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My cycling trip this summer was full of incredible experiences, wonderful new acquaintances and lots of challenges, including record heat, new itineraries to navigate and long days on the bike. Each day had new adventures that took me out of my comfort zone and tested my willingness to adapt. This adventure is one of the reasons  I love cycling in France.

Luckily each trip I get a bit smarter and aides for traveling by bike get better. We all have our favorite travel supplies that we hate to leave home without. Here is my list of 10 that helped me complete a challenging month cycling in France:

Google Maps

If I’m completely lost in the middle of nowhere and can have just one tool, I would choose Google Maps. I know there will be some of you that may completely disagree, but if you are a non-tech cyclist, there is nothing easier or more assuring when you have no idea where you are.  I also love the ability to locate coffee shops and markets in advance of running out of water on the route. The features of Google Maps are numerous, much more than I have used, but I’d love to learn more before my next trip. The best part, Google Maps is free and doesn’t require any updating. Note: you do need to have Wi-Fi access to use Google Maps.

Travel Wi-Fi

Travel Wi-Fi was a favorite addition to my cycling tool chest this summer.  While many of you may prefer swapping out SIM cards, for ease of use on multiple devices and quality of coverage, Travel Wi-Fi is my #1 choice!  Even when we were in the middle of nowhere with no cell reception, our Travel Wi-Fi came through clear and strong.

Not once did it fail us. This may or may not be important to you in your travels, but for me, if there is ever a time I want to have reception, it’s when I am lost and need to access directions!  For more information on Travel Wi-Fi and how it works, click here.

Larabar Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Bars

The incredibly hot temperatures made eating challenging for me this trip. Fortunately I had packed a dozen peanut butter/chocolate chip Larabar’s for emergencies, and they saved me the first couple of weeks!

A Mophie Powerstation

All the best internet resources in the world won’t do you a bit of good if your smartphone, i-Pad or laptop are dead!  This trip, we were able to have uninterrupted service from morning to evening thanks to a Mophie Powerstation.

We never had to worry about running out of power with this device that could charge 2 devices at the same time.  My particular device was small and lightweight, weighing in at just over 8 ounces.

Vega Electrolyte Hydrator

With temperatures of 90-100 degrees for 10 days straight, drinking water and replenishing electrolytes from sweating was really important!

I also like the Ultima brand, both come in easy to use packets that you can keep in your bike bag or pocket until you need them.  Just pour into a liter of water and you are good to go.

Bike Handlebar Phone Holder

I’m not sure this is the correct name for this device, but it definitely was one of my husband’s favorite new devices.

Since he’s the navigator of our 2 person team, tools that make navigation easier and safer while cycling are important. This simple $20 accessory was a hit on both counts.

5 Minute Eggs

My husband loves soft boiled eggs.  Every morning at breakfast, he patiently makes a couple in the neat little boiling machines you find on almost every breakfast buffet.  I’ve never been a fan until this year.  With the extreme heat, I was challenged to find easy-to-digest protein to power me up each morning. At my husband’s suggestion, I tried a soft boiled egg.  It made all the difference in the world and became a staple at breakfast for the rest of the trip!

Neck Cooler

I wouldn’t travel anywhere in the summer without my neck cooler.  I don’t know what I would have done without it this summer!  These amazing neck scarves are filled with beadlets that expand when soaked in water and provide a cooling effect when worn.  Some say they drop your body temperature from 5-10 degrees in the extreme heat.  In addition to the neck cooler, I used wet washcloths to keep my head cool under my helmet and one day I even wrapped a wet towel around my shoulders to cool me from the heat.  In a perfect world, it probably would be good to not be cycling between 1-4 on such hot days. Probably some advice I would be smart to heed in the future!

Hoo Ha Chamois Creme

Even if you are not a fan of chamois creme, in hot weather, it’s a must, assuming that you want to walk at the end of a day of cycling!  

I’ve tried a lot of chamois cremes, this particular one that is specifically made for women is my favorite. This is the first personal product that goes in my panniers every cycling trip!

Topeak Alien Multipurpose Bike Tool

You never know what kind of tool you might need when you are cycling!  While you may think you would never need most of the tools on this model of the Alien, we used most during this recent month-long trip.

Since you never have an emergency when it’s convenient, it’s always comforting to know that you have the Alien with you!

If you happen to have a special item that you wouldn’t want to be without when you are cycling far away from home, I’d love to hear what it is, so send me a note!

