Cycling on the French Atlantic on the sandy beach: The sense of freedom for cyclists inside is indescribable.
> The Cathedrale of Chartres
> By bike on the beach in La Tranche-sur-Mer
> Bike tours on the Atlantic coast: Jard-sur-mer
> Bike tour to Pointe d'Arcay
> Excursion to La Rochelle
> Bike tour to the Yacht Club La Tranche-sur-Mer
> Return via "Le Mont-Saint-Michel"
> Map of our bike tour
ZWhite weeks in the Vendee in France with bicycles were planned as an autumn holiday. Two weeks in the postseason in La Tranche-sur-Mer shortly before the end of the season. We were here 15 years ago on a campsite and now, at the end of September 2018 we wanted to see the great scenery again, because the memories were so beautiful. What few tourists know: The Vendee is considered a pronounced fine weather area on the French Atlantic. Further south, the Atlantic coast is known for its weather conditions, but here, at the height of the IÎle de Ré the weather is often much more stable than in the south. Years ago we drove through the rain with 1.200 kilometers from Bielefeld and on the very last 100 km from La Roche-sur-Yon it was really nice and sunny. A Propos: The opposite IÎle de Ré is a further insider tip for cyclists. The only 30 kilometers long island can be easily experienced in a day on beautiful bike paths. I have to do it again, this time was unfortunately too short.
For long-distance cyclists: The route leads from Brittany in Roscoff over the well-known EuroVelo 1 "La Velodyssée" with over 1.200 kilometers through France to the Spanish border, mostly along the French Atlantic. The term "Velodyssée" refers to the French part of the EuroVelo 1. From a regional point of view, this bike path leads in France from the English Channel to the Basque Country. A Dutch cycling committee voted this French Atlantic section the "Best Bike Track 2013". And the Dutch know exactly what's good on the bike! In addition, it can be said that the bike paths in France are now very well developed. But there are small differences to Germany: French bike paths can sometimes turn into gravelly or sandy slopes on the Atlantic coast, so pure racing bikes with thin tires are a bit impractical. The separation between bike and footpath is often characterized by massive wooden bollards at the handlebar level, whose steadfastness it could easily take on any midsize car. And many a traffic gyroscope requires the cyclist inside a seventh sense of extremely creative traffic management.
Cycling on France's Atlantic coast is pure relaxation,
when the right travel season is selected. Due to its sheer size France is sparsely populated, except for the peak season in the big holidays, when all the French travel at the same time but still stay in the country, then everything is jam-packed. For the sake of God, do not hesitate to rush into the shores during this Francophile peak season! It is expensive and full. By contrast, Germany is an organized dream with its staggered holiday model of the federal states. But the off-season, which is on the Atlantic coast of France with and without a bike really cool: People are relaxed, the streets empty, in popular bistros and restaurants you take your time - even for German tourists.
We went with my old Fabia. Two wheels are lying on the luggage in the rear compartment of the particulate filtered diesel. even after 15 years, the small station wagon still needs less than 5 liters of diesel fuel on 100 motorway kilometers. Incidentally, France has introduced a new speed limit on rural roads since the summer: 80 km / h on the highway maximum, it does the highways, the cyclists, the small towns very well.
Not only on the highways threaten here for years expensive maximum penalties for Temposünder. The French state is taking effect because many people, like in Germany, simply go crazy. In addition the motorway fees and maximally 130 km / h, with rain only 110. The decelerated traffic system works amazingly well. I notice once again that driving in France is much more relaxed than in Germany. Ok, with the exception of Paris: We get in the middle of a construction site in the middle and curse the old stone-time navigation system without Google Maps in the Saturday evening traffic. Shortly after Paris, our first part-stage ends: We stay in the cozy Chartres. But not without first looking at the famous cathedral.
