Our Channel to Med odyssey through France sees us cycling from St Malo in Brittany and only stops when we reach Nice on the French Riviera. It’s a 1,000 mile journey that is incredibly popular with many Skedaddlers and is truly a ride of a lifetime! This year, Teresa joined us on this amazing cycling tour that showcases the best of France. Keep reading to find out how she got on…
‘Like many cyclists this June, we have been marvelling at the determination and stamina of the riders tackling this year’s Tour de France. Despite being twice the age of most of the professionals and certainly not athletes (one of us hadn’t ridden a road bike for over 30 years), we are still celebrating the recent completion of our very own tour, a Skedaddle-style French end-to-end journey, from St Malo to Nice on a route taking in some of the best scenery this cycle-friendly nation has to offer.
Meeting our fellow tourers for the first evening in St Malo we wondered what we were in for but the storm which greeted our arrival had abated the next morning, the sun was shining for le Grand Depart and it continued to do so for the next one thousand miles.
Our days settled into a comfortable routine of early breakfast croissants followed by a short briefing on the route and other important matters of the day – namely the locations of the café stop and the famous Skedaddle picnic lunch – and then we were off, confident that the Garmins provided would get us safely to our destination. With individual satnavs we were free to cycle at our own pace and our company of 14 divided naturally into two halves – the breakaway group disappearing rapidly into the distance and a peleton comprising those of us happier to travel at a more leisurely rate with halts to admire the view, to take photos and breath, even to take pre-café stop refreshment (we’ll have worked it off in a mile or two). It’s all about pacing and the anticipation of what might lie ahead be it view around the next corner, prospect of lunch or welcoming beer/shower/nap at the end of the day, drew us on each day to our roost for the night in a comfortable hotel each with its own quirk or character typical of its region.
The straight roads, gentle gradients and farms of northern France gave way to the vineyards and elegant estates of the Loire valley, then seamlessly on to the hills and pretty medieval towns of the Dordogne.
A day’s rest in Sarlat gave us time not only to catch up on the laundry but also to reflect on how far we had already come and how manageable it had seemed despite our initial collywobbles. From here on, as we headed into the hills and gorges of the Grand Massif, the scenery just got better and better and stunning views amply rewarded those “slight adjustments in altitude” which were required to appreciate them. Colours of purple and yellow in villages anticipating the Tour riders were reflected in fields of lavender and early sunflowers, but photos can’t convey the sounds of the bees and cicadas or the scent of the lavender and pines as we moved ever onward into the sun.
There were visual highlights on every day of this trip but so much enjoyment came also from being immersed in everyday rural France away from the main tourist trails; from the camaraderie of fellow riders and our guides who became friends; and the joyous sense of achievement in pedalling every inch from the Channel to the Mediterranean. We may not have won the maillot jaune, but I’ll wear my Skedaddle jersey with pride – and those evenings spent sharing meals and conversations about past cycling experiences have already inspired us to book the next Skedaddle adventure…‘