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What a difference a few weeks can make in your perspective!

The week before my summer cycling trip to France, I worried whether a month of bicycling would be too much….if I had planned too arduous of an itinerary for my husband and myself. Less than a week after my return, I am still in awe at the incredible adventures experienced on this trip and I can’t imagine spending even one less day exploring the backroads of France by bike!

From a starting point in Strasbourg (where our bikes were stored since last year’s trip) to an ending point in the Camargue in Provence, we bicycled a hair over 1200km in 23 days.  During this time, we cycled on parts of EuroVelo 1, EuroVelo 6, EuroVelo 5, EuroVelo 17, the ViaRhona and a teaser segment of EuroVelo 8, the Mediterranean Route.  We had plenty of adventures trying to link different routes together, sometimes with rather hilarious results, like the day we cycled in a grass field that Google Maps actually had a route number for!

I’ll always laugh remembering how Google Maps actually gave us a route number for this grass path!

As I started making a list of 10 special memories of this trip, I had no idea what a challenge it would be to choose only 10. I could easily name 20. I hope that 10 will be enough to give you a sense of why exploring new areas by bike is so special and full of unique travel memories.  From the mesmerizing sound of cicadas cycling though the forest to eating fresh apricots from the orchard to watching a World Cup match at a local cafe with hundreds of local residents, this trip enabled me to experience France in a way few tourists do. Here are 10 special memories from my trip to France this year.

Cycling The Doubs Valley

Cycling the Doubs Valley was a surprising highlight of my 2017 trip, so when I had the chance to spend more time there this year, I didn’t think twice!  You won’t read about this region in most travel books, yet it’s one of the most beautiful segments of the EuroVelo 6 itinerary!  The Doubs is full of spectacular scenery, lovely riverfront towns and the breathtaking Vauban citadel at Besancon. 

View of the Doubs Valley from the Vauban Citadel in Besancon, one of the loveliest towns in France

Dinner at La Mas d’Emma in La Motte du Rhone

Nothing makes an overnight stay at a Provencal mas more perfect than enjoying a home-cooked meal with the hosts, or in my case, hosts Myriam, Philip and 12 other guests!  Sharing vacation stories and getting to know fellow guests from Germany, Italy, Scandinavia and France was an incredible experience.  Kudos to Myriam for the preparing such a delicious dinner and to Philip for being such a perfect host, including a special surprise for the 4th of July!  Thanks for the wonderful Provencal experience!

Philip is quite a host, making everyone feel at home at La Mas d’Emma

Crossing the ViaRhona’s Himalayan Bridge in Rochemaure

The only way to experience this amazing Himalayan-style suspension bridge is by bike or on foot.

The new bridge uses the pillars of the old historic bridge

The 1,000 foot bridge was originally built in 1858 and mostly destroyed during WW II.  The bridge was scheduled to be destroyed in the 1980’s but fortunately, due, in large part to the efforts of local citizens, a new bridge was built and became part of the new ViaRhona cycle path. The new bridge opened in 2013.

Cycling across the Rhone on this bridge connecting the Ardeche and Drome regions was a highlight of my time on the ViaRhona.  It will remain a favorite memory of a perfect day cycling the ViaRhona and an example of why I love experiencing France by bike.

Ice Cream Hour In France

Somewhere around 3:00 in the afternoon, it’s as if a silent bell goes off telling everyone in France, “It’s ice cream time”!

At most cafes, there’s not a seat to be found at ice cream time!

In big cities and small, late afternoon signals time for either a cone to enjoy while strolling the streets, or a sundae to help cool off from the summer heat.  It’s a practice that’s fun to observe and even more fun to participate in!

Chantilly is a must on these afternoon treats!

Just looking at the photos brings back the best memories of my trip.

The ViaRhona From Vienne to Pont-Saint-Esprit

There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the experience of cycling the new ViaRhona route from Vienne to Pont-Saint-Esprit!

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If you’re traveling to France before July, beware that major transportation disruptions are planned beginning April 2 through the end of June. Thousands of tourists, most French will face a travel nightmare trying to get home from their Easter holiday as the first strike dates occur.

