - wide and many things will be closed. Don't worry too much but ve aware, this includes national sites, hotels and restaurants.
3. The Dordogne is one of my very favorite places. I suggest some very, very low gearing. Bordeaux - awesome! Stop in the Office de Tourisme and get a map of small vineyards where you can do some tasting. I prefer organic vineyards and have had some hysterical experiences.
4. I don't know about Warm Showers hosts in Paris but Couchsurfing hosts tend to be, well..very Parisian. Not so very giving so to speak. You will want to start looking for hosts as soon as you can.
5. If you are planning on staying in Paris for several days check out the deals on the Metro. There are ticket packs but I usually get a Navigo Pass for a week. Be sure to take passport sized photos with you. The French use them for all sorts of things. One of my most favorite things to do in Paris is to follow one of the randonnes. These are fantastic ways to explore any city/village/are in France. There are several that cut right through Paris and if you don't speak French there are English sources available to describe the systems and some are outlined in guides like the Lonely Planet. There are the Grande Randonnee's which you can do pieces of but go all the way from France into Spain and are marked by red & white fleches and shorter local walks marked in yellow. Any town you go to you can wander into the tourist office and ask for a randonnee map.
6. There are as many routes as you want to select but I agree with the other poster. The Lonely Planet cycling guide is really good except the maps suck. They are oriented willy-nilly to fit the book so get some decent Michelin maps and/or IGN maps. They both come in several scales and the Michelin's have the 'green roads' which are supposed to be the most scenic in the area and the IGN's have campgrounds and sites listed better. IGN's cycling maps are generally blue and Michelin small scale orange/yellow. They are both widely available in France for a fairly standard price. Get the map and sit down with the LP and mark out your route before you leave.
7. You may want to get cheap cell phones or if your phones are unlocked get some SIM cards so you can communicate. You and your riding partner may be better matched than Corey and I but sometimes we get separated or he chooses to take a longer/more difficult route and its nice to be able to check in. Sometimes I just want the space :-)
8. The roads along the Seine are closed to vehicles on Sunday's and you can have a really nice jaunt.
Hope that helps! Sit on the tip of the Ile St. Louis and have a nice picnic!
I've cycled pretty close to the route you're talking about, although I went through Perpignan to Barcelona. I agree with everything said in the other posts. Pay particular attention to hills in the Dordogne area - as calluna has already indicated. On the map it looks moderate, and indeed we're not really talking mountains here. But the Dordogne/Limousin area is quite a challenge on a bike as the hills can be quite numerous and steep. You go up, down, up, down...exhausting, especially if it's hot - which it can be!
The city of Paris is great on a bike these days - although the suburbs can be very hairy at times with traffic coming at you at great speed in all directions. I'd definitively take a train into the centre. As for the Metro - I wouldn't use it. Although the Paris area is huge, the city itself is quite small and compact and you can get almost anywhere pretty quickly on a bike. The bike lanes are great - just watch out for pedestrians (a bell is useful!)