The Cathedrale of Chartres
At dusk, we make a regenerating walk to Cathedrale in Chartres, one of the most famous buildings in France, which attracts crowds of pilgrims and tourists since the inauguration of 876 by a certain Emperor Charles. Through narrow streets it goes past countless channels to the center. There is water everywhere. As a result, we are surprisingly caught up in a city party as tourists stranded straight on the highway. All restaurants are overcrowded, but a quiet, almost solemn evening mood from which one could cut off a few slices in Germany. One parallels here on the street at eye level instead of the mobile phone. A warm breeze blows through the streets, wild front gardens blow in the wind. Chartres, never destroyed in history, looks like a haunted, old village, but the cathedral is indeed very imposing. The scenario is similar to Cologne Cathedral in the middle of the province. We do not come here for cycling, the streets are also too narrow, too gradual and too full tonight.
At the Petit-Dèjeuner in a simple hotel in the morning, we agree: Chartres alone is worth a visit, the place is beautiful, the atmosphere is lovely. That's what I knew years ago, but then, on the ground, that's strangely different. In the midst of the francophile country, time seems somehow more liveable than in hectic Germany. I am jealous: the relaxed way of life, the beautiful skylight in all colors, the fragrant late summer atmosphere, the children playing in the street, the relaxed people, the often praised savoir-vivre, What are they doing differently here? Everything looks so incredibly chilly.
By bike on the beach in La Tranche-sur-Mer
The next morning we drive 250 kilometers south-east. There we have reached our actual destination: the resort La Tranche-sur-Mer on the French Atlantic coast. In the off-season, the cottages are considerably cheaper and we can actually go barefoot from the beach to the beach and back. When I unpacked my old 95'er MTB, I immediately had to sand it the next day: drive up and down the ultra-wide beach once. Narrow bends, drifting, the game of salt water and dry feet on the surf. The cottage proves to be extremely comfortable. For the first time in our lives we have a garage on - or rather in the house. From the kitchen you go through a door into the garage to the car, then carries all the shopping from the car in a maximum of 10 meters in the refrigerator. The SUVs of the very few French neighbors do not fit in there, of course, but all park under the lantern.
Our bikes are connected to a thick wooden terrace beam, night after night. We are the last tenants of the 2018 season. Neighbors there were very few, all French. The daily garbage collection serves as a natural alarm clock. In the morning we can have breakfast on the terrace in the sunlight. At noon we go with the wheels sometimes for shopping in the somewhat decentralized Super-U, There is just about everything you need, especially delicious food. In the afternoon after cycling we can swim in the Atlantic. That's how we imagined it.
In the evening it goes with the bicycles to the seven kilometers away Bar "l'Equipage" near our former campsite (Google Maps), where there used to be delicious mussels that we used to talk about for years. They are still there today, but unfortunately only this evening, then closes our tip until the beginning of the season next year.
The waitress tells us she is very, very tired after this extremely hot season and wants to rest in the nearby south of England. This also explains the many Britons who like to come here comfortably by direct sea route. She speaks perfect English, still a rare gift in France. Without French basic knowledge, communication for tourists is still difficult here today. You have to say honestly. In return, all sorts of Francophile people on the sidewalk greet you with a friendly bonjour, although you have never met them before. In Germany with strangers people rather unusual. Mutual respect is a well-groomed virtue here on the Atlantic, which younger people often follow.
Bicycle rides on the French Atlantic coast: Jard-sur-mer
We go north by bike Jard-sur-mer. The coast here makes a sharp kink. This makes it much windier, the topfebene beach is even wider and spoiled us with hard sand, on which you can easily ride a bike. The folding bike is tighter with the thin road tires than my MTB with the wider 1.95er Schwalbe-Kojak tires. Nevertheless, we get on the hard sand quite well without pushing. The vastness seems endless, I ride the MTB on a water-flooded lagoon at low tide.
In the distance we see a dozen beach sailors in action. The conditions are optimal here. Top speeds of 130 km / h are possible, the record is over unbelievable 200 km / h. It takes a lot of space, but there is plenty on this stretch of beach. Incidentally, the yachtsmen simply lay on their side for parking, otherwise they roll around. The food is still considered a sacred cow in France, here we could watch it again. If the sailor stops, the lunchtime will most likely follow, you can set the clock after that.