Strikes are scheduled for 2 days out of every 5 until June 28, unless the French government drops its plan to adopt a reduced benefit package for new SNCF hires, as well as the special employment status granted to rail workers.  These are the specific dates in April where there is a good chance of travel disruption:

April 3 and 4, April 9 and 13, April 18 and 19 and April 23 and 24.  It is expected that only 12% of TGV trains and 20% of regional trains will run.  Timetables indicating which trains will run will be posted on the SNCF website each day at 17:00.  SNCF will not be selling tickets for any of the strike dates in April, so if you’re trying to purchase tickets online for any of the above dates, it won’t be possible.

If the strike is not settled by May, here are the planned strike dates for May and June:

May 3 and 4, May 8 and 9, May 13 and 14, May 18 and 19, May 23 and 24, May 28 and 29, June 2 and 3, June 7 and 8, June 12 and 13, June 17 and 18, June 23 and 24 and June 27 and 28.

Air France workers, including air traffic controllers, pilots and crew are on strike too and are expected to cause flight disruptions through the month also.  British Air, EasyJet and Ryan Air flights into France have also been reduced due to limits set by French authorities during the strike.

If your train was cancelled, here is a SNCF website that has been set up to help process refunds/rebook reservations:  https://en.oui.sncf/en/help-en/disruption-information-latest-update-exchanges-and-refunds.

Nothing can ruin a great vacation more than being stranded at a rail station with a cancelled train. If you’re traveling to France in the next 3 months and are planning to travel by train, check to make sure your dates are not strike dates.  If they are, make sure you have alternate plans.

Watch for updates on the strike on my Facebook and Twitter page.

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One of my favorite splurges in the Loire Valley was staying at the Hotel Grand St. Michel Hotel next to the magnificent Chateau of Chambord. The experience was magical. Unfortunately the hotel has been closed for the last 2 years, undergoing what I thought were major renovations to the existing hotel.  But in fact, it has been completely reborn into a new, very modern luxurious hotel, Relais de Chambord.

The new hotel will open in just 2 weeks, on Friday, March 16.

The contemporary hotel was designed by renowned French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte and features 56 rooms, a spa, fitness center and library.  I suspect it will quickly become the place to stay in the Loire Valley. I hope that the new hotel will be as welcoming to cyclists as the old Hotel Grand St. Michel. I can’t wait to spend the night at the new hotel.

Rates for the hotel on the Small Luxury Hotels of the World website range from $441 for a classic room to $752 for a suite for 2.  At the writing of this post, there were some very competitive rates available on Hotels.com and Booking.com, but these rates will be gone quickly, so if you are thinking about booking, do it now!  Once the hotel officially opens, it will be impossible to get a room at any price.

If you’re lucky enough to stay here, send me a note and let me know about your experience.  Since I visited the Loire Valley last summer, it will be a couple of years before I return.  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my memories of cycling to Chambord.

Cycling though the forest enroute to Chambord

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I love the Doubs Valley section of EuroVelo 6 in France so much that I’m returning to this year to do additional research for a new e-guide on the area. Based on recent e-mails, it looks like many of you will also be venturing to this part of EuroVelo 6 too. If so, there’s an important piece of advice I’d like to pass on to you: make sure you plan ahead on where to stay, particularly between Besancon and Montbeliard.

Seven stages of EuroVelo 6 pass through the Doubs Valley in Bourgogne Franche-Comte.  For almost 160km, cyclists are treated to spectacular scenery from the beautiful towns of Dole to Montbeliard with the amazing town of Besancon in the middle. While there are plenty of places to stay in each of these larger towns, it’s between them where there’s a bit of a problem, a small price to pay for enjoying some of the most spectacular scenery along EuroVelo 6!

The beautiful village of Deluz in the Doubs Valley

The distance from Besancon to Montbeliard is just under 100km, a bit too far to cycle in one day. When I planned my first trip to the area last year, I didn’t make many advance reservations. I learned this was a big mistake in this area.  Even though no lodging options showed up on the EV6 pictogram of the Doubs Valley, or on Google Maps, I thought this was a mistake. But I learned there really are just few places to stay on this section of the route, especially between Baume-les-Dames and Montbeliard. And these options are small with less than a handful of rooms all together!

If you’re planning a bicycling trip along EuroVelo 6 from Montbeliard to Besancon, and you’d like to stay overnight somewhere between the 2, here are some suggestions of places on/near the cycle route. Most are small B&B’s or gites with only a couple of rooms, so be sure to make your plans early, especially if you’re visiting during the busy summer months!

La Maison au Canal is a perfect options for cyclists traveling along EuroVelo 6.  It’s perfectly located along the bike route in the small village of L’Isle-sur-la-Doubs.

