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Best Bike Rides

In France and further afield

In the NZ Herald Travel Section on September 6th 2016, readers shared their tips for the world's best bike rides.

A couple of the rides in France figured on the list. Les voici:

La Garonne and the vineyards trails of St Emilion 

Jane Admore wrote: Bordeaux is a gorgeous bike-infested city to begin.  Cross the mighty Garonne and head east on the Roger Lapebie rail trail.  It heads to the Canal du Midi with canal-side riding to the Med, but this trip, turn off and head to St Emilion, world heritage wine town of golden buildings.  Head north through Libourne and the eastern bank of the Garonne.  It is typical of France, a nuclear power station on an island, tiny houses, troglodyte housing and a hotel (or camping) within the riverside Blaye fortress.  Sunset with live music recalling it being the Mississippi of France.  Cross by ferry, where the Medoc awaits or speed on through,  to see Atlantic beach surf at Lacanau.

Angela Edwards wrote: My favourite cycling route was the vineyard trails of St Emilion, which is a Unesco world heritage site near the Bordeaux region in France. It was especially memorable as it was an open weekend for the wineries and we were able to meet and chat to owners of the vineyards, some of which had been in the family for generations.  Cycling along the quiet country lanes with vineyards as far as the eye could see and lush rolling hills was just spectacular.  Oysters for breakfast, lunch at a chateau, backpack full of wine, and of course the amazing scenery - what's not to love ?!

The Loire Valley

Anthea Moriarty wrote:  My favourite cycle route around the world would have to be the Loire Valley fromAngers to Blois.  It has wonderful wineries, interesting history and beautiful chateaux. The people are friendly and New Zealanders are especially welcomed.  I have done this ride 5 times, they always remember me and treat me like an old friend.  The tracks are easily accessible, well marked and the terrain not too difficult.  The scenery also makes this route most memorable.

The Charente Region

Beth Arrowsmith wrote:  Imagine cycling 40 years ago in the old towns of Jarnac and Cognac in the Charente region of France.  Cobbled streets just wide enough for a deux-cheaux and me.  The ancient stone buildings peppered with charcoal coloured lichen - the Angels Share/Partage d'Ange - the result of distilling cognac seeping out of the stone.  Cycling between these towns beside the idling Charente river was easy and unhurried by traffic, passing through hamlets of solid buildings with timber gates left open, once revealing an old couple in traditional clothes - sabots(clogs) and quichnot (headress).  I would love to return.

Image: Les "Maisons de Cognac" aux murs noircis par "la part des anges". L'évaporation naturelle de l'alcool nourrit un champignon microscopique qui noircit les murs.

And if you're interested in other countries with French connections...

Vietnam

Lisa Mead wrote:  The ride from Hanoi, north west up to the Chinese border through Sapa and to the backwaters town of Bac Ha remains my most memorable cycling adventure.  A day's ride from hanoi, we shared the road with friendly truck drivers but soon encountered little more than a few vans, motorcyclists, local Vietnamese on bikes and plentiful water buffalo and goats.  Predominately well-surfaced roads, hills, superb scenery, and a vibrant colourful culture where elaborate indigenous costumes are still the norm for most women.  Coffee breaks (potent local brews served with sweetened condensed milk) while seated on kiddie-sized plastic chairs...  I would go again in a heartbeat!

Louise Woolhouse wrote:  My favourite cycle route would have to be a loop of the local villages around Hoi An in central Vietnam.  I was there in February and although I loved Hoi An, it is very touristy, so hiring bikes and getting out to the local villages, such as Cua Dai, gave me much more of an insight into the everyday life of the Vietnamese.  The scenery was breath-taking and the roads practically empty compared to the jam-packed Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh that we also visited.  Along the way we stopped for lunch at a roadside stall in Phuong Cam Chau, where for about NZ$2 we had one of our tastiest meals in Vietnam.  Cycling this oute, as opposed to driving or being part of a tour, was what made it special and I cannot recommend it more highly.

... while further afield...

Morocco

Ella Zarifeh wrote:  My favourite cycle route is hands down my trip from Marrakesh, Morocco;  cycling through the Atlas and the Anti-Atlas mountains.  Off-road mountain biking through canyons, gorges, cornfields and remote villages right to the edge of the Sahara Desert to camp with nomadic Berbers.  A cultural melting pot full of colour, tradition and incredible people. I did this trip in 2015 with my parents and sister.  The scenery and entire experience was absolutely incredible!  A week of tagines, beautiful scenery, tents, desert, street stalls, fresh pomegranates, river-side biking and experiencing the chaotic and colourful Marrakesh souks.

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