Bike ride to Pointe d'Arcay
The bike ride through the tiny community La Faute-sur-Mer ends on the peninsula in a nature reserve called Pointe d'Arcay. Here the river Lay flows into the sea and forms an adventurous promontory. The area was 2010 from Hurricane Xynthia badly devastated. In a tour you can see the stations of the former mussel and oyster in a kind of open-air museum. The marshy place has a magical aura of pure nature.
In the parking lot are next to an old VW bus almost only bikes with bags of cycling nature lovers. There is a small house with "natural shell walls" made entirely of oyster shells. Without guide or literature, however, the shellfish farming remains a book with seven seals for us. Nevertheless, you do not have to understand the oyster farming exactly, because it is just so beautiful here: Colorful insects, fish, a camouflaged hideout for bird watching pervaded by completely rusted Stautoren that are recaptured by nature - with very few visitors. It is probably the brackish water that creates this mysterious habitat.
On the way back through the fragrant forest we make a small detour to the beach with the bicycles. When playing at the surf I get soaking wet feet. In the evening, I rinse the bike carefully with fresh water, because the last few times on the beach have taught me: Seawater lets bike parts rust quickly. Even aluminum parts are extremely badly attacked, especially if the bike is parked unused until the next vacation, instead of being rinsed with fresh water in the rain. Here's an example:
The photo was taken at lunchtime on the beach at low tide. We had already wondered about the many cars that drove all morning on our terrace to the beach. When we looked, all the water was miles away. The French make this natural event a family hobby called "Pêche à pied"- translated" walking fish ", or tidal fishing. At the same time, the dry seabed is scoured for shellfish and crustaceans at full tide. For the maximum size of the catch there are prescribed rules: It may only be fished as much as a family can eat at a meal. Anyway, this is signposted at the beach entrance. We observe young and old with pails, small shovels, rakes, nets with and without rubber boots. We were surprised by the high speed of the recurrent flood, which is calmly ignored by hobby fishermen until the very last minute. I quickly realize why so many people can drown at high tide, even though the water actually rises slowly. The truth: It rises here by the big Tiedenhub very fast and still calls unknowing victims.
Excursion to La Rochelle
The old port city La Rochelle - translated "The Little Rock" - we visited by car. 40 Kilometer Getting there by bike was too exhausting for us. The first challenge entices the city-internal parking guidance system to the completely overcrowded harbor. Everything is completely parked there at lunchtime. Oversize SUVs also make it difficult to dismount. The founding of the city is probably due to the 10. Dating back to the 19th century, in 1199 she was granted city rights. La Rochelle was once the largest and most important port in the whole of France or even the whole Atlantic, today it still serves as the fourth largest fishing port in the country.
In the past, mainly wine and salt were traded. Today, apart from fishing, tourism should play a very important role. One of the largest marinas in France is also located here. The trademark of the picturesque coastal city are the two old towers in the harbor: Tour St. Nicolas and the Tour de la Chaine. In the Hundred Years War as well as in the religious wars brutal sea battles, cruel slaughter and bloody massacres took place here. In the meantime, La Rochelle was the French capital of Protestantism. Beginning of 17. Century had the city fraternized with the English and was then by the royal army Louis XIII. systematically starved. Of the original 28.000 inhabitants, only 5.000 survived, the rest was starved to death. It was never boring in the past.
After passing through the beautiful city portal with turrets and old clock we discover the first window of a bakery with delicious, typical French pastries. Who does not know it: Definitely a French one Brioche try. The from the supermarket is already very delicious, but the baker is such a fat Hefeteigkugel just divine. Incidentally, the perfect meal for cyclists inside due to the devilish calorie content! And Brioches spend days without problems in plastic foil ...
In the city center of La Rochelle there are a noticeable number of cyclists inside, similar to Holland. Especially for them are pulling very wide, car-free bike paths through the city center. In the narrow streets, the bike is perfect as an efficient means of transport - as we also notice for people with a suit and tie. After a tourist stroll under the arcades across the city, past the age-old, green patinated market hall, we reach the district "Ville en Bois", which consists mostly of bizarre half-timbered houses.