I came upon it last summer quite by accident, and I was thrilled there was a room available, otherwise I would have had to cycle another 26km on a very hot day!  La Maison Au Canal is owned by Anne-Marie and Helmut Schmidt, two of the nicest, friendliest people you’ll ever meet. They make an overnight stay here something to be remembered!  There are 4 rooms, 2 of which have a shower and sink in the room, but share a toilet down the hall. Rooms here are a bit old-fashioned, but are clean and cozy and breakfast is included.  You can contact Anne-Marie at:  maison-au-canal@tcnet.ch.

La Bonne Auberge is located in the small (population 1100) village of Clerval, between the towns of Baumes-les-Dames and L’Isle-sur-le-Doubs.  It’s located near a bridge where the bike path switches to the other side of the river, so it’s quite convenient.  The auberge has 6 rooms with prices starting around 80€ for 2, not including breakfast. Rooms have been recently renovated and there is a restaurant located at the auberge. The restaurant is open for dinner Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday lunch only.  If you stay here, note that check-in time is not until 5pm.  For more information, contact info@hotellabonneauberge.com.

Auberge Chez Soi is located in the small village of Ougney-Douvot about 30km from Besancon and 9km from Baume-le-Dames. This auberge is a former 18th century vineyard that’s been lovingly restored by Dirk and Nicole Vercammen-Van Wezer.  There are 5 rooms and a gite with rates for 2 people 78€. It’s possible to arrange for dinner at Chez Soi on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 23€ per person, reservations are required.  If you’re there on another night, the closest restaurant is 1.5km from the Auberge. Chez Soi is located on the other side of the river from the bike path, but it’s easy to cycle across the D277 bridge to access the auberge.  For more information contact Dirk or Nicole at info@chez-soi-france.com.

La Colline aux Yeux is located on a hill overlooking the lovely town of Baumes-les-Dames.  With a population of over 5,000, Baumes-les-Dames offers more options to cyclists than any other town between here and Montbeliard.  La Colline aux Yeux has a terrace and pool, definitely a plus if you are traveling in the summer months! This B&B has 3 rooms that run from 89€ for 2 persons.  Note that check-in time is 5:00. For further information e-mail: contact@lacollineauxyeuxdoubs.com.

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Three weeks cycling EuroVelo 6 across France flew by way too fast!

Despite doubts I had before the trip regarding whether I was fit enough for a 3 week cycling adventure, this was one fantastic trip.  I’d never spent 3 weeks cycling before, so I began the trip not knowing if I’d be strong enough to handle 5+ hours/day on the bike, or how well I’d adapt to packing/unpacking 21 days in a row.  Not surprisingly, there are some things I would do a bit different if I did the trip again, but my only regret about the trip is that it ended too quickly!  From Nantes to Mulhouse, a detour to the Cote d’Or and a slight detour north to Strasbourg at the end of the trip, this cycling adventure was filled with a lifetime of incredible memories.

I’m making my way through my trip notes and the 3,000 photos I took. Looking back on this adventure, I find that every day of the trip was memorable in one way or another.  Here are just a few of the things I loved the most about this itinerary.

The Beauty and Tranquility Of The Loire

The floods of 2016 devastated many parts of the Loire.  This year, the Loire was a picture of peace and tranquility, the floods from last year just a distant bad memory.

B&B Gems Along The Route

One of my favorite parts of my cycling trips is finding charming places to stay along the route.  Happily, our journey along EuroVelo 6 in France did not disappoint in this regard!

Le Fief des Cordeliers in Montjean sur Loire.  The long climb up the hill was worth it, with million $$ views of the Loire.

Villa Belle Couronne in Le Cellier on the Loire

Clos Saint Jacques in the charming wine village of Meursault in the Cote d’Or

Our Mid-Morning Expresso Stops

Quick, cheap and quirky were the requirements for our morning expresso fix!

Tree-lined Cycle Paths

Always a pleasant relief from the heat of the day!

Fantastic Signposting

The signposting along EuroVelo 6 is top-notch!  My favorites were information signs in the Cote du Beaune and the Jura and Doubs Departments.  Signs in these areas made me feel very welcome as a cyclist!  Kudos to the Bourgogne-Franche-Comte Department for their efforts to maintain a high level of quality in this area.

Signs along the itinerary provide information on services available in towns off the route

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