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Cycle touring in The Lot, France

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I spend 10 days cycle-touring in The Lot, France with five friends in July 2008. Here’s just a few thoughts that might be useful to other people considering the same:

  • We had a great time!
  • Here’s our approximate route (start and end at Cahors, one night in most places but two nights in a couple of places which gave us days off cycling and/or days to do a round-trip route without heavy panniers).
  • It was hot – but not as hot as we expected and it wasn’t a problem for us. I think it peaked at about 25 to 30 centigrade most, cooler on a couple of days. We had rain on two days, fairly heavy for a couple of hours – one time we took shelter and waited for the worst to pass.
  • Late July is fairly busy in France so we decided to book our accommodation in advance (which also meant that our route was more-or-less fixed in advance). We booked mostly one-star and two-star hotels online, a month or two before we travelled. This worked well – my preference would have been to keep things flexible and find places to stay when we arrived in a town, but in France in July this would have been hard work and potentially much more expensive.
  • We based most of our tour on route 7 (“Rivers and Castles – Dordogne and The Lot”) from the October 2007 edition ofCicerone’s Cycle Touring in France. This was quite useful but it could do with some updating – for example it fails to mantion or use sign-posted cycle routes heading west from Cahors and an off-road cycle route (on an old railway line) from Sarlat to Carsac and on to Cazoules.
  • Some days we were mostly in river valleys – undulating with not mich climb. Other days there was a lot of climb; from St Cere to Figeac we spend the morning climbing from around 200m to around 620m, had lunch on the ridge and then freewheeled 9km downhill. I like to have some hills on the route, I get bored of flat cycling after a while.
  • We used Michelin maps (blue cover, scale 1:100000 I think) which were okay for cycling although it was sometimes hard to pick out the small roads and it wasn’t easy to see the hills (contours are not very clear and are only at 50m intervals I think?). Maybe I’d use the 1:50000 series (orange covers) next time.
  • It worked out more expensive than I imagined, partly because the British Pound is quite waek against the Euro at the moment. We paid typically 60 Euro per night for a double or twin ensuite room (one or two star hotel), 8 Euro for a breakfast, 25 Euro for en evening meal (three course set menu plus wine and coffee), maybe 5 Euro per persoon for picnic lunches from the supermarket. Frequent coffee stops set us back 1.5 to 2.5 Euro per coffee (or juice or soft drink). We didn’t buy bottled water, we had no problems drinking water from hotels and chilled tap water was always free at restaurants and cafes.
  • We cycled on a few busy roads but most of the minor roads were very quiet and the tow centres were generally not at all busy. Where there was traffic, the drivers seemes very well behaved towards cyclists (compared with in the UK for example).
  • A number of main roads in the region have been renumbered since the maps were printed. The road signs showed the new numbers but they didn’t match with the maps.
  • No serious problems with insects – occasional bites from mosquitos and files but not enough to be a problem. No problems with dogs or other animals. The people were friendly too, the drivers in France are generally nice to cyclists.
  • No problem with mobile phone (GSM) coverage anywhere that we went.
  • Most of the group speak a bit of French, this made things easier but was by no means essential, almost everybody we needed to speak to could manage better English than we could French.
  • Here’s our photos.
  • See my Blog for entries on travel with bikes from the UK to France and on the week that I spend mountain biking in the Creuse region of France with BonkersFrog Active Holidays.

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