Bike tour to the yacht club La Tranche-sur-Mer
In our resort La Tranche-sur-Mer itself There is also a lot to see. In addition to the Saturday market in front of the town hall there is a yacht club with boat rentals, and a large water sports lake, which lies between the sea and the town. Several swimming pools are also located on the lake. The highlight for me was the extremely wide stretch of beach with the pier west of the Plage Clémenceau. From the bridge you can watch the sea and see kiters, surfers and seagulls. Hundreds of little boats are rocking in the waves. Here they are let by the trailer to water, the road leads directly to the flat beach.
I could not resist having fun with the old MTB. I noticed: The smooth slick tires roll very well in the solid sand, but break loose in loose sand but unexpectedly. You can not drift so controlled, but breaks away sideways. Stollenreifen would be much better on the beach. Nevertheless a heap fun! Probably this is less good in the main season, because the beach is then occupied by thousands of tourists. I have never seen prohibition signs for bicycles on the beach, but only for the well-loved French Fiffis, which are now also tolerated on the beaches in the postseason.
In the evening, the beach sections turn into very romantic places, where you can end the day properly. We were with the bikes in the evening several times on the beach. On the way back, of course, you need a functioning bicycle lights. Many one-way streets are accessible for cyclists in both directions. No one wears a bicycle helmet here, but be careful with the lax, German alcohol limit, especially for cyclists, which applies in France for drivers as well as cyclists.
Return via "Le Mont-Saint-Michel" in Normandy
Ainstead of going directly back home, we decided to the breathtaking World Heritage Site Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy (Google Maps) to visit for two more nights. We spent the night in a simple pension called Auberge de la Baie in the middle of the country together with many sheep. From there we could walk to the island one kilometer away from the mainland with the Abbey of Mont Saint Michel - miles of sheep pastures. For cycling it was too uncomfortable here. I do not want to write much about it, because this place is visited by just under 2,5 million tourists every year. Accordingly, there are many websites about it. And accordingly it is full. You should be prepared for that.
Maybe a few tips: If possible try to start early in the morning and avoid the weekend. The first hour is then half left alone. From 9.30 the first busloads of crowds from all over the world arrive. In addition, waders and pilgrims come from the Way of St. James. In the main season you will need a lot of patience.
Cars have to be parked in a parking garage. The bus transfer to the island from the parking garage and back is free. A few bicycles were left at the entrance, but the abbey itself can only be visited on foot. There are also some altitude to take, because the interesting parts of the building are high up. Some condition can not hurt during the visit. Once at the top you can enjoy a great view of the surrounding area. Definitely take warm clothes, it is very cold. Hat, scarf rain jacket and even gloves are not wrong even in early October. You're out in the damp air in the freezing wind all day long.
Massentourimus out, bicycle poverty, the visit of Mont-Saint-Michel is worthwhile. In principle, you do not visit an abbey, but a fully built rock island town in the Norman style. For the visit you should plan at least four hours. Whether one must stay overnight on the pilgrim's island, or whether one must necessarily eat the highly praised, but completely overpriced crêpes in the cult restaurant just before the exit, I dare to doubt. If you stay in the boarding house on the mainland, good sleep is guaranteed: not only because of the sheep, but above all because you were walking all day in the cold sea air - just like the pilgrims used to.
Map of our cycling tour on the Atlantic
French Atlantic Coast: Left for cyclists inside
> Radreise-wiki.de/... The Vélodyssée with described sections and exact Km-data for cyclists
> www.eurovelo.com/en/... EuroVelo 1, Atlantic coastline from Scandinavia to Algarve
> vendeevelo.vendee.fr/... Finished bike tours with route descriptions and photos in the Vendée (French)
> www.outdooractive.com/en/radrouten/vendee/ ... Cycling in the Vendée
> www.velodyssey.com La Vélodyssée - the Atlantic Ride (English + French)
> de.wikipedia.org/wiki/... Everything about the Vendée in Wikipedia