FRANCE

A RIDE POWERED BY COFFEE, CHEESE AND BAGUETTES.

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Country #2

France.

CYCLED

1,071 km / 665 mi

7,433 m / 24,386 ft

Duration

21 days.

ROUTE

We crossed from Spain via the Pyrenees at Col de Pierre St-Martin, then headed northeast to Toulouse. We then detoured slightly to catch some sun on the south coast of France, before going directly north into the Rhône-Alpes and onto Switzerland.

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Month

April/May 2018.

Weather

Mostly sunny and warm. There were a couple of rainy days, but it wasn’t heavy. 

highlights

  • The Pyrenees.

  • Arena of Nîmes – a Roman amphitheatre in Nîmes (below).

  • The food. French food is so good.

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Food

We cooked all of our evening meals, which was usually veggie pasta with a tin of tomatoes and loads of cheese. Some sort of filled baguette was on the menu for breakfast and lunch – and of course lots of pastries. We gained weight in France, would you believe!

Supermarkets are everywhere and they're super cheap. They usually have toilets too, which is handy after wild camping, and a cafe.

Drinking Water

The few water fountains we found didn't work. We either bought water or filled our large water pouches at campsites. 

Coffee

Coffee is In abundance. We switched our coffee filter to a percolator in France, which we found in a large supermarket for €17. In cafes, coffees were €1.20 single, or €2.40 double.

Primus Omni-Fuel Stove fuel

We couldn't find Coleman fuel. We got a 460 ml Primus gas canister for €6 from Decathlon; it didn't last long. We tried to find Essence C – a recommended white gas substitute – but couldn’t find it anywhere.

Accommodation

Excellent campsites with great facilities – pools, bars, shops. We mostly paid off-season prices, too. We landed a bargain on the south coast of France at a 4* campsite; it would normally be €50 per night in peak season, we got it for €17.60 per night.

Wild camping

We found a few incredible wild camp spots. It was quite easy to hide away – even on a beach where we bivvied (below, top left). We wish we’d had the bottle to wild camp more. Again, we were finding our feet/nerves.

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Roads

There are some scary D roads, so we started using Komoot to navigate, which took us on the backroads instead. We spent the majority of our time after that on dedicated cycle paths or quiet country roads. We also cycled along the Canal du Midi for roughly 70 km (below, left).

Drivers

Very impatient, bordering on dangerous. They’re the reason why we decided to rethink our navigational tools, as Strava Routes and Google Maps just weren’t working in France.

Bike shops

  • Cycling génération (Pont-Saint-Esprit) – We took Jen’s bike here as here gears weren’t shifting properly. We couldn’t work out what was wrong. Turns out, the gear cable had frayed – it wasn’t that old, we think it had been damaged when she dropped the bike once. The guy knew what was up straight away and fixed it within minutes for next to nothing.

Visa (British)

Not needed.

SIM card

Our UK SIM-only plans worked perfectly at no extra charge (GiffGaff & Vodafone).

Useful links

  • EuroVelo – Download all the EuroVelo GPX and KML files.

  • Komoot – Navigation app, which was a lifesaver in France. We used it for pretty much the rest of the trip. It has its floors (mainly UX and buggy), but overall, it’s very good.

  • Camping.Info by POIbase – Great app for finding campsites in Europe.

TIPS

  • Most things are closed on a Sunday.

  • Double check your route as some D roads are minor roads, yet some are main roads.

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